A Chat with Dr. Palmer

Here at the end I was expecting to say things like, “I wish I had more time.” not “It’s still so hard.”

“Pretend you were a comic book hero who could create fire from nothing. Describe to me how would you warm that glass of water?” Dr. Palmer kicked his chin toward the table and the glass.

Karen narrowed her eyes and tightened her lips, “Really?”

“I need New Karen for this.”

Karen took a slow breath and closed her eyes tight. She made her face into a rung out wet rag trying to twist out Old Karen at Dr. Palmer’s goofy suggestion. When she opened her eyes she started to take a wider stance.

Dr. Palmer put a hand on her arm before she could raise it. “Tell me; don’t show me.”

Karen lowered her arms and brought her feet back together. “OK. I suppose I would thrust my boobs and ass at the water then reach out with my fire shooting hands.”

“Good. You’re making this even easier.” He lifted his hand off her arm. She hadn’t realized it was still there and took it as leave to demonstrate the stance she described.

“Stop. As much as I’d love to see you try, we’re just talking still.” Dr. Palmer liked to talk, but Karen grew tired of talking a week ago. She wanted to start doing something. She wanted to shoot fire from her hands or spin up a whirlwind. “Repeat it to me, please.”

Dr. Palmer’s [description of demeanor]. [Made it hard for her to refuse.] [blah blah blah].

“Thrust boobs and…butt.” Karen remembered he was a teacher who require some decorum. “Reach out with fire shooting hands.”

“One by one, remove the elements you don’t need to heat the water.” Dr. Palmer grabbed her attention with his eyes and refused to release her to something less important. She could no longer even imagine the soft light of the library around her or the earthy smell of his books.


Dr. Palmer nodded her on like it wasn’t an obvious joke. She resisted rolling her eyes.


Another nod. Clearly he’d meant for her to continue. Karen broke his gaze and searched the room for help. The tiffany lamp held a pattern of colors and shapes she found interesting but not useful. The green settee invited her to sit upon it’s slick-rough velvet, but it didn’t tell her what to say next. [maybe another thing if it’s not too corny.]

Dr. Palmer waited for an answer.

“Boobs. Butt. All I have left are hands?”

Wow this simple thing is much longer than I’d expected.

437 words on day 986

Building a Minor Character

The Clockwork Spider thing from Nano a couple of years back returns to mind each time I sit in front of the computer to write. I wrote Mal’s half of the roadside picnic table scene two days ago—I don’t recall if I posted it or not. I’d done a fair bit of thinking about the plot for that story. I didn’t codify it though. I think I’ll do a little remembering out loud here today.

Malachi is an older mage dating Karen who is both younger than him and less experienced in magic than he. A clockwork spider Malachi constructed as a precocious youth holds the key to finding (and rescuing) their coven leader Prof. Palmer. Somehow a prison break was involved as well as a bit of world-hopping, a séance, and a jealous scheming runner-up.

Except for a bunch of tattoos and a roughshod look, Malachi didn’t have much characterization. Karen may have had less.

What other stuff I’ve written since my original musing implies that I’ve got Malachi collecting advice/clues/aid from less savory friends than belong to the coven as regulars. As I think on this it feels a bit like a montage or yak shaving. I suppose that isn’t bad as long as each meet-up increases the stakes and is closely tied to the conflict. But I ought to work out what it is Mal seeks with each meeting and why he doesn’t get what he wants.

Here’s a quick exchange with Steven Tattersall in Haast, NZ that came to mind…

After establishing Steven as a bit of a letch, Karen and Malachi depart.

Karen shrugged and shivered and stamped her feet like she was wriggling out of a cocoon. “I told you you wouldn’t like him,” said Malachi.

“You didn’t tell me how much you do though.”

Mal smiled instead of lying.

“What?” Karen crossed her arms. “What? You’re enjoying this too much not to be telling me something…everything. Anything. Whatever. What?”

“Steven’s gay.” [kinda think Mal might say ‘fag’ but I’m not sure how to resolve that]

“I wouldn’t have guessed that.”

“He wouldn’t want you to.”

“Why not?”

“Because he hasn’t either.”

356 words on day 983

How Bad Could They Be?


Malachi ashed his Lucky Strike then decided to leave it there in the glass dish he’d brought; you couldn’t smoke in a Texas diner.

“You know,” Malachi looked away and thumbed a torn corner of orange leatherette on the back of their booth, “I was lighting cigarettes for two years before I ever smoked one?” He turned his attention back to Karen. “Ever tell you that?”

Karen shook her head small because she was being quiet and trying to ken his screen. A smoke screen, she thought; she almost laughed aloud.

“Suppose not. You probably can’t imagine me as a kid.”

She smiled and let go part of her stored up laugh. “No. Not really.”

“My great grandfather had a stroke when I was seven, or there abouts. That summer when I was out of school and my mom was working at the cleaners she’d leave me with him. Myrtle, his second wife—we never called her great grandma—was already dead. My grandparents, his son, lived in the house next door.

[one of the points of his story—why he smokes—is because even though he heard the warnings that smoking was bad for you he saw his stroked great grandfather smoking and never die because of it, so he figured it was safer than anyone said it was]

216 words on day 895

Steve’s Place


I looked for a better source of this photo but didn’t find one before I started running out of time to write.

Steven Tattersall lived in New Zealand and that gave him a familiar but exotic mystique. It also made him funny—to Karen at least. And for some reason she held the impression he was or had been a sailor, but he never had. This is his home.

Steve’s place is unusual, and part of the problem describing it is that you want to stop there and just say, “Well, you’d have to see it.” But all the pieces of Steve’s treehouse—because that’s where you go after you’ve already said ‘unusual’—are completely normal. They just aren’t combined in an expected way. Imagine a perfectly usual cabin with a hipped roof and a Queen Anne style dormer above the classically centered front door. Then float that cabin two stories above the shoreline of a good-sized pond, build in the first and second stories with tin and cedar and plywood to hold your perfectly usual cabin up, sprout an extra-tall extra bedroom out of the top of your usual cabin, and finally add a bell tower to the top of that. As time permits, cobble on some walkways and lean-outs and fashion a multi-tiered redwood party deck to hover out over the pond. Just call the whiskey barrels and teak love-seat homey embellishments.

236 words on day 821

Recalling Professor Palmer’s Admonitions

“She gestured in a timer and left the ankle to cool for a bit while she thought about how to apply compression…”

Recalling Professor Palmer’s admonitions to look for non-magical solutions to problems first, Karen looked around for anything she might wrap her ankle with. If there was a compression bandage or even just a strap of cloth to be found among the roadside detritus, the rest area was keeping them secret. She wondered if she could shred her pajamas into strips, but it seemed unlikely and unappealing. Her ankle hurt but not badly enough to end up topless at a roadside picnic table, so she inventoried her familiar spells. She had a bursting spell she’d used on water balloons, but nothing in that incantation suggested to her that she could invert the effect to squeeze instead. Heat, no. Cold, no. Fire, no! Illumination, no. Levitation, hmmm…no. Translocation, no…wait.

Karen incanted a spell to move her foot to the right and held it in reserve while incanting another to move it to the left. Imagining an ankle sandwich, she slowly released the two, but her foot lurched to one side then bounced back to the other skipping back and forth on the heel till she quit both spells.

“Yaieee, that hurt.”

She thought if she’d just worn socks she might have been able to shrink one and create enough compression to stop the swelling. Maybe four translocation spells—like a box—would work, she wondered. Karen cringed thinking how painful that might be having her foot bounce around in four directions and not just two.

[Bleah. This is not at all interesting.]

Finished fucking around with the ankle, the author now directed Karen to give some thought to unwarding her phone…

…but tomorrow.

[running out of time so I’ll just list a few things as notes for later:]
– looks for something non-magical for compression first because of Professor Carrol’s training about avoiding magic if you can
– cant find anything so she tweaks a ‘push’ spell into the shape of a C, but ultimately can’t keep it in place
– next she works on breaking the ward on her phone. She can’t but she does discover a timer there and has to decide between calling 911 and waiting for and explaining it all to a Highway Patrol officer or just waiting
-eventually she gets back home where she puts her decision to protect herself in to action

406 words on day 798

A Little Rice

I’ll resist the urge to double back to edit the previous two days’ work as a lead in to this third. I think we all know how that would go if I did. I will note that there are a few things I’d like to clean up back there that I’ll pretend are emended as I move forward.

“The trill of an incoming text startled her. It read: He warded your phone…”

Her anger at being left behind seethed and she tried to throw her phone into the road—to hear it crack into the pavement and splash glass and circuitry over the gravel—but she couldn’t make her hand let go of the thing. She made a couple more incomplete casts before dropping it roughly, but safely, into her lap.

“Well, shit,” she echoed.

Karen assumed that if Malachi warded her phone he’d probably hidden her too. There was no use flagging down an unlikely passing car for help, so she grabbed up her phone and searched for how to treat a sprained ankle. Between HEM—which sounded like marketing—and RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) she knew she could handle the latter.

Once she pulled herself up to the bench and out of the dirt, she brushed off her gritty palms and began the short incantation to cool her ankle. She’d both frozen and boiled glasses of water and been commended for her quickness, but she’d never practiced precise control of either. She didn’t want to turn her ankle to ice, so she aimed the spell at her slipper first to cool it slowly then carefully moved her focus over to her ankle. The chill immediately brought relief to her hot flesh and swelling joint. She chanted in a timer and left the ankle cool for a bit while she thought about how to apply compression.

[running out of time so I’ll just list a few things as notes for later:]
– looks for something non-magical for compression first because of Professor Carrol’s training about avoiding magic if you can
– cant find anything so she tweaks a ‘push’ spell into the shape of a C, but ultimately can’t keep it in place
– next she works on breaking the ward on her phone. She can’t but she does discover a timer there and has to decide between calling 911 and waiting for and explaining it all to a Highway Patrol officer or just waiting
-eventually she gets back home where she puts her decision to protect herself in to action

419 words on day 797

A Warded Phone

Karen had managed to crawl back to the shade and was resting on the dirt, back against the concrete picnic table’s bench, with her injured leg extended. She may have been pissed that Malachi left her stranded along highway 56 between Clayton and Springer, but she was angry at herself for allowing it to happen.

The other problem was that she understood why—and agreed. Which paradoxically cooled the first anger, but simmered the second. She wasn’t an easy girlfriend for a man like Malachi to have, she thought. He was serving his first tour in Vietnam the year she was born. [fact|logic check that] She supposed her youth made her exuberant about being with him while it just made him embarassed, and he was trying to protect her the only way he could because she wasn’t doing enough to protect herself.

Karen shuffled her phone out of her front pocket and was glad to see a single bar of coverage. “Hi, Margaret. It’s Karen. I need a text-hop…and I need your help with something else…I’ll tell you when I get there.”

Karen hung up the phone and texted Margaret a single character: ‘K’. When nothing happened she checked her coverage—still a bar. The trill of an incomming text startled her. It read: He warded your phone.


217 words on day 796