The Thing In the Tunnels

It had been some weeks since my arrival in Berian, and thus far the majority of my time for this quarter was spent in my classes, quietly contemplating the various possibilities of sneaking out and exploring the wondrous city beyond the walls of the university.

Despite my family’s relative affluence, we apparently had not been wealthy for a sufficient number of generations for the general aristocracy to converse with me. I was shunned by the majority of the students for my decidedly rural upbringing. As a result my closest companions were also from the, by comparison, lower stations of society, conveniently we somehow managed to end up sharing the same dormitory.

Harmon was a tall, strong backed fellow from the northern reach. His father’s rather successful mining venture afforded his tuition and acceptance by the deans of the esteemed foundation which we attended. He was not the sharpest of wits but he was kind enough and had a generous sense of humor. His imposing stature rescued me from more than one assault on my person during our friendship.

Our other roommate, Lethan was the son of a foreign sea trader; who I had been assured, on several occasions, was a completely legitimate businessman. Handsome, slim, and possessing an accent that had the charming and remarkable ability to grow more pronounced around members of the opposite sex. He was always sent the most wonderful packages from home, smelling of exotic spices and containing delightfully strong intoxicants in deceptively labeled bottles.

It was after sampling one such package when a rumor that a long forgotten tunnel had been unearthed by work men clearing debris of a building that collapsed in a recent fire in the southern quarter of the city.  My compatriots and I, armed with lanterns, rope and a misplaced sense of adventure, made the decision to venture out to explore this portal.

***

One by one we lowered ourselves into the hole. Harmon went first and myself taking the rear. As I slid the last few inches down the rope my feet came to rest on finished stone, We found ourselves in a curving hall built of large stone blocks.. We followed that passage, listening to eerie silence, broken only by the sound of our feet shuffling across the dusty floor. We walked, single file, down that abandoned in mild fear until it opened into a rough square chamber. Harmon stumbled across the threshold, his fall extinguishing one of our lanterns. The clatter of the light hitting the ground broke the silence and the tension of  the moment. We let out a short burst of laughter and help the tall man back to his feet. He set about relighting the lantern, while Lethan walked the perimeter of the room. As he walked he waved his own lantern  making a ghostly sounds. Harmon’s match finally struck despite his hands trembling in an attempt to control his giggling. With both lanterns lit we took stock of our surroundings.

The room was of plain finished stone, with and arched passage leading out from the center of each of the walls. I looked down and tracked our footsteps  across the dust ridden floor. The long skid left by Harmon as he tripped. The trail of oil drops left as the lantern tumbled away from him. The long loping stride of Lethan as he acted out his taunting pantomime of a lost spirit. My own steps mingled in with theirs.

Then, there in the interwoven impressions in the dust, I was certain I could see a fourth set.  They were mostly covered over by our tracks, but I was certain they were there.

Short, shambling, barefoot steps.

I cleared my throat to bring my discovery to my companions attention. That was when I heard a long and piercing scream erupt from Lethan’s throat. I quickly raised my head and saw my friend staring gape mouthed, lantern raised high, his eyes wide and distant as if he was staring at something mile away.

I followed his gaze across the room and there in on of the arched portals, it stood.

Hunched, head forward. Grey mottled skin, hanging loose. Large eyes,circular bulbous. Twisted hands, nails overgrown. Distended jaw, teeth like razors.

My horrified friend stood paralyzed by the monstrous visage. It opened its maw as if to scream but only a low hiss emanated from it as it lurched forward towards Lethan. I began to shout, but Harmon was already moving. He threw himself towards the beast.

The thing grabbed the large man as if he was just a child , snapping his arm like a twig and tossed him aside. It turned its head and followed his arc as he landed in the corner near me, screaming in pain. Returning its reptilian eyes back towards Lethan and stalked onward.

I stared in terror, watching helpless as it drew closer towards its prey. Toward my fiend. I barely heard Harmon as he said my name in a hoarse croak.

Something inside of me stirred and I looked down to see Harmon’s lantern, still lit, laying at my feet. As in a dream, I found myself reaching for it. The thing shuffled forward, Lethan stood still frozen under its dread stare. I hoisted the lamp up and back. The thing began to stretch its arm towards my friend. My arm swung forward, and the light sailed forward through the air.

The lantern struck the alien thing and its pallid flesh caught fire in an instant. The thing crumpled to the floor. The jagged mouth opened and shut in silent screams as the monstrous thing’s body rendered in a pillar of fetid smoke, and quickly turned to ash.

The minutes that followed seem so insignificant. After seeing that thing destroyed Lethan recovered from the petrifying fear he suffered when he first met its stare. Through the shock of the encounter we managed to help our injured friend back to his feet and somehow managed to find our way back to where we began our explorations. We used our ropes to pull our companion back up to the street. We returned to the university and placed our friend in the care of the infirmary.

In the weeks that he spent healing we related our story to the authorities. We were told, by the faculty of our school and several representatives of the civil powers, that this was not a tale to be loosely told in taverns and public houses of the city. We were assured that it would be look d into. It was inferred that keeping the existence of such a beast a secret was for the public good. We were reminded that we were also members of the public.

The burned out ruin of the house was cleared and the tunnel was filled in. We were left with the memory of what we saw.

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The City of Berian

It was just before dusk as the sky ship swam lazily through the oppressive summer air towards our destination. The amber glow of the setting sun highlighted the needle like spires of the docks that rose even higher than the grand dome of the ancient cathedral, or the highest towers of the palace of Prince Ethaniel. This was the first time I had visited Berian, the capital of our grand province, and though I considered my self to be fairly cosmopolitan I must confess I was awed by its size and majesty. Taggart, my family’s trusted servant who had been charged to ensure my safe arrival at the university, pointed how many of the buildings boasted new construction to raise them up closer to the activity of the sky docks. There were even ladders and walkways built to span the gaps between structures, roadways and avenues were being made among the rooftops of the city. If one were to look closely you could see tents and stalls of merchants littered a midst the gargoyles and crenelations of the newly found elevations of the city.

Once our vessel was securely hooked to a spire we disembarked and took the long basket ride down to the more traditional streets of the metropolis. As we descended I became familiar with the various layers of smells that blanketed the capital. The heavy damp summer air of the afternoon mingled with the odor of coal and wood smoke from the chimneys of the residences and workhouses. Travelling lower down the floral perfumes of the higher classed bordellos and hotels of leisure were added. Finally, once on the ground, the ripe pedestrian smells of food, alcohol and sweat from the taverns and inns that surrounded the sky dock completed the bouquet of the city. I began to marvel at the naivety of my beloved parents for thinking that this wondrous and sinful locale might somehow provide distraction from my own natural curiosity and  reckless behaviors. After all, attending university would hardly be akin to being sequestered in a monastery.

Taggart and his cohort fell in around in an effort to shield me from the dangerous and immoral activities of fruit vendors, street tumblers, jugglers, and tavern goers, as well as the occasional prostitute and potential sneak thief as we traveled through the cobbled streets and alleyways towards the more desirable, wealthier, and better smelling areas of the city. We traveled uptown past the provincial palace it’s wonderfully clean stone facade, behind its stone walls and black iron gates, complimented by the nearby lush gardens of red and yellow flowers, the same hues that occupied the crest of the royal family. Farther away on another hill we could spy the gilt and stained glass dome of the Cathedral of the Patrons that we had seen from the distance as we flew over the city; one of the many marvels of the empire, not just of our humble province.

Just a little further on and we passed through the gates of the University of Berian, its white marble edifice shone in the last of the days dying light. The fabled Ivory Tower of education in the province. Here less than hundred years ago Leumas Nerals created his magnificent device, that gave to the empire the power of flight. Here in the dormitories of this fine institution I would reside for the foreseeable future, far from my family’s home. After being received by the Deans, and explaining the lateness of our arrival, I said my goodbyes to Taggart and the other men that had accompanied me here. I was escorted by one of the schools porters to my room. It was a small space that I was informed I would be sharing with two other young men, who I was quite anxious to meet. As I unpacked my things and tried to settle in I found myself staring out of the singular window of my new bedroom, past the rolling green lawns of the campus below and out into the city that would be my new home.  My mind wandered back to the events at Persley Station some days ago, and the horror, and carnage I found at that old barrow. Though I was still haunted by the images of that night, my mind held an odd fascination of the experience. I began to wonder,perhaps with a touch of hope, if that would just be the first of such adventures for me.

This narrative inspired  by a Weekly Challenge.

How to be Homeless

Homelessness and You:

~A Short Primer~

Welcome to the exciting world of the dispossessed. No matter what the circumstances that caused this, you are now counted among the dregs of society. Until further notice your well-being, and opinions count for diddly squat to the bulk of the populace. You are essentially a non-person. If you are to get through this and make out the other side you need to know a few things. Things I had to learn on my own.

The key thing that you’ll need to do is locate a few basic services.

  • Food
  • Clothing 
  • Shelter 
  • Hygiene
  • Entertainment and Information Services
  • Socialization

Food

This is the most import of all necessities, and fortunately the most easily obtained. Most cities or towns of any reasonable size has some religious group, social service or other outreach organization. Notable organizations I have encountered include The Salvation Army, St. Francis House, The Krishna’s, local/ state social service departments.

The level of service varies based on local and state laws and the availability of resources of a given organization. There is generally at least one if not more locations, generally a church or homeless shelter, that serve prepared meals daily. Get to know all of the available meal times and locations in your area, in some cases there are different venues that serve on the weekends. In some cases you will be asked to sit through a sermon or a short prayer prior to the serving of the meal. These people are doing you a favor, the least you can do is pretend to hear them out, even if you don’t believe a damned word of it.

You may be able to obtain, by of food pantries or similar services, a bag staple grocery items; canned goods, breads, pastas, etc. These services are often of limited availability, usually confined to use a handful of times per year.

In increasingly rare circumstances temporary food stamp assistance may be available in your area. All areas are trying to reduce homelessness, and have settled on a strategy of making it increasingly harder to survive to do so.

Clothing

Given a lack of available permanent storage, and a limited carrying capacity you will be spending quite a lot of time in the same set or two of clothes, so make sure they are comfortable. Everything has its limits however so knowing how and when to obtain more is important. You can usually find a charity in the area that has a clothes closet available or offers vouchers for use in various thrift outlets, again The Salvation Army is a good place to start for these services.

Select clothing that is durable, and easy to clean. Dark colors and cotton are your friend here. Pay special attention to footwear. Most of your days will be spent walking so make sure to select shoes based on quality and condition, regardless of how silly they may look. A clean pair of socks are always welcome.

If it is possible to select accessories, stick to those that increase your ability to carry. A good, well made backpack, shoulder bag, or purse is indispensable. The only other useful items in this area are belts or suspenders, and possibly a wallet. It’s not so much for money but a wallet is good for keeping  track of your I.D., if you lose that you may just be screwed.

Shelter

If you think you will just be able to crash at a homeless shelter, you are probably wrong. Besides needing clearance from the local police department before you will even be considered for admittance, most shelter spaces are either taken or reserved for women with children, and when you think about it that makes a fair bit of sense. The options this leaves you with are few.

As far as just getting some sleep goes, most places will roust you for sleeping in parks at night, but you should be fine if you just nap there during the day. Inclement weather is another matter that you will need to deal with however. If public places are your strategy then know where to find a convenient overhang or awning for rain, the police are less likely to bother getting out of the cruiser in a downpour. Colder weather simply requires more clothes and a blanket or two. If there is a freeze warning, or other dangerous most shelters will admit more people under emergency provisions.

In many locales there is a tolerated nest of transients, often refered to as Tent City. For reasons of safety and sanity I do not recommend these places. Much of the population there is composed of people who, for one reason or another, are not welcome at the shelters or feeding places. In general it can be assumed that this also a haven for violent criminals, dug abuse, and prostitution. I speculate the reasons these camps are tolerated is due to an issue of containment, they are a ready-made collections of suspects for the authorities to go conveniently raiding when they need to look like they are doing something about crime in the area.

My best advice is to keep floating as close as you can, for as long as you can, to normal society. Make a few kind-hearted friends and never abuse their trust. When times get too rough you can generally hole up for a few days, surfing on couches or camping out in van or other vehicle. Just make sure that under no circumstances that you over stay your welcome if you have any intentions of keeping them as friends.

Hygiene

An often overlooked factor is how hard it is to maintain any sense of cleanliness. Pay attention when you go to the shelters or soup kitchens, usually somewhere is offering laundry and shower facilities even if it is only one or two days a week. It may seem gross to use a public shower after some grubby homeless man, but remember you are some grubby homeless man and unless you wish to remain that way it’d be best if you just grow up and take care of matters. Most such places also will offer free disposable razors. Take one wether or not you plan on shaving, you never know when you’ll need something sharp that is legal to carry.

Staying relatively clean won’t just make it easier to keep interacting with regular folks, you’ll feel a lot better about yourself too. You will probably stay a lot healthier to boot, if I need to explain why you obviously failed health class. Pay special care with your teeth, you can get tooth brushes for free usually. I made the mistake of neglecting this area and now suffer from a host of preventable tooth and gum problems.

Entertainment and Information Services

Just being out and about watching society unfold offers nearly unlimited potential for amusement in and of itself, sometimes however you need to do something a bit more specific to pass the time, or you need to get a hold of someone or get current on recent events. In this case you’re best friend is the local library.

The library is a public space that is well equipped to serve may of your needs. It is crucial, when entering a new town to know where the closest library branch is. In addition to the obvious rows upon rows of books, there you will find access to newspapers, periodicals and local maps that will help you get the lay of the land. Here also is internet access, you may need a library card to use the computer services. Most shelters, even if they aren’t able to take you in, will assist you in getting identification and allow you to use their address for mailing purposes. This will make it possible, or at least easier, to obtain a library card.

Seriously, you’re homeless, you have a lot of time on you hands. Read, educate yourself, it’s for your own good. At the very least brush up on your favorite authors. My time spent on the streets is how I got fairly well acquainted with H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Philip K. Dick and a few others. It kept me out of serious trouble.

Socialization

No matter who you are, you are going to go quite mad if you don’t talk to people. There are two groups of people you have to maintain social graces with, The Homeless and Normal Folks.

It’s easy to see what you have in common with other homeless people. It’s important to maintain relationships with them. They often have solid information on what’s going on in town, and are generally willing to talk to new people. If you need to know where to find something or get access to services they’ll usually point you in the right direction. The thing is that, even though they are people just like you are there are a few hazards to bear in mind when dealing with them. Most people you encounter that are in your situation, if they spend enough time on the streets they like to feel like they are in control or doing you some special favor that you should one day pay them back for. Also a good number of them are addicts of some kind, and if you get involved with their lifestyle they will happily drag you to hell with them just for the company. Lastly, you know nothing about these people except what they tell you, I once found out I was hanging out with a wanted murdered because a cop spotted us walking down the street one day and arrested him, and nearly me as well.

I have mentioned already about keeping relations with normal society. If you ever want to get out of this situation in one piece it is critical for you to make yourself acceptable to some small corner of society. There are always ways of meeting these people, at coffee houses, outside of music venues. They might choose to associate with you for the novelty of the experience at first, or because life on the streets gives you access to connections they don’t have. They will probably be from the younger crowd, impressionable, idealistic, very easy to take advantage of. Be careful, don’t be the guy that’s just hanging around to ask for money or just looking to sell or score some drugs. These people can find you places to stay and potentially a job.

Every person that you find who is willing, for whatever reason, to interact with you is a resource, you need to treat them as such. You need to be able to discern their usefulness and spend time cultivating that relationship accordingly. It is useful to remember that most people you meet regardless of their role care little about you as an individual. Even social workers and outreach staff aren’t so much concerned with you as they are with the problem you represent, so don’t feel bad about taking the upper hand if the situation allows it.

In time you may be able to make a real and lasting friendship. Until then you are a hustler, get to know this about yourself, get comfortable with it. Chances are you’re going to be doing it for a while.

Devising an exit strategy

In the end there is nothing guaranteeing your reemergence into normalcy. It is mostly up to you spotting and exploiting opportunities as they come up. Relying solely on the good will of others, or worse expecting any kind of real assistance from government agencies is going to be a dead-end.

The only proven way to get out of this situation is getting into a position where you can obtain a source of income, and in time be able to afford a place to live. Legitimate work is preferable in the long-term but not quite as immediately lucrative as criminal activity. The irony of course is in the difficulty of finding legitimate, gainful employment when you are obviously a vagrant. I am afraid your prospects are only good for the jobs no one else wants.

Still, I advise an honest job no matter how menial the work or little the pay. I mean you’re a bum, it’s not like you’re too good for a fast food restaurant, or digging ditches. It is hard justifying taking abuse for very little upward mobility but, the longer you stay on the streets the harder it becomes to get back off them. There are plenty of people out there who have chosen vagrancy as an occupation, if you need motivation to eat a little crap at work now and then go have look at them.

Well that’s about all there is, I hope your stay on the bottom rung of society is as short and as pleasant as possible.

This guide was inspired by a Weekly Challenge

Meesa and the Gremlin

Meesa knew that smell anywhere.

That mixture of machine oil, curiosity and, corruption. It was a gremlin, a kind of gnome gone horribly wrong. They constantly take things apart to see how to make them break down more efficiently. This was going to be tricky. Anything that spends its afternoons contemplating the best way to blow things up does not tend to have a well-developed sense of fear.

She crept into the dimly lit garage. The ability to see in the dark might not be the best of her abilities but, right now Meesa thought it was pretty close to the top of the list. She was hoping her amazing agility and experience as a hunter would be tipping points. The gremlin was cornered as planned, the problem being it was cornered near an array of power tools. Inch by inch she snuck toward the impish thing. Occupied by its tinkering, it seemed unaware of her. Meesa readied herself, crouched low, and leapt. She unsheathed her blades as she sailed through the air, ready for the kill.

Suddenly, the gremlin whirled aiming a cordless drill and a maniacal grin at her. Meesa twisted her body at the last second to avoid its thrust. Landing awkwardly on her feet, spun and swept him to the ground. The weapon flew from its hands and into a shelf, sending paint cans clattering downwards and tools sprawling everywhere. A quick punching stab to its throat and it was over. Meesa licked her lips, now for the fun part.

The door flew open.

“Damn it cat! What the hell are you doing in here?” screamed the voice.

Meesa slunk away miserably from the wreckage. Stupid human, she thought, I probably just saved your life. After all it isn’t her fault gremlins are invisible.

This story inspired by a Weekly Challenge, and by a character invented by my daughter.

Expectations of the Day

There are always certain expectations we have in our lives.

I can expect today that I will  leave my house to go to a job that I have long since lost all passion for. It would not be unusual for my daughter to get angry or upset because I am leaving so soon after bringing her home from school, my getting a bit frustrated about this would be about par for the course, from here the prospects for my day will only get grimmer.

When I arrive at work I can assume that my boss will greet me and ask me how I am doing. I am expected to say, “Fine.” I am fairly certain that if I were to say anything difference would change his , we’ve been going through this routine for years and I can tell that he’s not really paying any attention. I’ll draw some coffee from the air pot, in all likelihood it will be luke warm and taste of old pencil shavings.

At some point, probably late, the rest of the staff will begin to trickle in, various levels of excess from last night all too readable on their faces. I can anticipate an exasperating string of hours watching them drag themselves through the paces of the day.  It is only a matter of time before they get started, probably early, on tomorrow’s hangover.

In all probability the mediocrity of my employment, the drudgery and thankless nature of my work will further embitter me, and throughout the night I can safely expect to seriously consider quitting my job about four times, at least one of those times I will come close to just walking out. It won’t be worth it, I’ve got too much sense and too much responsibility, but it would be a damned satisfying thing to do.

After some many years I would suppose I might be inured to the feeling bleakness when examining my prospects for an evening.  It is within all reasonable expectations that I will struggle with the urge to drink. At the end of it all it will probably be best if I go home eat a pint of ice cream, and stare at my computer in mild annoyance. These short bouts of depression really get to me sometimes.

I expect…

Well, I expect I’ll feel better tomorrow.

This was written in response to a Weekly Challenge.

Visits From Nowhere

I was going through my routines this night
when as from the thinnest air,
I felt a touch that was so slight.
Might it be that someone’s there?

A brief interest seen for my endeavor
and how shallow  it does always seem,
that after this our ties you’ll sever.
It was just briefly we have shared the theme.

I labored and loved and this I showed,
to receive a view from you and others.
In return, being fairly owed,
I’ll  read your ravings about Big Brother.

In the end I’ll be alone,
Despite my writing this silly poem.

Meh, I could do better.

Meh, I could do better.

 This butchery of an art form presented in response to a Weekly Challenge.
Typing chimpanzee image from Wikimedia Commons and is public domain

Around the Garden

Darkness and moonlight are our time. Eyes wide, I see you trembling in the garden.

You know I am here, you are excited.

I worry you, don’t I.

A smile.

A quick step.

We have our dance and then a kiss.

I leave you a gift, she will like you.

Photo courtesy of  my cat.

Photo courtesy of my cat.

This story inspired by a Weekly Challenge, and my cat.

It’s Kind of a Long Story

I wasn’t an avid reader in my youth. Don’t get me wrong, I liked to read books, I just wouldn’t consider myself widely read. What got me telling stories was sitting around kitchen tables playing Dungeons and Dragons.

I started off as a bit player. The older kids had a regular game and one of them couldn’t show up. I was just the annoying little dweeb that wouldn’t go home, and some how I wound up spending the rest of the day fumbling around with a half-elven magic user and bugging the crap out of the rest of the group as they tried to explain the rules. By the end of that first session I don’t think I had a handle on what I was doing, but I knew there was something there I wanted more of. I loved being given the opportunity to be part of the adventure. After a few more tries I made my first ham-handed attempt at running the game. My first story had little in the way of plot but there was a dungeon and there was a dragon, the heroes prevailed and so I guess three out of four wasn’t bad for a preteen with a fist full of dice.

It all sort of ballooned from there. I spent the larger portion of my formative years geeking out with what ever game could be found. Fantasy, western, spy thriller, science fiction, super heroes; if you can name a genre I have been an active participant in a story of that fashion. My compatriots and I got to spend any number of afternoons describing as a group the various adventures of a universe full of protagonists.

My earliest writings that I found satisfying were in a journal that I kept as a way to pass the time while I was homeless and hitchhiked my way from state to state. It was a way to keep sane, my own little piece of mental real estate. It wasn’t my first diary, but it was the first where feel I was writing creatively. Not necessarily fiction, but lets just say that my life as a vagabond looked a lot more interesting on paper.

It was also the first journal I let anyone else read.

It’s a big step to let the general public into your head space. Let them read the things you think about in the dead of night, in the middle of the woods, with no one around but the crickets chirping at you. In a way that journal was the first step towards blogging.

I was dedicated to that journal, I wrote in it everyday (except for the time it went to Jamaica and back without me) until the swampy environs of Florida caused it to molder and rot apart. It’s so hard to have nice things when you’re a vagrant.

There is only so much rough living a body can take, so it does become useful to reenter society.  The upside of networking from scratch to obtain lodgings and a source of income is very time-consuming, and my relationship with writing became a little more erratic while I reestablished myself. All the socializing this required did allow me to bring together a rag-tag group of people interested in adventure games. This kept the stories flowing, gave me a chance to develop some skills, work on technique. A well thought out game is some times a lot of paperwork, a lot of writing.

My character sketches were becoming more like narratives, my plot lines more elaborate I was getting good at it. I started penning out a story, well technically typing but you get the idea. It was a nice piece of fantasy fiction. It was going well I thought. Somewhere along the way I became a drunk. In hindsight, I’m pretty sure it was a preexisting condition.

I got distracted. I forgot to write one day, then I forgot another day. Sometimes I would forget for weeks at a time. Then came a day when, in a fit of inebriated shame and depression I deleted the contents of my hard drive. A few years of drinking later and I can’t say I remember many of the details of the story.

Sobriety isn’t a second chance. Sobriety does make second chances possible, that’s what I have to believe anyway. At any rate if you want something you have to pursue it. I decided some years ago that I would like to be a writer. I failed in this endeavor the first time around. Now I’m ready to try again, and that’s not the only thing I’m taking a second shot at.

I couldn’t say if I aspire to write for a living. For now that point is moot, we’re not there yet. I am at best and out of practice amateur, getting some practice in, needing to keep these ideas from boiling over in his head. At worst I am grasping at straws, just searching for focus, a way to replace the booze. Either way I suppose it’s either try writing or go crazy.

For now I settle for writing, I’ll always have crazy to fall back on.

This essay  inspired by a  Weekly Challenge.

It’s Called a Purse!

A lot of men, and a small number of women, I know get a bit hung up if you define any part of there style or accessories with what is perceived as a feminine term. In fact if you use the word accesory towards any of some men’s possesions your already hitting a sore spot. Specifically now I want to discuss something I feel very strongly about.

I don’t care who you are or how masculine your image is. If you have a bag slung on your shoulder it’s a purse. It could be made from the skin of an alligator you slew with nothing but your bare hands and a fountain pen, and have six-inch steel spikes protruding from it. It’s a freaking purse. Nothing to be ashamed of, lots of men carry purses these days, not many of them are willing to admit that their, shoulder bag/ briefcase/ satchel/ messenger bag/ rucksack/ whatever they want to call it, is in fact a purse, but they’re carrying one.

It’s fine, there is no judgement here. Acknowledging your love of purses is the first step.

I have a purse. I have pretty much owned at least one purse at any given time for the past, oh I don’t know, twenty-five years or so. I have even, once, sewn my own purse together out of an old pair of corduroy pants. Quite often I have found myself to be the owner of multiple purses at once, various shapes, sizes and colors of purses, though usually I opt for something roomy, with lots of compartments for organizing my gear. As a matter of preference I usually opt for a dark, solid colored purse. black is almost always a good choice, it matches nearly everything and most stains aren’t very noticeable.

Speaking of stains, I like purses that are easy to keep clean. Canvas or nylon are always good for that and are quite durable to boot. I’ve owned a few leather purses in my day and once they get stained, or worse torn or punctured, you might as well just throw them out at that point. Now vinyl, vinyl is a bit better than leather. Same sexy feeling to the word, nice glossy look, much easier to clean; vinyl is still a pain in the ass to mend, but at least you know nothing had to be slaughtered for its manufacture when it finally comes time to give it the old heave-ho. For what it’s worth I think canvas is the best way to go. Natural fiber, durable, easy to clean, easy to dye so it is available in a wide variety of colors, very easy to waterproof.

Yes canvas makes for the best purses, ready for whatever adventures your life leads you on.

I think one of the primary benefits of accepting purse ownership is it opens up the possibilities of shopping for purses. It is a fun activity and can give you something to do without actually spending any money. After all it’s free as long as your just looking, right? Thrift stores are the best places to look for good purses. The best ones are almost always buried  under a pile of bags, and assorted pieces of luggage somewhere between the shoes and the random pieces of sporting goods.

Now gentlemen, lean in for this one…

This gives you something to do when your wife, and/ or girlfriend takes you out shopping with them but, they don’t want you following them around the store with a bored expression on your face. Having something to occupy yourself while they browse for a new top or try on some jeans, will do far more to endear you to them than any amount of mindless opinions about which color dress you like better; chances are they’re just asking so you don’t feel like they are ignoring you.

I can hardly think of a better way to carry the volume of equipment that one might need on any given day. Quite frankly they don’t make pants big enough for all of the things we tote around with us these days. Fish around in there what do you find? Wallet… keys… pens, pencils, notepad. phone, sunglasses checkbook; heaven for bid perhaps some printed reading material? What’s the difference, what does it take to make it a purse? Do you need to add lipstick, a compact, and a brush before you draw the distinction?

There is no shame in calling your purse a purse. That’s what it is, and no amount of semantics is going to change that fact. So, just be proud, and be confident in who you are.

Walk softly and carry a big purse.

This bit of silliness was inspired by a Weekly Challenge.

The Toolkit

PREVIOUS

The alarm clock went off and Davis snorted awake in his chair. A few moments of fumbling around managed to resolve the noise and he slid his feet off the crowded desk, taking a pile of papers with them. He stood and reached his arms out and upwards and then rotated them in a wide orbit back to his sides to stretch. He pulled the chain over his head and the light on the ceiling fan came on. He looked around a moment and then retrieved his satchel from the coat hook next to the door. He set the bag on his desk and admired it for a moment as he opened it.

It was a good bag. The cracked and faded brown leather gave it a nice antique look that can only be found in clever modern design. The functioning straps and buckles he always made a large show of fussing with, hid small magnetic clasps for fast access to its contents. It was the perfect size; small enough to stay out of the way while slung, yet just large enough to have the possibility of containing practically anything when examined from the outside. Inside, a few custom alterations made its contents easy to find in a hurry, provided you were the one who packed it. With a smile he began to load it for his day.

He took the silver flask of whiskey from the shelf behind him and turned it over in his hands, the engraved letters “J.D.” glinted briefly in the lamplight. He tried, for a moment as he nestled it into the inner reaches of his briefcase, to think of how many people tried to guess his first name based on just that small inscription. The truth always kept a secret for his amusement, he had won it in a poker game long ago, and the initials stood for Jack Daniels.

He leaned over his desk and reached for his cigar case. He had given the habit up years ago but he was sentimental about the old brass object, it was the only thing his last ex-wife had given him that he ever really liked. It contained three imitation Cubans, quality knock-offs that were sometimes useful as bribes. He set it gently down in the bottom of the bag.

Next he pulled from his drawer the gun. The loathsome, inelegant thing. He hadn’t fired a gun in years, and only included it as one of his possessions because he was ordered to start carrying one again. He had chosen a simple on; a Smith and Wesson 642 revolver; it weighed less than a pound unloaded, and held only five thirty-eight caliber bullets. He knew from experience that if he needed more bullets or a bigger gun he was already screwed. He casually tossed it in hoping it would find away to lose itself. He quickly packed his notebook, reading glasses, wallet, and a few other mundane things on top of it. It wasn’t so much that he was opposed to the use of guns, they were just noisy, vulgar, and impersonal in his opinion. No wonder so many people liked them.

The last thing to go in the bag was the small package, wrapped in plain brown paper and tied with butcher’s twine. A gift for Jerry, hopefully the kid will make quick work of its contents. Davis reached down to the desk lamp and picked up his watch.

The silver Bulova his father had given him for his eighteenth birthday was still one of his favorite things.  The glass was slightly scratched and the band had been replaced several times and you look hard to see the original date stamp of N2 on the back. He strapped it on and held it up to his ear to listen to the satisfying, high-pitched hum of the tuning fork contained within. Over forty years-old and it still had its original timing element, this fact always gave him comfort.

He slid on his coat, buckled the satchel back up, and looped the strap over his shoulder. Opening the door, he turned and looked at the mess that was his office. He nodded to no one and flipped the light switch, cutting off the fan and overhead light.

It was going to be a long day. He should pick up a couple of sandwiches on the way the Jerry’s place.

NEXT

This scene of fiction was inspired by a Weekly Challenge.