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Patience is...

All week, I continue to contemplate the meaning of the word Patience. Here are some examples of what I mean:

When I'm thinking in cliches...


When I'm feeling hungry...


When I'm feeling anxious...


When I want to be positive...


What about you? What does patience mean to you?

A FATHER'S RULES FOR FINDING FULFILLMENT

I love Yahoo because it shows snippets of articles that I might find interesting. I clicked on the article entitled "A father's message from beyond the grave," and was moved to tears. I want to share with you the most important part of that article. It really touched me. If you want to read the whole thing, you can click on the link I provided on the title of the article. It is my sincerest hope that you find these twenty-eight points as relevant as I have. And if you can spread the word about it, then please do so. Thank you.

A FATHER'S RULES FOR FINDING FULFILLMENT


  • Be courteous, be punctual, always say please and thank you, and be sure to hold your knife and fork properly. Others take their cue on how to treat you from your manners.

  • Be kind, considerate and compassionate when others are in trouble, even if you have problems of your own. Others will admire your selflessness and will help you in due course.

  • Show moral courage. Do what is right, even if that makes you unpopular. I always thought it important to be able to look at myself in the shaving mirror every morning and not feel guilt or remorse. I depart this world with a pretty clear conscience.

  • Show humility. Stand your ground but pause to reflect on what the other side are saying, and back off when you know you are wrong. Never worry about losing face. That only happens when you are pig-headed.

  • Learn from your mistakes. You will make plenty so use them as a learning tool. If you keep making the same mistake or run into a problem, you’re doing something wrong.


  • Avoid disparaging someone to a third party; it is only you who will look bad. If you have a problem with someone, tell them face to face.
  • Hold fire! If someone crosses you, don’t react immediately. Once you say something it can never be taken back, and most people deserve a second chance.

  • Have fun. If this involves taking risks, so be it. If you get caught, hold your hands up.


  • Give to charity and help those who are less fortunate than yourselves: it’s easy and so rewarding.


  • Always look on the upside! The glass is half full, never half empty. Every adversity has a silver lining if you seek it out.


  • Make it your instinct always to say ‘yes’. Look for reasons to do something, not reasons to say no. Your friends will cherish you for that.


  • Be canny: you will get more of what you want if you can give someone more of what they desire. Compromise can be king.


  • Always accept a party invitation. You may not want to go, but they want you there. Show them courtesy and respect.


  • Never ever let a friend down. I would bury bodies for my friends, if they asked me to . . . which is why I have chosen them carefully.


  • Always tip for good service. It shows respect. But never reward poor service. Poor service is insulting.


  • Always treat those you meet as your social equal, whether they are above or below your station in life. For those above you, show due deference, but don’t be a sycophant.


  • Always respect age, as age equals wisdom.


  • Be prepared to put the interests of your sibling first.


  • Be proud of who you are and where you come from, but open your mind to other cultures and languages. 


  • When you begin to travel (as I hope you will), you’ll learn that your place in the world is both vital and insignificant. Don’t get too big for your breeches.


  • Be ambitious, but not nakedly so. Be prepared to back your assertions with craftsmanship and hard work.


  • Live every day to its full: do something that makes you smile or laugh, and avoid procrastination.


  • Give of your best at school. Some teachers forget that pupils need incentives. So if your teacher doesn’t give you one, devise your own.


  • Always pay the most you can afford. Never skimp on hotels, clothing, shoes, make-up or jewelry. But always look for a deal. You get what you pay for.


  • Never give up! My two little soldiers have no dad, but you are brave, big-hearted, fit and strong. You are also loved by an immensely kind and supportive team of family and friends. You make your own good fortune, my children, so battle on.


  • Never feel sorry for yourself, or at least don’t do it for long. Crying doesn’t make things better.


  • Look after your body and it will look after you.


  • Learn a language, or at least try. Never engage a person abroad in conversation without first greeting them in their own language; by all means ask if they speak English!


  • And finally, cherish your mother, and take very good care of her.


I love you both with all my heart.
Daddy x

Guest Post: Of Things Horror in Nature by Rian Torr

I am always for meeting new people -- especially other writers. I like asking them about their experiences and if they are any similar to mine. Finding solace, you may call it. I welcome Rian -- along with a host of others -- to Book Blogs and I realized that I haven't hosted a horror writer yet for a Guest Post. So, I invited him for a spin here at Reads, Reviews, Recommends.

Of Things Horror in Nature
by Rian Torr

What drew you to this genre?

I am a fan of all genres--and ultimately would like to try my pen in many. I have studied my share of most forms.

What happened was, I had all these unfinished novels from different traditions--and when I gave myself the ultimatum to choose just one to finish first, I chose the horror book because it was going back to my deepest roots. The fantasy work I had going came a close second. Fictional auto-biography arrived a distant third.


But now that I have finished In French's Forest, I have come to realize that while it will take me months or years to refuel my jets of inspiration enough to get started on completing one of the other projects from a different genre--I can in the meantime much more quickly jump back into another horror work, without having to change gears too much. Mind you, I more accurately categorize IFF as a supernatural fantasy horror love novel--but the broader tones are definitely mostly to do with fear.

So the decision was made for me: write a line of horror books. Other pen names and genres could come at their own pace.

I should further clarify that the kind of horror I am most interested in is the type that walks that tight-rope away from the literal. While I will use the tools of the genre to punctuate twists in the narrative--I am not so much interested in shocking the reader's senses--as in shocking the reader's psyche through a revelation of what the underlying web of the tale spins into focus.

In French's Forest, for instance, has a major fold in the plot that was so overwrought that the first reader to give feedback never even clued in to the true undercurrent--to the truth about what was really happening in the story all along. I made a casual comment about this to him--to which he simply shook his head, in disbelief, almost insisting that I had it all wrong, that there was no second layer to it at all. I knew then, beyond my best expectations, that I had done my job and left enough dots unconnected so as to not give it all away too soon. Interestingly, a few breaths later, he began to scratch his chin and remarked that he would have to read the book all over again, in light of now knowing an entirely new angle to its most central plot.


That is what I am looking for in an ideal realm. I am not so interested in the blood and gore unless it is there to underscore some kind of psychological knot in the unfolding drama.

You could also make the argument that IFF is as much a love story as a horror, but I am going to leave that to the readers to discover on their own as part of the book's enjoyment. It was certainly a part of the enjoyment of the writing process. I am not sure I could ever write a horror book that did not have a major thread of romance in it.

Further to all of this, I don't even usually find horror very frightening. Sure it's easy to engage, surprise, shock--but in the purest sense of horror, to shake the soul--that is hard. Find a way to hold a mirror up to the reader's mind and have them see in it the very monster they are learning about--that is about as close as I can come to a formula for it in words. If you are just showing them the monster--then maybe you'll freak them out the first time--but when they get desensitized, your gore grows gratuitous--and they go away unchanged.

Describe your writing process ...


Best bet is to follow me on riantorr.blogspot.com, where I am actively describing my processes toward completing the next horror novel.

Basically, when I'm really ready to write, I do anywhere from a word to a ream per day, until it is done. Some days I rewrite the same line so many times that I end up just going to sleep defeated. Other days I truly trounce a new trail--pull no punches and find a clearing onto new land. Fifty pages might pour forth in a pinch--or fifty words might take a month to perfect. But by the end of it, the process does get easier--and eventually the words grip me enough that I start having trouble letting them go at night. Then it becomes a desperate race to the finish just so I can get some sleep again.

If you had all the money in the world: Food Edition

I stumbled across this very informative article on Yahoo that describes insanely expensive food.

If you had all the money in the world and you can spend as much as you want on food, will you try these:

1. The Bagel


Created by: Frank Tujague
Location: The Westin New York at Times Square, New York City
Price: $1,000

It has white truffle cream cheese, goji berry jelly, and gold leaves.

Not your cup of tea? Well you can always try...

2. Pizza


Created by: Domenico Crolla
Location: U.K.
Price: $4,200

Dubbed the "Pizza Royale 007," its toppings included cognac-marinated lobster, champagne-soaked caviar, venison and edible flakes of 24-carat gold.

Catching on already? I think it's the gold that's putting the price over the top. What about...

3. A Sundae


Created by: Serendipity 3
Location: New York City
Price: $25,000

This sundae raised the stakes set by "Golden Opulence" by using 28 cocoas and an 18-karat gold bracelet with white diamonds at the dish's base. It also comes with a side of Knipschildt Chocolatier's $2,600-a-pound La Madeline au Truffle , and is eaten with a diamond-encrusted golden spoon that the customer can keep.

Well, at least I can keep the spoon.

So, would you? With all the money in the world?

Bon Appetit!

PROM



Please don't judge me for liking really sappy love stories. I'm addicted to them.

My friend and I watched PROM yesterday, and we were squealing like little girls. I won't talk about the story or the characters. Safe to say, I felt good after watching the movie. That's all that matters.

Obviously, from the title alone, you get what the movie is all about. That one night seniors wait for all year. (In my country, it's both juniors and seniors). The dress. The date. The tux. The limo. When you're in high school, prom is a part of the experience, whether you enjoyed it or not or if you didn't go.

Is it bad that I only remember bits and pieces of my prom? I still have the dresses though. Maybe I'm about to turn into a hoarder?

Anyway, I digress.

I'm not saying watch the movie. That's you're decision to make.

What I want to ask is: What do you remember the most about your prom?

Back!

I've been gone a week. No internet. No laptop. Hardly a change of clothes.

Sounds like I've been kidnapped by burly hooligans?

Nothing as adventurous, I might confess, but my sudden hiatus was certainly enlightening. When this happened to me the first time, I walked away a different person, praying it wouldn't happen again. In less than a year, it happened again. I guess I didn't learn my lessons the first time around.

What am I talking about?

Last year, my mother underwent surgery and I was there the whole time, never leaving her side. I had my laptop. I had the internet. I guess I wasn't focusing on the most important thing, which was truly, compassionately, patiently caring for my mother.

The universe decided to kick me in the ass for that again just last week. Saturday night, my mother complained of severe pain. We rushed to the emergency room. I thought she would get a dose of pain relievers and that would be it, home again in a couple of hours. Well, that's not what happened. I was thankful I had spare clothes in the car, but still had to go home the next day for more. This time, I left Fred (my laptop) home and only brought books to keep me occupied while my mother was recuperating from surgery.

This time around, I walked away different. Clearer. More open.

Seeing a loved one in pain, scared, and about to go into surgery again in less than a year is truly life changing. At least, I certainly think so. I'm more thankful. My eyes certainly opened wider, my heart unfurled further.

But most importantly, I'm more thankful. I'm thankful that she's home and healthy again. I'm grateful that she's smiling and actually cleaning the house!

What I learned?

Answer: Love, no matter what, is the most important thing.

The Watchman of Ephraim by Gerard de Marigny

About The Author
During the 1980’s and 1990’s, Gerard de Marigny was the lead guitarist for the rock band AMERICADE that sold many thousands of records all over the world. His band won the “Best New Video” award on MTV in1983, but a life-threatening illness (cancer, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma) and an epiphany of faith inspired him to focus on his lifelong ambition ... to bring to life righteous characters that would inspire others ... ultimately, to write novels.

In January 2011, he completed his debut novel, _THE WATCHMAN OF EPHRAIM_, a political thriller which is book one of his WATCHMAN OF EPHRAIM series. The sequel, _SIGNS OF WAR_ is due to be released in September 2011.

About _The Watchman of Ephraim_ (Geopolitical Thriller, 2011)
Cris De Niro worked his way up to the top of the hedge fund world. Yet, all of his money couldn't protect him from losing his wife on 9/11.

10 years passed since the tragedy. Turning to his faith to overcome his anguish, De Niro now lives for a higher purpose. From a biblical passage, he reads about the "Watchman of Ephraim," a defender who kept watch over the land. De Niro decides to acquire a lacklustre counter-terrorism agency in order to transform it into a modern-day version of The Watchman for the United States but there's not a moment to lose.

Aref Sami Zamani is planning a terrorist attack on American soil - codenamed "Antioch," a plot to detonate a nuke over the city of Las Vegas. The Watchman uncovers a connection between Zamani and a Mexican drug cartel but their agent goes missing before they can learn more. That’s because Zamani has a spy working for The Watchman. Strange events start to unfold near the Nogales border crossing. References are discovered to something the Mexicans are calling "Noche Del Espantada” …Fright Night,” but can it mean something else?

September 11, 2011 and the sun hasn’t risen yet in Las Vegas or Nogales. Antioch is in motion! At the border, Noche Del Espantada has begun and there are intruders at De Niro’s ranch. De Niro has to protect his sons and someone new in his life, Dr. Moriah Stevens. She too, lost her spouse on 9/11. Moriah finds herself in love with De Niro but his devotion to his wife is proving too powerful for him, even after 10 years.

It’s the 10th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on American soil and unless De Niro and his new team are successful, the day will be known as “The 2nd 9/11.”

A Message from Gerard de Marigny
Hi, I'm Gerard de Marigny, author of _The Watchman of Ephraim_. Kate Evangelista was nice enough to allow me to talk a little about my debut novel here on her really cool website. Thanks very much Kate, for the opportunity to introduce my novel to your followers!

_The Watchman of Ephraim_ tells the story of Cris De Niro, a self-made billionaire who came from the hard streets of Brooklyn, NY, only to become one of the youngest and brightest hedge fund managers in the world. De Niro marries his dream girl, Lisa, they have two sons with one on the way and life's a dream for them until 9/11.

On September 11, 2001, De Niro's wife Lisa happened to be on one of the top floors of the North Tower of the World Trade Center that morning. Watching the Tower fall with his pregnant wife in it practically destroyed De Niro, but through an epiphany of faith, he decides to dedicate his life to protecting the citizens of the United States from enemies domestic and abroad. He purchases a lackluster counter-terrorism agency and renames it 'The Watchman Agency' after a passage he read in the Bible. From there the story has fast forwarded 10 years into the future – to this year, 2011.

Readers learn about the beginnings of The Watchman Agency, the people De Niro appoints to run it – all interesting men and women, but there's not a moment to lose because his new Agency becomes aware of a possible terrorist plot. The storyline transports readers between Arlington, VA, the home base of The Watchman, Las Vegas, NV, De Niro's new home, and places in Mexico and to a Native American reservation on the U.S./Mexican border near Nogales, AZ.

You'll learn about De Niro's incredible ranch, Estancia De Niro and his personal staff composed of very interesting folks – from the Argentinean Gaucho, Martin Fierro to his old, British gentleman butler, William Brett. You'll also learn about De Niro's two sons and a new person in his life, Dr. Moriah Stevens, a beautiful widow who also lost her husband on 9/11.

The story builds to a climatic ending but through it all, it remains a story and series about a man struggling to come to terms with his overwhelming grief and unending devotion to his wife … a modern Patriot's tale.

I hope you'll give _TWOE_ a read … especially now with the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaching. If you do and feel inspired, please post you review on Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, etc. Fellow readers would appreciate it and I'd be very grateful (the links are below)!

Please reach out to me – all my links are below, along with the buy links for _TWOE_. I'd really enjoy connecting with all of you and hearing from you! Peace …

Author Bio
Gerard de Marigny is the author of the geopolitical thriller, _The Watchman of Ephraim_, Book 1 of THE WATCHMAN OF EPHRAIM series. The sequel, _Signs of War_ is scheduled for release in September 2011.

Gerard de Marigny resides in the beautiful foothills of Las Vegas, NV with his wife Lisa and his four sons. When not bending an arm with friends at the local pub, he's putting to paper the stories and characters that are alive in his mind.

Author/Publisher Sites
Author's Website: www.GerarddeMarigny.com
Author's Blog: SelfPubber's Pub

Social Networking Sites

Buy Links
Barnes & Noble: Gerard de Marigny Books
Smashwords (all eBook formats): _The Watchman of Ephraim_
Personalized, signed copies are available at the author's website: www.GerarddeMarigny.com (all transactions secure via PayPal)

Of Books and Other Pursuits

I'm back! Well...sort of. I've finished editing my latest WIP and it's been sent out to three very important people in my life: my agent and two of the best beta readers a gal could have. I count myself lucky that they haven't disowned me in the six weeks I've disappeared from their lives.

In these six weeks of intense writing and editing, I refrained one of the things I like to do best: read. Yes, folks, I abstained from reading books for six weeks, and as you might understand, I'm feeling deprived. So, as a way to decompress after being in my creative cave, I'm embarking on a reading marathon of maybe two weeks. I might even share these adventures with you after each book I finish reading.

Anyway, to celebrate my return, I thought about opening themes. You know. The opening credits of our favorite shows? Today, it's a trend not to have opening credits anymore, but I believe the most awesome shows have them. Below are examples of two of my favorites.

The Game of Thrones




If you haven't heard of this show yet, where have you been hiding? You have to watch the first season of The Game of Thrones ASAP. Or you can read the books too. Which ever you prefer. Just don't let this one slip away without knowing about it.

True Blood




As you may have noticed by now, I love HBO. They have the best shows. And who doesn't want to watch True Blood? I'm guessing many people. But if you're someone who drools over Eric Northman, then I welcome you to the club.

What's you're favorite opening theme or credit?

And if you can find a YouTube video of it, post the link along with your comment. I'd love to see it.

Preview

I'll be away for a bit. Well, at least a week or two as I finish writing my latest WIP. Then I'm plunging into editing. This one has a deadline on it, which is why I have to focus. So, while my "Gone Fishing" sign is up, I would like to leave you with something to chew on. Let me know what you think.



Chapter 1
Dead People





Death sat at his desk wearing a scowl on his androgynous face that could level a whole mountain range. Not many thought of him as breathtaking. Well, not many lived long enough to see his true face. One surrounded by golden locks that reached his chin. If they did, maybe they'd die smiling. But, with the human population swelling to six billion and counting, Death barely had time to think about the triviality of beauty. Keeping his Reapers in line already consumed a majority of his attention.
His voluminous, midnight robes spread out around him as his slate-colored gaze skimmed the latest status reports. Numbers in neat columns jumped off the page at him. He tossed the yellowing parchment onto the table and leaned into his high-backed chair of human bones. The numbers added up. People died on a daily basis. 
He closed his eyes and longed for the days when he escorted the dead to the afterlife himself. He gripped and released the skulls at the ends of his chair’s armrests, searching in vain for a release from the ball-and-chain tension building behind his eyelids. His features crumpled like an origami crane in a babe’s fist. Death—one of the most powerful entities the universe had ever given birth to—experienced migraines. Who would have thought? He had to laugh at the absurdity of the situation, but he didn’t.
He gave in to massaging his temples. The wars in the Middle East had reached a fevered pitch as of late. Nothing in terms of genocide, but close enough. He should have been happy. Business boomed.
Death sighed as if the weight of eons rested on his shoulders and let his hands fall away. He opened his eyes. His baubles spread out before him. Scattered over his desk. Arranged on shelves along the walls. Imprisoned by glass cases. A collection of odds and ends from over a millennia of millenniums. An angel’s tear. The hoof of a unicorn. The skull of Genghis Khan, which he used as a paperweight. An index finger from Confucius. The tip of a dragon’s tail. Things that tickled his fancy. Even his albino crow; taken from the Ark of Noah himself.   
A new stack of Death Certificates, which indicated the name, date, time, and manner of death, appeared on his lava stone table. He plucked a feather from his pet, eliciting an annoyed squawk from the bird on his shoulder, and sharpened its tip with an ornate dagger he often used as a letter opener. After impaling the dagger on his paperweight skull, he dipped the newly sharpened nib into an inkwell, tapped off the excess, and scrawled his signature on the dotted line. Every time his pen left paper, the sheet vanished—to be delivered to its assigned Reaper.
Balance has to be maintained, Death reminded himself. If he neglected his responsibilities, it would mean chaos.
***
Arianne gave Ben a sidelong glance as they walked on the grass embankment running parallel to the road. Weeds tugged at his baggy jeans. The setting sun dyed his FOUL BALL T-shirt orange. The bill of his Braves baseball cap smiled upside down over his boy-next-door face. He’d picked up a stick and some pebbles and played Pitch and Hit. Every properly-timed whack plucked at Arianne’s nerves. She twitched more than an insecure dog during a thunder storm. The whole day—from the time she’d put on her baby T and pedal pushers—she’d imagined how her conversation with Ben would go. One scenario ended with her running away in tears. Another involved Ben never speaking to her again. And the last one, her personal favorite, an asteroid would end the world before she could confess everything. 
“Did you change your hair?” he asked after his third imaginary homerun.
Arianne jumped at the sound of his voice.
“Boy, you’re more nervous than a flee circus.”
“Mom decided to trim some off the tips.” Arianne twirled a length of the red strands, attempting to act natural and failing when she didn’t notice a protruding root and stumbled over it. She righted herself and said, “Split ends and all that.”
“It looks nice.” Doubt invaded the gates of Ben’s grin stronghold. He loved to smile. Even when he didn’t feel like it, he smiled. Sometimes, as exampled by that moment, other emotions would creep in and the result looked less than natural. “You sure you’re okay?”
“Yeah.” Arianne laughed away her uncertainty, and failed in that too, managing to come off as more awkward than before. She returned to the topic of her hair. “No, it doesn't. In this heat, I want to chop it all off.”
“Don't!” Ben paused and checked himself. “I mean, you'll regret it. Remember the time you decided you wanted to look like Marilyn Monroe and your hair turned orange instead of blonde?”
She shuddered. “Don't remind me.”
“What are best friends for if not to warn you away from potentially devastating actions? Remember, you'd have to live with whatever you do to yourself, no one else.”
She considered what Ben said for a moment. Maybe telling him isn't such a good idea, she thought.
“So,” he continued, tearing her away from her hesitation, “what are you going to tell me?”
Arianne scratched an itch on her arm that wasn’t really there. “Who said I wanted to talk about anything?”
This time, Ben let go of his grin entirely and regarded her with full on skepticism. “I'm insulted. We've known each other since kindergarten and you still think I don't know when you want to tell me something?” He grimaced. “Normally, we’d take the bus, but when you want to talk, you always suggest we walk the three miles home.” And just as Ben emphasized the distance, the school bus carrying their rambunctious classmates passed them, adding to his point. “Not that I mind the exercise.”
“Am I really that transparent?” Arianne shuffled her sneakers and adjusted the strap of her bag on her shoulder.
“I just know you better than anyone else.”
She smiled a small, shy smile. “You're right. I have to tell you something.” She collected her thoughts like scattered clothes on her bedroom floor and said, “There's no easy way to tell you this...”
All signs of life drained from Ben’s face. Eyes wild, he grabbed her shoulders. “Is it Carrie? Did something happen to her?”
She held on to his wrists like she was about to fall off a cliff. “What? No! I can't believe I'm saying this, but you have to chill. No more coffee for you, mister.” She extricated herself from Ben’s death grip. “This has nothing to do with her.”
He took off his cap and scratched his head before jamming it back on. “Don't scare me like that.” He huffed and strode away. “And I don’t drink coffee!”
Arianne pulled on her earlobe before scrambling to catch up. “You're the one who jumped to conclusions. And if anything happened to Carrie, you’d be the first to know.” She came up to him until her steps matched his. “I'm trying to tell you that I see dead people. Well...technically, I see their souls.”
Ben kept marching on.
“Hey, did you hear me?”
“Happy April Fool's to you, too,” said Ben.
“It's September, you ninny.”
“Well, it sure sounds like April to me.”
Arianne grabbed his sleeve. Ben searched her face and her gaze fell. An afternoon breeze ruffled the leaves of the trees lining both sides of the road. The sunset stabbed shadow knives all around them.
“As in M. Night Shyamalan ‘I see dead people’?”
Reluctantly, Arianne nodded. “It sounds crazy—”
“You bet your ass it sounds crazy.” Ben paused. He heaved a long and weighty sigh. “Look at me when you’re revealing freaky things about yourself.”
She lifted her gaze. “I’m sorry I haven’t—”
“Since when?” he interrupted.
            Melted ice dotted her brow. “What?”
            “Since when can you ‘see dead people’?”
            “A couple of years back.”
            “A couple of years.” He took off his cap, ran his hand through his chestnut locks, and replaced it on his head—his helmet against all things freaky. “Jesus, Ari. I thought we promised to tell each other everything.”
            “Okay, not the reaction I was looking for.” Disbelief exploded in her head. “You mean to tell me you’re pissed because I took so long to tell you?”
            “We’re best friends. That has to count for something. Isn’t listening to each other’s secrets what best friends are supposed to do?”
            “So, you’re saying you believe me?”
            “Why would you lie about something like that?” He engulfed her with his body, strong arms securely around her waist, his Dial scent coating her lungs. “Ari, you should have told me sooner. I’m sure you were scared the moment you saw that first ghost.”
            She giggled. “On the contrary, it wasn’t scary at all. I was visiting Pops at the nursing home when I saw the woman. I pointed her out and Pops told me there was no one there. I did some research—”
            “Of course, you did.” Ben broke the hug. “So, what are you? Psychic or something?”
            “I wouldn’t say that.” Arianne dug her nails into the strap of her bag. “I don’t see the future or anything. My research says I’m more like a Medium, although I can’t speak to the dead. Or I haven’t tried. I don’t think I will, FYI. And I see them only for a second or two. They disappear pretty fast.”
            “You’ve put a lot of thought into this.”
            “Wouldn’t you?” She rubbed her forehead. “I mean, it doesn’t bother me anymore. It’s like having extra people walking around, you know? Well…they’re naked—”
            “Whoa!” Ben surrendered. “Too much information.”
            “But it’s true!” she insisted.
            “I’ll take your word for it,” he said. Then he crossed his arms, closing the fort once again. “Why tell me now? Why wait so many years?”
            Arianne challenged the tangerine sun to a staring contest until the fading light made her close her eyes. A yellow orb still floated at the center of the darkness. She breathed in the post-summer air and said, “Seeing dead people, you know? I guess I’m just tired of keeping it all to myself.”
            Ben wrapped his hand around hers. “Come on, I want to get home sometime before dinner starts.”
Arianne thought she must have had an aneurism between the time she’d told Ben her secret and when he’d accepted it as nothing special because it seemed so surreal that all the scenarios she’d played out hadn’t happened. Especially her favorite one.
“Thanks,” she said as Ben tugged her toward home.
***
The Reaper brooded like a rebel, sitting on his reading chair with a leg hiked up on an armrest and resting his chin on a fist. He wore tattered jeans and nothing else. His sable hair fell past his knotted eyebrows, messy and still damp from a recent shower. He stared at the fire contained by a beefy jail warden he called a fireplace located at one side of his cavernous bedroom. The undulation of red, orange, and white tongues helped clear his mind of the noise and chatter of his thoughts.
His collection of history, mythology, and biographies on the shelves along a wall sang to him, urging him to curl his long, elegant fingers onto their thick spines and pull them out of their confines like concubines in a harem. Yet, he ignored their call—no longer interested in leafing through their pages. Tales of the underworld; accounts of countless deaths; memories of lives gone by couldn't hold his attention anymore.
Only the snap, pop, and crackle of the burning wood broke the quiet. The dark furnishings hugged him, bringing him a measure of comfort and peace. He glanced away from the flames and settled his gaze on the crystal vase filled with white roses on the mantel. It sat just below a painting by Kratzenstein of Orpheus trying to grab Eurydice just as she was pulled back into the underworld. The look of disappointment on Eurydice's face played out as a perfect counterpoint to Orpheus's dismay at not having the fortitude to maintain facing forward until they reached the outside world. The Reaper snapped his fingers and the roses wilted. Now their dried leaves and desiccated petals matched the emotion the painting portrayed.
He reached out toward the flaming maw of the warden, watching shadows dance along his fingers. He lowered his eyelids and waited.
In his periphery, an amorphous figure manifested itself. First as smoke. Then as a watermark image.
The Reaper’s solitude vanished with every second it took for his Caretaker to take shape.
“Master?” a gravelly voice said. It filled the room with a chill akin to fog crawling over a grave.
He studied the fire a little longer before he dropped his hand to his side and faced the lanky, pale apparition that floated legless before him. “What is it, Sickleton?”
“Forgive the presumption, but I worry for you, sir.”
“And why is that?”
Sickleton gestured to indicate the room and its dark furnishings, which turned his hand to smoke for a second. “This state of ennui has got to end.”
“Ennui?” As if by a system of pulleys, his eyebrow rose. “Good God, stop being so melodramatic.”
“You have been spending more and more time in your room, sir. You have been ignoring your minions and the help they provide. You insist on conducting your duties on your own.”
Planting both feet on the carpeted floor, the Reaper leaned his elbows on his knees and tented his fingers. He narrowed his eyes at his Caretaker. “I appreciate the concern, Sickleton,” he said. “But, I would appreciate it more if you kept out of my business.”
“Sir—”
The Reaper made a fist and Sickleton’s mouth disappeared. The Caretaker’s eyes bulged. Master and servant stared at one another. Both unmoving. Both silent. A dance that often ended with the servant bowing to his master.
“I'm glad you understand.” The Reaper unclenched his fist and Sickleton's lips returned.   
“A new batch of certificates has arrived, sir.”
“This early in the day?”
“I believe so.”
The Reaper of Georgia stood up and cracked his knuckles. “Very well. Fetch my shirt.”
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