Keep the Faith (KTF)

Camel’s Hump Vermont by Eric Marshall. Wikimedia Commons.

KTF! I’m sure many of you are wondering what that means. Basically it was a slogan used by my high school English teacher (though I don’t think it originated from him), an abbreviation for Keep the Faith. Just about every day students would write KTF on the chalkboard. A feel good message, it encouraged students, as well as the teacher to keep going.

Back in my high school days, I personally thought it was silly. And yet, as an adult, KTF means a lot to me. Especially as a writer. In this competitive market in which we try to sell our writing, it’s easy to lose faith. And yet maybe now we have to really hold onto it, even when it feel like we aren’t making progress on our way up the pile of papers of the literary mountain which I call Mount Liteverest. So KTF.

KTF when you have to keep having to write and rewrite your manuscript with no resolution in sight.

KTF when you have to take a long respite from you manuscript because all the pieces of your story aren’t falling into place.

KTF when people, whether they be friends, family, or critics, tell you that you just don’t have what it takes to be a writer.

KTF when you are trying to get your articles and stories read on other sites, but other writers have a monopoly of followers.

KTF when you feel like you don’t have a single original idea.

KTF when you get drawers stuffed full of rejection slips from publishing housings.

KTF when you self publish a book and hardly anyone buys it.

KTF when magazines or newspaper publications reject your articles.

KTF when your computer or typewriter malfunctions, making you lose days of writing.

KTF when the computer crashes an you lose all your writing.

KTF when you feel like you’ll never see your story in the library or the bookstore.

KTF when you are working at a job you loath with every fiber in your being and would rather be writing full-time.

KTF when you lose readers.

KTF when trying to find an agent.

KTF when you don’t have enough money to self-publish.

KTF when you can’t find an illustrator when you need one.

KTF when someone who hires you to be a ghostwriter flakes.

KTF in trying to write articles or stories using Upwork or Fiverr.

KTF when you write something that offends someone and an angry internet mob wants to shame you.

KTF all the time because the odds are stacked against you. Keep writing. Write to save yourself. It’s the only thing we can do at times.

Edgar the Insignificant Ch 2

 A rough draft with plenty of bad grammar, typos, and poor sentence structure.

Copyright by Jonathan Scott Griffin

Read Ch 1 here.

Back at his cottage, Edgar found himself in deep thought, wondering if what the fortune-teller said was true. An adventure! That was the last thing he needed. Yes, Madame Blue Moon had mentioned agency, but he still felt like she had been trying to push him towards a certain direction.

He looked around his cottage and he hoped not. He loved his warm, comfortable straw bed, the beautiful view the window gave him, and his daily routines. Anything that took him out of day-to-day life was a bad thing. This was his home, where he deserved to be. After a while Edgar just brushed the thoughts away. He was his own man. What did Madame Blue Moon know actually? She was probably just a fraud.

Edgar had been thinking about this as he ate some cheese for lunch and washed it down with a flask of water. Octy had his own bowl of cheese. Edgar had even been so kind as to give the little mouse, named Squeakers, a pebble of cheese on a small plate. Squeakers was greedily gobbling the cheese down like it was a fine cuisine.

Edgar still wasn’t happy that he had to watch over the little white mouse. There was just something so filthy about rodents. Maybe it was the way they foraged through trash, especially rats. Thankfully, Squeakers wasn’t a rat. But he was still a mouse, a vermin. Hopefully he wasn’t carrying any disease. And if the little creature even asked to sleep in Edgar’s bed tonight, no way, he could just forget it. There were some things that just couldn’t be tolerated. Bedding with vermin was one of them.

Squeakers, on the other hand, seemed oblivious to Edgar’s discomfort. He kept thanking him for saving him. “I thank you oh so very much, Sir,” said Squeakers. “Perhaps someday I will return the favor.”

Edgar laughed. “Yeah right. What can you, a little mouse, do for me?”

Not very polite? Certainly not. But maybe one can forgive Edgar by knowing that he was trying to be the best host that he could, even if he didn’t want to be. Why, he even went so far as to make the mouse a little bed from an empty matchbox as well as providing him the covers out of a clean dishcloth.

 “Well, Octy, this is certainly a load of rubbish,” Edgar said, patting his dog on the back before turning out the lantern and falling asleep on his straw bed.

Edgar hoped to fall asleep fast.

Skitter, skitter. Skitter, skitter. Squeak, squeak.

“What do you want, Squeakers?” Edgars said grouchily, turning on his gas lamp.

Squeakers was peering up at him from below the bed.

“Begging your pardon, I hate to trouble you, Sir,” said Squeakers. “But I do hate sleeping alone. Can you move my little bed into your room?”

“You’ve got to be kidding me. Absolutely not!”

“Oh please, you can just put me on your dresser. I promise not make a peep.”

Exasperated Edgar took the bed he made for the little mouse, and the little mouse himself, into his room and placed them on his cabinet. He had already volunteered to save him, and now the rodent was asking for more. This was too much.

Edgar turned his lamp off, hoping to get some shut eye. Onty grumbled, hoping for the same.

“Will you be going on that quest, Sir?” asked Squeakers.

“Don’t be silly,” said Edgar, “of course not. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to bed.”

If only going to bed were that easy. Though Edgar tried to forget about what Madame Blue Moon said, his thoughts drew back to the images he witnessed in the crystal ball. Who was this girl who was floating in the cosmos, only to be tied to an altar?

Edgar didn’t sleep well that night, being plagued with dreams. He saw that same young girl, and that same monster. He had a large claw griped around her waist. In fear she was reaching out to Edgar.

“Edgar,” she screamed. “Please, help me. Help me Edgar, help me.” And she disappeared, along with the monster, into a gray fog.

He awoke, his pajamas drenched in a cold sweat. With teeth chattering he knew he needed to take a nice hot bath in the hot springs.

“Begging your pardon, are you okay, Sir.” Squeakers was wide awake.

“Fine, I’m fine!” Edgar lied.

“You were dreaming about her, weren’t you? About what you saw in the crystal ball.”

“Not at all. I don’t believe Madame Blue Moon for a second.”

Squeakers stared at him. Edgar shrugged.

“Okay I lied. I was dreaming about what I saw. But, as she said, I have my own destiny. I don’t have to seek this girl out.”

But little did Edgar know, that life doesn’t always pan out the way we wish. Sometimes it gives us a little nudge. Or in some cases, a big push.

Not far from him, on the top of a summit of another part of the mountain chain, was a middle-aged man who, aside from Edgar’s guilty conscious, would help be that push. Dressed in tattered clothes, a rugged cloak, he looked up at the moon that was lighting up the peaks of snow. It was cold. His big fat toe stuck out of his right boot, freezing the snow. That was his good boot. Though his toe didn’t stick out of his left boot, the seams were barely holding it together. He couldn’t remember how many times he had to stop and patch and sew up clothing. His trousers were practically all patches.

He scratched his thick, scraggly, unwashed beard. He was near his destination. He could feel it. His rough weather-beaten hand clasped the hilt of the sword at his side. If they came, he would be ready.

Meanwhile, Edgar had just finished bathing in one of the hot springs nearby. Wearing fresh clothing, Edgar was making his way back to his cottage as the sun was rising. This time around, he noticed the mountain chain more so than usual, and for the first time it hit him. It was a large world out there, and it didn’t stop at the end of the long mountain chain that Edgar called home.

Edgar felt a chill, and not from the cold, to know that it was this large world that took his mother away from him when he was a little child. Though he had become somewhat numb to his loss, this particularly morning the memory stung, as he thought back to these cold mornings in which his mother cuddled him against her, feeling her body heat as she sang to him.

It was in the past.

In Edgar’s mind, he was at least mostly safe on his mountain. He would have a nice hot breakfast of oats and fruit, shave the mugroomps, go fishing, and enjoy life with his dog. The world wouldn’t take him. Not like it did his mother.

But as the day wore on, his thoughts kept turning back to the vision he saw. Tinges of guilt crept upon Edgar. He felt low. He was a coward. He was abandoning a young girl to a monster. Slowly he felt more and more ashamed of himself.

Both Octy and Squeakers noticed. As Edgar sat at the table, his breakfast from five hours ago not even touched, Octy put his head in his lap and whimpered while looking up at him with great, big concerned eyes.

“Excuse me for intruding,” said the little mouse. “I know I haven’t lived you with that long, but I feel it is safe for me to guess that you have been most preoccupied. You seem troubled.”

Edgar couldn’t hide it. “Yes,” he said. “I am troubled.”

“Then I suggest we take this adventure.”

“I don’t want to, I love the mountains.”

“With all due respect, good Sir, I don’t think the mountains are helping you much.”

Neither is having a disease carrier in my home, Edgar thought to himself. But he merely said, “No, I suppose they aren’t.”

They all retired early to bed that night. Squeakers still sleeping separately from Edgar and Octy.

You’re a coward, Edgar thought to himself. How could you let a girl die? Then he shook his head. She wasn’t his problem. Was she?

“Octy,” he said suddenly. “We’re going to find out who that girl is. We’ll see if we can help her.”

“Oh, that’s wonderful, Sir,” chattered Squeakers. “When do we leave?”

“We?” asked Edgar. “I didn’t mention you. Octy and I are going. You can have the house to yourself while we’re away. Just try to keep it clean.” Edgar looked at Octy, who looked back at him with somber eyes. “As for when we leave,” he patted his dog on the head, “I’m not sure yet.”

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Hard Truths: A Letter to Writers

“You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance.”
-Ray Bradbury  

“I love my rejection slips. They show me I try.”
-Sylvia Plath

Dear aspiring writers,

When I first learned I wanted to be a writer, particularly an author, back in my middle school days, my naive and innocent mind told me that it would be simple. Just write a book, submit it to a publisher, and watch the money roll in. The idealism was palpable. To make money doing what I loved doing, what could be better? Better yet, what could be easier? All it took was a good idea for a story and readers would flock to it like it was the next Tolkien.

As an adult I learned about how in my youth I oversimplified my goals. Perhaps many of you have too. Forgive me for laying out some hard truths. To start out with, writing is work and it’s intense. Let’s number the ways it can be an emotional strain.

The Challenges of Writing in and of Itself

Writing is a talent that many people have to develop. True, some individuals seem to be blessed with an innate talent for writing, but even they have to hone their craft. The first draft is going to be crap. The second draft will be crap too. The third draft might still be crap, but maybe a little better quality. The fourth draft might not be that great either, but maybe you’ll make some better progress.  No matter how many drafts, expect to write and rewrite. Expect to go to bed frustrated.

Then there is writer’s block. There will be some days that the words flow naturally like a river unimpeded while there will be other days when it feels like a dam has been constructed, blocking the flow. For the latter, you may feel like your whole day was wasted.

You may also struggle with originality. For instance, you may enter a temporary state of semi-divinity, thinking that you have transcended above everyone else with a unique idea and that your mind has been full of enlightenment. I hate to break this to you, but the vast majorities of ideas aren’t original, many having already been done before.

When you find out that your ideas or thoughts aren’t so original, you may feel like you don’t have a voice to offer. You’ll doubt your abilities. You might even think that you shouldn’t write anyway because everything has been said and done. This can be highly detrimental.

Being a writer may also make it feel like you are competing with other writers. Whether you write fiction for Booksie or non-fiction for Medium, there’s a good chance that you’ll see other writers who have more readers and who have received more accolades. Some of these writers may seem like crap-writers, and you’ll see your own work as superior. You might wonder why they have all this praise garnished on them and a heavy readership while you don’t. Often it feels unfair. I know, I’ve been there. It’s frustrating.

Oh, speaking of frustration and feeling like you’re not getting anywhere, there is a chance that this will happen to you. After all, the writer’s mind is a fairground of loud noise, of ideas shouting over one another, each one begging you to come to their stalls and check out their attractions. You’ll be pulled in every direction, working on so many numerous stories, poems, or articles at once that you won’t always know which ones to focus on. Do you go into the whimsical funhouse of creative imagination by focusing on writing a fantasy novel? Or do you go to one of the educational exhibits by writing an article? Time is short, and in this fairground of ideas one has to prioritize.

The Challenges of Promoting your Writing

Whether you want to admit it or not, you’re eventually going to have to promote your writing. It will be promoted in one of two ways, either through sending query letters and samples to publishing firms, or  through self-publishing. Both options offer unique challenges.

For the traditional route, you’re going to have to find out which publishing firms accept solicited manuscripts and which accept unsolicited manuscripts, or which require an agent and which don’t. To those that don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts, next comes the fun part in finding a literary agent, and they cost money, deducting a percentage of your earnings.

When sending a manuscript, you’ll wait months and months. Oh, and it gets better. Some of these publishing firms don’t want you to send the same submission out to multiple publishing firms. Though in fairness, although this has long been the norm, from my understanding, this is changing. Either way, you’ll have to check to see if the publishing firm is okay with multiple submission forms. And after all that waiting, you may end up with a mountain of rejection slips. 

So, why not cut out the middlemen and the waiting time and go the self-publishing route? In theory it sounds like a sage idea. After all, aside from the aforementioned benefits, self-published writers get to keep more of their earnings. Except there’s a catch. You truly have to promote your writing.

There won’t be any publishing firms to advertise your work. You are going to have advertise your book on your own, which means you may have to take to Twitter or Facebook. And, much like what has been mentioned about Medium and Booksie, you are going to have a chorus of loud voices drowning you out. There is the option of promoting your book at a bookstore. No matter what you choose, you’ll have the skepticism of general readers, who ask why they should pay money on a self-published author.

Another challenge to self-publishing is that you’ll be editing your own work, unless you want to pay large sums of money for an editor. You’ll also have to pay for an International Standard Book Number, or ISBN, or most libraries and bookstores won’t carry your book. And if you want to publish in physical forms, you’ll have to pay for the printing. 

 

giphy

Arrested Development. Image from Gify

Feeling Discouraged? Don’t Be! 

Perhaps it sounds like I’m trying to tell you to give up on your dreams. That’s not my intent at all. Good things are worth struggling for.

“Perseverance and spirit have done wonders in all ages.”
-George Washington

It’s going to take perseverance and spirit to stick with writing. But you can do it. In fact, you’ll find it very rewarding. Yes, you’ll have your bad days in which it seems like the odds are stacked up against you. But you’ll also have days in which you’ll achieve a little victory, and when those days happen, you’ll feel a profound sense of gratification. I have a motto, and it simply states….

We have hundreds of failures and hardships, in order to better appreciate and savor one small victory and one single moment of joy a thousand times more. 

That said, I know that these words may ring hollow. So, here’s another tip. Find joy in the process of writing and of learning how to promote your work. Now, I’m a gamer, so I think about it terms of playing a video game. In action platform games, there are multitudes of enemies coming at you, along with traps to maneuver and pits to avoid. In terms of RPGs, one has to spend hours leveling up their character before they can progress throughout the game. And yet, a sense of enjoyment come out of it. The same can be said for writing and promoting. The enemies, pits, and traps you run into may be your own self doubts or unfair criticisms from others. Leveling up may entail writing and rewriting your manuscript, not twice, not thrice, but enumerable times. In terms or promotion, you may not know all the rules, just like you may start off not knowing all the rules and mechanics of a game. But we learn as we go along. Like gaming, writing can be enjoyable. And just like we feel a sense of satisfaction when we get further in a video game, we can have that same satisfaction when we finish a chapter, or even a paragraph, and when we get the attention of a reader. 

I realize that video game progression may not be an appropriate analogy for all you writers. However, think of something you do love, whether it be a physical activity such as sports, hiking, or swimming, or something artistic like knitting or painting, or putting together a puzzle or piecing together a model, in which piece by piece it comes together, and compare it to to the process of writing. It all comes together. Again, see the learning process of writing, as well as the promotion, as something enjoyable.

Last but not least, as cliche as this advice is, write for yourself. Write as a form of escapism or a way to articulate your feelings about important issues or hobbies you love. Write as though you are saving your soul. As for making money and gaining readers, let that come naturally. 

Nick Miller Typewriter Gif by Thierry Van Bissen. Gify.

Edgar the Insignificant Ch 1

Very much a rough draft.

Copyright by Jonathan Scott Griffin

Edgar awoke early in his cottage upon the mountain slopes. He looked out the window, like he did every day, and like every day, he felt a strong sense of joy to see the slope from his cottage gently slope down to the face of the mountainside. In the distance, past the cliff side and the valley below, the mountains continued in a long chain. Edgar never got tired of the view.

Eager to face a new day of the same thing he had always done for as long as he could remember, he removed his pajamas and changed into his work tunic, trousers, and leggings. Opening his rickety door, the green paint peeling, he stepped out of his stone cottage thatched with dried grass, and walked out into the majestic landscape, with his great, shaggy dog, Octavian (whom Edgar called Octy) trailing behind him, panting happily.

“Hey, boy!” said Edgar, patting him on the head. “How’s it going?” The dog answered with a friendly bark and the wag of his bushy tail, sweeping like a mop

Edgar savored the landscaped around him. Elm and pine trees peppered the surrounding slopes, with huge boulders that he could sit on to read one of his books or to watch the sunset. Waterfalls, some not far from his cottage, rolled down the slopes like glittering silver ribbons.

Yes, life was certainly grand. And for the past seven years, Edgar, now thirteen years of age, had been more than content to shave the mugroomps almost every day, and then to fish, hike, swim, read, and to forage for mountain berries on his weekends. Every Monday, he loaded the mugroomp furs in a little hand-drawn wagon and took them to the valley below to trade with the traders. They in turn would give him necessities or books. And since he was so high up, sometimes he would gaze at the night sky, strewn across with stars as though some salt shaker had spilled its contents on it. There was no doubt that Edgar was the luckiest youth in the world.

Pulling his small wagon, which also had a stool, clippers and razor in it, his dog happily trailing behind him. Edgar walked due east of the slope, until he came to a face of the mountain with a waterfall roaring down the side, into a small river that then went over the cliff further down the slope below. An enclave allowed him to pass by the curtain water. The sound of the waterfall crashing down and hitting rocks tickled his ears and delighted him.

Up a small slope and he could see into a basin full of mugroomps. These big furry animals, the size of elephants with huge wrinkly legs were grazing on the grasses. In the basin, Edgar put down his stool and then gently patted the hairless heads of one of the mugroomps. Though the beasts had large horns that could gore someone, they were gentle by nature. In fact, they were some of the gentlest of animals. Edgar whispered kind words to the beast and even scratched him around the horn, a prim spot that often itched. The mugroomp bellowed good-naturedly.

Plopping himself on his stool, scissors and razor in hand, Edgar went to work cutting and shearing. Aside from their wrinkly legs and wrinkly heads, the mugrooms were large balls of fur. The beasts appreciated losing the excess fur for the summer and the traders in the valley below were grateful to have the furs to knit into stockings, gloves, and winter coats to sell to merchants.

Edgar had learned the art of cutting and shearing from his mother. But for the life of him, he couldn’t completely remember her. He did remember bits and pieces, though. Her smile was gentle, very gentle. He had always felt safe in her arms. And she remembered her reading to him. But she had died when he was six years old. At least Edgar assumed she had. He couldn’t know for sure. What he could remember was that he was eating his breakfast of partridge and fish one morning, when she told him that she had to quickly step out.

“I’ll be right back, my love,” she had said, kissing him on the forehead and ruffling his hair. “There is something important I have to take care of.”

But she hadn’t come back, and Edgar, being only a little boy, had grown scared. He had tried to call out to her, but the snowstorm had been coming down hard. And when she hadn’t returned at night, he had cried in his straw-bed. At that moment in his life, it had felt like the whole mountain range was going to fall on him.

The next day, his mother still hadn’t shown up and he felt alone, a six year old in a dark world.

Well, not totally alone.

Octavian had been there. He had always been there. A species of dog that came from the north and who lived a long and hearty life, some up to their thirties, Octy had been Edgar’s companion, comfort, and protection, letting him cry in his fur, sleeping by his side every night, and always accompanying him to the valley to sell furs.

As for Edgar’s mother, as time went on, he had put her out of his mind, even when he was a child. He had to in order to survive. Even at six years of age, he had remembered what his mother had taught him about how to best trim and shave the fur of a mugroomp. At such a young age, he had to become a man. He had to sell the furs. Eventually the pain of losing his mother had slowly devolved from a harsh pain to a numb sting, and at thirteen years old, he hardly felt the pain at all. He just had to keep living. He had done well enough for himself.

The mugroomp shook its large head and snorted.

“Attaboy,” said Edgar, patting him on a patch of cut fur before he shaved the rest off. The mugroomp turned his head and nuzzled him, almost knocking Edgar off his stool and tearing his tunic with his horn. Edgar laughed. “Careful now, big guy!”

Aside from his dog, the mugroomps were a huge reason that Edgar felt safe over time, even after his mother passed away.

Woof! barked Octy happily, running playfully through the different legs of the mugroomps, getting lost under forests of fur.

When Edgar had a wagon full of furr, and just barely enough room to put his stool, shears, and clippers, he and Octy made their way back to their cottage. This time, on the way back, they stopped to admire the mountain purple, blue, and yellow mountain flowers that were in full bloom. There were so many flowers covering the slopes. Life was beautiful. It was perfect. Edgar wouldn’t have it any other way.

               That evening he went fishing, caught a couple of fish and cooked them up for dinner, giving a plate to Octy, who barked a thank you before chowing down. After dinner, Edgar bathed in one of the hot springs nearby, and then, back at his cottage, read a book under lamplight.

 It was a rollicking adventure story, full of damsels in distress, dragons, evil dukes, and dashing heroes. With his large dog curled up by his side, it was the perfect way to end an evening, and the adventures of a book were the only adventures that Edgar wanted. To put change in his life? Unthinkable!

Edgar lived off the same routine, day in and day out, without a deviation of change, and it would be ludicrous to even suggest that he do so. The truth of the matter was Edgar was quite content with life, and there was no reason for him to leave his comfort zone.

Little did he know that both an older man and a fortune-teller were making their way up the mountains, right up to his little cottage. But we’ll get to that later. For now Edgar was of the impression of living a quiet life. And he was very happy of that.

Adventure was for other people, not for him. He had no desire for adventure, because life was good. However, sometimes one’s life gets shaken up in unexpected ways. And that’s where Edgar’s story begins.

One day as Edgar was coming back from selling his furs in the valley and purchasing some meat from the market, with Octy trailing excitedly behind him in the hopes for a treat, he found a strange wagon, colored blue and decorated with silver moons in different phases, parked only a couple of feet away from his cottage. Two horses, one white, the other black, were hooked up to the reigns of the wagon. This wasn’t too peculiar, as sometimes merchants did come straight to his cottage to bargain, but what was peculiar were the people; if you could call them people, outside of the wagon.

These weren’t like any people Edgar had ever seen before. They only reached his waist, and were mainly composed of long, black robes, dotted with stars of the night sky. The head of one of these beings was not much of a head at all, but was rather a smooth glass ball, dark and cloudy in color. Sitting upon their heads were wide brimmed hats. There were about five of them in all. One seemed to be resting, the other two feeding the horses carrots, and yet another cleaning the dust from off the outside of the wagon, using his robes. The last one was upon a pair of steps at the back of the wagon, guarding a door.

Now, the extant of Edgars ‘so-called’ adventures had been from books. More realistically, they had been from delivering furs to the traders below, and it’s safe to say that not once in his life had he ever seen; is people the right word?; like this. He wondered if this was the norm that he didn’t see in his little bubble. But nope, it was far from the norm, and would be for anyone who saw them.

Edgar could not help but stare in amazement, wondering what could possibly be going on. He could have kept on staring until his thoughts were interrupted by a gruff voice.

“It’s very rude to stare,” said the being guarding the door.

Edgar almost fell backward in surprise. Not only did the beings speak, but, when this particular being spoke, it’s spherical ball changed from black to red flashes of vibrant light.

“I’m sorry,” said Edgar. “I meant no harm. What is this?”

“This is the wagon of Madame Blue Moon!” bellowed the being.

“Madame Blue Moon” said Edgar. “Who’s she?”

“Are you foolish, boy,” said the being. “You mean to tell me you have never heard of Madame Blue Moon?”

“No, I can’t say that I have.”

“She is only the most famous woman, or creature, in the arts of divination.”

“Oh, interesting!”

“Would you like your fortune read?” asked the being.

Octy growled. “Hush boy,” said Edgar.

Edgar had heard some of the traders talk about divination, and to him it sounded like a bunch of hooey, even though the traders told him to give it a try at least once, and it might be fun to humor her. Surely nothing could come of it. And truth be told, Edgar thought that having an average fortune told about his average life would be the most adventurous thing he’d ever face. How little he knew!

“Does it cost anything?” asked Edgar.

“Not a thing,” said the being, “except a heart full of bravery and a resolve worth of determination.”

This was sounding more and more hokey all the time.

“Alright,” said Edgar. “I’m game.”

Onty whimpered, his tail between his legs.

“Can my dog come in with me?”

“AFRAID NOT!” the beings head burst in a flash of violent red. “You see, Madame Blue Moon has had some rather nasty encounters with dogs. Not fond of them, I must say.”

“I see.” Edgar kneeled down to pat Octy on the head. “It’s okay, boy. I’ll be out before you know it.”

Octy whimpered and then jumped up and licked him, giving Edgar a face full of slobber.

Edgar merely laughed. “Relax, boy!” He ruffled his dog’s fluffy head. “If anything should happen, I know you’ll come chasing after me.”

Standing up and addressing the being, Edgar said, “I’m ready.” Or so he thought.

The being moved aside, and the door flew open by some invisible force, breathing out a breath of cold air. Edgar entered to find the wagon had shelves of books, candles, and mystical items such as oracle bones, monkey paws, and strange potions. Hanging from the ceiling were lamps carved out of what looked like some sort of fruit shells, of orange, green, and yellow, basking the interior of the wagon in a dim, eerie glow. The wagon smelled old, the very air ancient, and, as funny as it seemed, and as illogical, he felt like he was standing in a room which housed time, from the very ancient of days to the near future.

At the very end of the wagon was a round table. Making his way over, Edgar found a most strange being, an owl, the size of a human, wearing a dark blue dress, and on her dress were pictures of the moon, in different phases, half moons, wanning moons, waxing moons, and full moons, each one with a smiling face. She wore a blue cap upon her head, and a pair of silver spectacle above her beak. Behind her spectacles were luminous amber eyes that told that they knew all and could see each and every part of you inside and out.

“Welcome Edgar,” she said. “I had a feeling you’d come, but I wasn’t for sure. I am glad to see that my prediction proved right.”

“Prediction, feeling!” exclaimed Edgar, “wouldn’t you just know? Can’t you see into the future?”

“My dear boy, you have the art of divination all wrong,” said Madame Blue Moon. “We are not guided by a set path, but have many different options laid out before us. It is up to us to decide what we will do when the time comes.”

“I see,” said Edgar, wondering if it would be wise to use his current options to get out of this strange wagon.

“Indeed young one, would you like your fortune read?”

“I guess.”

“Wonderful!” and the old owl gave a whistle.

Materializing into the wagon was one of the beings. Without being told, he placed his glass head, folded gently in the sleeves of his robe, upon the table, and then slowly moved to a corner of the wagon. Madame Blue Moon’s feathers glided across the glass ball, gently sweeping away dust, like a little feather duster, in the process.

“Now look into the crystal ball, and we shall see what your destiny is.”

Edgar found himself peering into the ball, into a cloud of dense fog. He began to grow impatient, but then it cleared, revealing a young girl, about his age. She had long ebony black hair, shining white skin, and was wearing a loose fitting white robe. Her feet were bare, and she was walking over a vast cosmos of stars and star clusters. The very starts themselves seemed to speckle in her hair. Edgar took a deep breath in admiration.

Then the vision changed. A monstrous black form engulfed the crystal ball. It had large black wings sprouting from its back layered in muscles, glowing red eyes of fire, and sharp fangs protruding from its jaws. Edgar didn’t get to take a close look at the being, but could see that the monster was over an altar, and upon the altar, tied up, was the young girl he saw floating in the cosmos.

It was too much for poor Edgar, who wasn’t accustomed to excitement, to handle, and he almost fell backwards out of pure fear. But then the visions faded.

“That will do,” said Madame Blue Moon.

“Who was she?” asked Edgar. “What was the creature?”

“This, my boy, is your destiny.”

“And I’m doomed to run into these troubles?”

“Have you not been listening?” snapped Madame Blue Moon impatiently, as if she were chiding a five-year old. “You are not made to accept this role. It’s only an option. You still have your agency.”

Edgar was silent. He had no desire to be in the presence of this crazy fortune- teller. Without even saying goodbye he made his way to the door. But before he got there he heard a high-pitched voice.

“Oh please don’t leave me!”

He turned to his left to find on a table a little metal cage, caging a little white mouse.

“Oh please take me with you!” said the little white mouse. “I don’t want to be eaten.”

Compassion swelled inside Edgar’s heart for the little rodent, even though he really despised rodents.

“You aren’t going to eat him, are you?” he asked the fortune-teller.

“Well, I am an owl,” said Madame Blue Moon in a matter of fact sort of way. “It’s what owls do. Yet I don’t need to read your mind to tell that you have sorrow for that little mouse. Very well. I will forfeit  my snack to go if you promise to take care of him.”

Inwardly Edgar groaned. Babysitting a rodent wasn’t high on his list of priorities. But what choice did he have? He could either be a babysitter or allow the mouse today. “Sure,” said Edgar, “I’ll take the mouse.” And with that he took the cage by the handle, the little mouse happily beaming inside of it, and went on his way.

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