Lifting Aluminum


Charming watched the lights of her river home recede while the flames spread through it. Another propane tank exploded lifting aluminum roof panels into the night sky. Flitting away from Song over the Benhá felt selfish. She would live when others would die, and that made her guilty. But Gane hadn’t given her any choice. He’d shaken her awake in her own bed and shoved clothes at her as told her she needed to come with him if she wanted to live.


She did want to live, but she hadn’t had time to understand the concussions Outward or the shuddering of the gangway beneath her feet as she ran to the Leaf. She hadn’t realized all of Song was under attack and not just her. Gane just pulled her behind him as they darted through empty passages lit by dim and sporadic fluorescent lamps. She could still feel his unwavering grip in her hand. She flexed her fingers and tried to rub out the memory of his certainty.

Charming decided no one would take choices from her again, then she turned away from the sight of her burning home and looked to the land. The cold river air disappeared as they crossed over the shore.

First photo courtesy of Carrie Kellenberger

Second photo courtesy of Xavi

xxx words on day 990

Selling Coral Sugar

“I can really make my own coral sugar with this?”

“Just the juice. Not the crystals,” Charming said. “Well, you could make some crystals, but not enough at a time from a bulb this size, and it would probably kill the coral.”


None of this touri man’s questions were unfamiliar to Charming—she’d been asked all of them each day, every day, she put up her stall in Song’s pier market—but his insistence was so focused, so penetrating, she thought of her school exit interview. And not fondly.

“These bulbs are designed for decorating your kitchen and making enough juice for your coffee or tea or whatever. If you’re looking for the crystals I’d recommend ordering from Jack Ree’s here on Song or Phanee’s Sugar Works on the shore. They’re both on the net.” Charming gestured to the back table where her pad lay. “Now, I don’t know what Phanee’s charges for shipping, but Jack reminds me every day to tell people he doesn’t charge extra to send it to shore.”

The man continued to listen and smile at her like she was still speaking. Maybe he was considering what she’d just said. Maybe he was waiting for an answer to his question.

“And, yes. It would definitely kill the coral.”

“I don’t want that.”

Charming laughed lightly. “And I don’t either. That’s part of why we’re so accurate to infuse these bulbs with the right indicator colors.”

“When the rim turns clear, rinse and fill to the mark with distilled water. When it turns dark again, add five grams of sea salt?”

“Yes. Exactly.” The salesperson in her wanted to add a compliment on how quickly he’d learned the instructions to keep the coral alive and producing sugar, but she didn’t want to insult him.

“You said, ‘We.’ Do you make the glass bulbs too?”

“I can and I have, but my Daddy’s much better and faster than I am. I’m still no good at syncing them.”

“Your father’s had lots of practice,” he said. Then added quickly: “I imagine.”

Charming opened her mouth to respond, but didn’t.

“Do you have a synced set in green or maybe dark green?”

“I have this green here.” She laid her hand over a bulb of coral to the left of where they were speaking. “And I have a darker one back at my place I could get after lunch.”

“Excellent. No rush. I assume you can hold both for me? It will be a couple days before I leave.”

“Really? A couple days?”

“Why? Is that odd?” It was odd. Touris rarely spent more than a night on Song since the shore had better accommodations.

“Since you haven’t paid yet, I’ll just say it’s unusual to hear.”

He chuckled and handed her 16 bright yellow bills. “And now?”

Charming took the payment and set the two green-rimmed coral bulbs on the back table. “Thanks. Yeah, it’s odd.”

“Well, Miss Venda, I’ll keep that in mind for next time I visit Song.” It wasn’t until after he’d gone that Charming began wondering if she’d introduced herself by name to the man.

519 words on day 776

Ain’t All Drunk

I mentioned yesterday that I had a new keyboard. I still have it. I’ve added about four fingers of scotch to the evening. Don’t worry, it’s got three cubes of ice so it can’t be more that two and a half fingers, and it ain’t all drunk.

One thing I’ve not done is define much about The Solex Corporation and it’s religious affiliations…or roots. I think maybe doing that could help me find additional layers of conflict in both the Shanty and Benhá threads. Let’s see what I can come up with.

So far I’ve written all the Brother Gane stuff with an odd mixture of religion and programmer speak. Essentially describing hres as prayers which work directly and very practically on solex panels. The language I’ve used to describe these prayers always uses programming jargon. I call him a monk, but I’ve not spent any time deciding what or who he prays to or why. I’ve loosely thought of the solex panels as solar panels which collect the suns rays and turn them into a form of magic parallel to electricity. Beyond that I’ve not thought it through.

Since I’ve been thinking of The Solex Corporation as a combination of monks and business men then maybe I’ ought to make the whole entity a bit bifurcated. I like that idea since it gives me the chance to have lots of fun internal squabbling and conflict, but I also like the challenge of writing it in such a way as to make it perfectly homogeneous and normal. If I did the later I’d want to make it 50:50. wouldn’t want there to be an obvious leaning one way or another—never a corporation with heavy religious influence; never a religious order with a corporate mentality. Both. Evenly.

Back to the magic though.

What’s the story there exactly? Part of me wants to perpetrate the hoax I’ve been harboring for a while now where a group of magicians pretend to be a manufacturing group to conceal their magic and make it look like mechanics, but I’m not sure I need to waste that little bit of fun on this thread. Since I’ve got a demi-god in thos whole thing I suspect that magic wouldn’t be too hard to add in, but I’ve not really defined the demo-god thing either so that’s easily removed if necessary. Although I suppose I could mix a demi-god with tech and not need magic in there too.

Both as a corp and a religion The Solex Corporation is going to have natural competitors, detractors, and enemies. Let me take these each at a time.

Competitors requires I know what it is these guys do to some greater degree I suppose. Though it’s reasonable to go the Coke Pepsi route here and just suggest that there is an entirely parallel corporation out there working a slightly different angle in the same niche. Exact same products and uses, but a different price point or maybe a different quality point. Maybe just later to market and always with a minor market share. A competitor like Pepsi who never goes after the 800 lb gorilla just tries harder to increase consumer mindshare and be no bigger than needed. Not much conflict here, more like natural good natured rivalry. That doesn’t mean that individuals couldn’t get carried away and competitive, but it’s unlikely the corps will do direct battle. Or I could turn the table and make The Solex Corp the upstart taking on the 800 lb gorilla. That gives them a fire the other guys don’t possess. In many readers minds that puts the other guy in the natural enemy camp. That could be fun and might even give me a place to put Roundmartin in the Shanty history.

Detractors would be competing in the same niche but with vastly different products. These would be the electricity guys trying to play off The Solex Corp as some sort of freaks of nature. Freaks who are potentially even immoral somehow because they use magic. These guys could give anywhere from the full-court press to just being innuendo-y. In any case they’d be aggressive from an oblique angle. Not head on. Always trying to make the customer feel a little dirty about going with The Solex Corp rather than the clean and natural electric co.

Enemies. Hmmm? The first two I only addressed the business side of The Solex Corp and not the religious. Now that I think on enemies I’ve got religion as the only comer. Might want to circle back and make it an even show. Religions hardly ever seem to clash until two get extreme enough compete for the same souls or large enough to finally square off ideologically. I don’t see that happening here. Or at least I don’t see it being something I’m interested in writing.

808 words on day 756

More of An Arresting Sunset

“Hoy, Johnny. What’s up?”

Two Outies she didn’t recognize ascended the stairway behind him. Charming raised her hand to shade her eyes to see them better. The first was a slender woman with a blonde ponytail, an earlink, and a bloodless complexion. The second was a man she couldn’t—

—”Miss Venda? Miss Charming Abigail Venda?” the Outie woman asked.

Feeling both crowded and alone on her small rooftop, Charming turned her attention back to Young Johnny. A thought came to mind: all of Song called him Young Johnny because of his dad of course, but his official epithet was Deputy John Boonliang.

Charming folded her arms across her chest and took small step back. Thinking it might give everyone space, dispel her unease and start the whole thing over, she meekly repeated her original greeting, “Hoy, Johnny. What’s up?”


“—Miss Venda, can you tell us where your parents are?”

“What’s going on, Charma?” Nadia called out from her spot on the roof reminding Charming of the expansive rippling tin and aluminum rooftops behind her. She wanted to run; she wanted to dash away from Young Johnny, the man, and especially that woman. Charming swung her free hand palm back to Nadia to halt her question.

“Why’re you asking ’bout my parents, Johnny. You know they went Out past week.” They hadn’t pinged her in two or three days, but gaps like that weren’t odd until the constable’s man showed up on your roof deck with two strange Outies. Charming stepped forward and used the same crisp voice she used with unruly children. “What happened, Johnny? What happened to my parents?”

Johnny raised his arms outward like he was casting a net. Charming realized she’d rocked back. She felt like a fish about to take a hook. “Nothing. I don’t know. They’re fine I suppose.” Johnny grimaced at his stumbling. “The point is they aren’t here.”

Charming thought he might be asking a question or might be leading her. “They’re not here.” If not for the Outie’s she may have told him she expected them back later tonight. “I don’t expect them back for several.”

“Several days? Several weeks?” The white-faced woman lilted her tone and raised her eyebrows, “Months maybe?”

“Days. Several days, Ma’am. We don’t really do weeks here. Months don’t much matter either.”

“It seems not much—” She slapped the handrail, “—matters on this rag-tag barge.”

“Charming, these Outies want to arrest you. But they—”

“Arrest me? What?”

“What did you say, Young Johnny?”

“Nadia! Please?” Young Johnny called out before she could interupt more. “Charming, these Outies want to arrest you.” He enunciated each word like it was it’s own single word sentence. “But,” His eyes jerked the line to set the hook, “since you’re still seventeen they can’t do that without your parents’ consent.”

“But I’m—”

“—not getting arrested. Since. You’re. Just. Seventeen. We can only detain you. Here on Song. Till your parents return. Until they get back,” Young Johnny gestured to the Outies, “these nice folks can’t take you off Song.”

Charming nodded understanding.

“But why?”

The white woman spoke again. “Mr. Tanjun Peeters is dead.”

Charming turned to Young Johnny. Peeters was an Outie name, but it sounded very familiar. Charming turned to Young Johnny for help.

“Yes, that Peeters. Tanjun Peeters it seems is Jun-Kata’s real name. Was his real name.”

560 words on day 721

This Seemed Longer at the Time

I thought I’d finish this later on Friday, but I didn’t. I even forgot to post it at all. I’m not going to bother to clean it up since I’ll just get caught up needlessly.

Skip the below and read this edit and extend instead:

Thought I’d run with the portrait monitor scheme today as a fun change of pace. How does it look to you? I thought so.

“Hoy, Johnny. What’s up?”

Two Outies she didn’t recognize ascended the stairway behind him. The first was a slender woman with blonde hair, an earlink, and a bloodless complexion. The second was a man she didn’t—

—”Miss Venda? Miss Charming Abigail Venda?” the Outie woman asked.

Feeling a both crowded and alone on her small rooftop, Charming turned her attention to Young Johnny. All of Song called him Young Johnny because of his dad of course, but his official epithet was Deputy John Boonliang. It worried her she remembered that now.

Charming folded her arms across her chest and took small step back. Thinking it might dispell her unease and start the whole thing over, she meakly repeated her original greeting, “Hoy, Johnny. What’s up?”


“—Miss Venda, can you tell us where your parents are?”

“What’s going on, Charma?” Nadia called out from her spot on the roof reminding Charming of the expansive rippling tin and aluminum rooftops behind her. She wanted to run; she wanted to dash away from Young Johnny, the man, and especially that woman.

had become a steep slope she might fall into. Though she wanted to back up, that ledge must be close.

“Yeah, Johnny. What’s going on?”

“Miss Venda, are your parents available?”

“My parents? No?” Charming

238 words on day 719

Left or Lived

“I didn’t do this.” Charming would have added ‘Deputy’, but the epithet no longer seemed to apply. Mondroon just stood in the boat staring under the gang and under Charming’s feet. He held himself steady on the easy shuffle of the Benhá by grasping a charred pile with the claw of his hammer. She repeated, “I didn’t do this.”

“You brought it.”

Charming thought about that for a moment. She had brought it. She’d brought Gane; she’d brought Roundmartin; and she’d brought the destruction of her only home. Though Mondroon didn’t know it, she’d probably brought the ruin of [cool named monastery] too—maybe her second home, maybe her last. “I didn’t do that either.”

“Well, it came.” Mondroon glanced up at Charming and then Outward. “And you left.”

“Left or lived?”

Even clinging to the pile, Mondroon’s shrug indicated there was no real difference. Charming hmm’d noncommittally. Another denial would be a waste.

Mondroon looked back to Charming and caught her eye. “Gonna stay? Gonna help?”

No and yes. “That’s not really an invitation is it?”

Mondroon smiled. Maybe the burning of Song had changed everyone Charming thought. Maybe it wasn’t just her. Maybe she could stay. “It isn’t much of one, but we need all kinds.”

The last three words echoed one of the last things Gane said to her before he died and they brought both a painful stone to her throat and a tidal swell of warmth to her chest. Charming stepped a quarter turn to face away from Mondroon and hide her tears, but a sob wracked her body anyway.

Charming put up her hand to ask for a moment. She drew a breath to clear the stone and then another to speak, but walked away instead. Walked Upward over fresh aluminum decking and through the rising skeleton of new construction to the Leaf and to the flit deck she’d just climbed down from.

317 words on day 712

Why Charming Venda Hates Me

As I was making breakfast and logging on this morning I was thinking I’d come back to the Green Man story I’d started last night. Now I’m not so sure.

Last night I thought some on the fact that I’ve not been able to pin down much of Charming Venda’s character or characteristics. During that thinking I dawned on me that Charming didn’t—wouldn’t if she were real—like me very much. I’m not yet sure what that means in terms of her characterization, but it gave me both a direction to pursue and a pause to pursuing it.

I don’t mean that she won’t like me much as an author after I’m done with her story, that she won’t be pleased with my slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. I mean that if she were a person she wouldn’t like me as a person. She’d be respectful and tolerant, but she wouldn’t seek out my company. She’d understand that others might befriend me, that others could love me, but she would never feel that way. Now I’ve got to figure out why she wouldn’t like me, and I’ve got to figure out who to put that into a character I would like.

A little crazy; never thought of a character in this way.

First, she’s the type of person who does what they say they’ll do, when they say they’ll do it or when they know others expect it done. She won’t appreciate my tolerance for excuses not to get things done or not to get them done in a timely manner. That would be her surface complaint.

Second, she’ll find my cussing inappropriate and excessive. She’s OK with cursing, though she doesn’t do it herself, but she’ll find my rationale for using impolite language suspect and nearly always flimsy.

My kind of anger won’t be her kind of anger. She will be righteously angry at injustice and mistreatment. She won’t understand anger which is nothing more than concentrated and vehement annoyance elevated beyond reason. Outbursts will not be her style; she’ll internalize anger and then affect changes outwardly. She’ll use her anger to fuel solutions.

OK, Doc. That’s all the shrinking I can handle for the day.

367 words on day 709