So you can read my books

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


I have often warned friends not to casually play with the Ouija board. Do not knock on any door that you do not know what is on the other side.

Ouija is a combination of two words: "oui" and "ja" which mean "yes" in French and German respectively. And do you really want to say "yes" to something like the picture on yesterday's post?

So saying that, there I was sitting in the dark, about to write this article on the wisdom of posting excerpts from your writing and thinking about that very picture from yesterday's post ... when I heard a deep, thunderous voice :

"Oinops pontos."

I looked up and sighed. I just had to write a horror post yesterday, didn't I? There in his worn toga, battered sandals, and walking staff stood Homer.

"Wine dark sea?," I asked. "And that means exactly what?"

"It is what I have crossed to please your Valkyrie."


"Yes, she knows you have been worried that you have spoken too much of your epic. And she wanted me to counsel you."

"And 'wine dark sea' is it?"

He whacked me on the shin with his staff. "I have little patience."

Rubbing my smarting shin, I grumbled, "So I noticed."

"Then notice this as well. The measure of a story is not the teller but the listener."

I tucked my legs under my chair and said, "This must be a lesson 'cause my understanding of it lessens and lessens the more you speak."

He spun his staff and thumped me on the head. "OW!"

"Tell your story. Listen to the audience. Learn insights you would never do otherwise. That is my wisdom."

He smiled, and it didn't reach his white-filmed eyes. "Denied sight, I saw truth in the criticisms of others. Try and have as much vision as this blind man."

And with that, he disappeared. I sighed. I thought a moment, then I smiled.

"Well, that wasn't so bad." {You should never say things like that -- even if you're not in a horror movie.}

Gyspy, my cat, hissed and ducked under my chair. A trilling like the moaning of melting ice wraiths filled the darkness. A blur of gold swirled to my left. A ghost throne solidified next to me.

In black robes in whose fabrics swirled suns and comets sat another frequent guest : Merlin. Tall, guant, he possessed a face not even in the same galaxy with human.

"Hello, Emrys," I said, using his childhood name.

The face underneath the domed hat kept changing : child, werebeast, old man, crystaline facets of diamond. I felt like I was watching Bush delivering a speech.

"Your Faerie Queen can be most persuasive," he whispered, the tones of his voice changing from crone, to crow, to child.

"She asked you to come, too?"

"Yes. To tell you the magic of words."

His smile was colder than the shivers they gave me. "The magic of words increases with the speaking of them. The more you tell your tale aloud, the more strength it will have, the more lyrical and fluid will become the words."

He jabbed at me with a long, bony finger. "Speak your story, child of the Lakota. Speak it often and listen to the cadance of your prose, sculpting it into magic. Listen, mold, sculpt. Then say them aloud again, letting the music of them roll from your tongue. Speak them to all you can. When you see their eyes light up with your words, you will know you have sown magic in them."

His own words were still lingering in the darkness when he disappeared. Two cloven hoove marks were burned into the carpet where his feet had been. Gypsy hissed at the smoking reminders of his visit, then scurried to investigate the wonders that lay hidden underneath my bed.

I didn't blame her. I wanted to join her in fact. The throne blurred to the sound of a tinny trumpet. Laughter sounded all around me. I groaned. Not him. Please, not him tonight.

A high desk suddenly replaced the missing throne. A smoldering cigar thrust into my face. Fake eyebrows shot up and down.

"Say the secret word, and I'll tell you why I came."

Groucho Marx.

I sighed. I'd have to count my books after he left. A voracious reader, Groucho always "borrowed" one of my leather-bound classics to while away whatever afterlife he ambled through.


"The very same songbird. And the legs on that bird would make Col. Sanders a very happy man."

His eyebrows did the rhumba on his forehead. "In fact, those legs have made many a Colonel a happy man. And Major and General and Major-General and ...."

"I won't have you joke about her morals while she's not present to give her side of ..."

"Morals? Not present? I have you know she was a whiz at giving in to her morals when she was present."

A shimmering glow swirled behind him. I made a cutting motion against my throat with the fingers of my left hand, but Groucho kept on.

"Why the look? Not following me? I tell you a child of five could understand this."

He cupped a hand around his mouth, "Someone fetch a child of five!"

As a white satin gowned woman appeared behind Groucho, I groaned. He smiled, totally oblivious to his danger. I saw the long, sharp dagger in an elegant right hand.

He chuckled, "If you see the divine diva, quote me as saying I was mis-quoted."

His eyes went to mine. His face paled. His cigar drooped. His throat felt the dagger across it. "She's right behind me, isn't she?"

I nodded sadly, and he looked up into the icy face of Marlene Dietrich. "Marry me, and I'll never look at another horse."

Her eyes became slits, and he winked at me. "Either she's dead, or my watch's stopped."

Marlene spoke in a velvet whisper, holding the dagger close to his neck. "Another word, and I will make you the headless coarse man."

"Egads, woman. You wanted me to speak words to your ...."

The dagger pressed harder against his throat, "... my very good friend here."

"Words about his concern for his idea being stolen, about his art, buffoon."

"Well, Art is Art, isn't it? Still, on the other hand, water is water. And east is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does. Now you tell me what you know."

She slashed long and hard, tearing Groucho's still talking head from his body. "Oh, sure, be that way about it. I mean, I've heard about some of the things you did to get a-head in Hollywood, but ...."

I saw Marlene's eyes and shouted, "Groucho, if not for you, then for me, will you please shut up!"

"Oh, well since you asked so nice. Oh, and about your worry for someone stealing
your joke -"

"Story," Marlene and I both said at once.

"Whatever. No one can tell your joke like you, boy-o. Your little twists, your little asides. And in telling it over and over, you get a better sense of what works and what doesn't. So don't worry about someone stealing your joke, kid. Only you can tell it your way."

"Thanks, Groucho. I never thought about it like that."

Marlene smiled at me. I would have been more charmed if she weren't holding Groucho's eyebrow-lifting head at the same time. "And remember, Liebling, great stories have great scenes."

She winked slyly at me. "If it detracts from the flow of the story it is not a great scene. It is ... how do they say it now? Yes, it is a speed-bump."

Groucho muttered, "I need my own body under me right now. Then, could I have your body under me?"

She began to walk into the darkness, taking Groucho's head but leaving his body. "I have always said, Julian, that you are a no-body. And now, I prove it."

She disappeared as Groucho squawked, and I called out after her, "Oh, come on, Marlene."

"For you, Liebling," her words whispered right into my ear, and Groucho's body disappeared.

I leaned back in my chair and let out a long sigh. Gypsy stuck her head out, checking if the coast was clear. Suddenly, her eyes narrowed, and she hissed, ducking back under my bed again.

A plush leather chair was next to mine. Cigar smoke tickled my nose. The deep aroma of an expensive cigar. A stout figure appeared in the chair. My goosebumps began to skate along my shivers.

Not him, too?

Ever have one of those nights?

End of Part One
And here are some of Groucho's better moments :


  1. Roland, Roland, his (your?) fear is my fear. I love this post. They all said the same thing, but I'm not totally convinced yet, are you??

    ~That Rebel, Olivia

  2. Thanks, Olivia. We tend to believe our fears over our head's good sense. And thanks for responding.

    I wrote this with three hours sleep, and when I received no comments --

    I went, "Oh, oh, Roland. Never try to be amusing with 3 hours sleep ever, ever again!"

    For all of my friends, who read this and scratched their heads -- Mea Culpa. Roland