Friday, March 30, 2012

Night Shot 4: Silas's Shop which Jerry now realizes just how long he’s spent working on the computer in the previous installment (Night Shot 3).

When I first posted about Jerry (Night Shot 1), I had not intended to make a story of him. However, in conducting a semi-random survey, I discovered that all (2) of my respondents wanted to know what was going on. So, now, after resolving to find out what is going on, Jerry finds things a little more difficult than he expected. I will continue the installments from now until I get tired of the story or find that you, my readers, are tired of Jerry. That might mean next week, or it might mean next year, though I doubt it will be either.


Sure now that Silas could help him, Jerry grabbed his keys and his laptop case. In his hurry, he almost knocked over his coffee cup—still half full of his morning’s vanilla latte mix—but he caught the cup in time, dropping his keys instead, set the cup in the sink on a stack of plates, snatched up his keys, and bolted for the door.

When he opened it and stepped out onto the front walk, though, he found it was night. The dark glow of the city reflected across the sky, and Jerry could see rain falling in the glow from the streets lights.

His neighbor’s car was pulled up close behind his Honda at the curb, and the light shone from the kitchen window in the other half of his duplex. Jerry wondered when the family had gotten home—he certainly hadn’t heard them. He stopped stared around, chagrined.

And now how was he going to find Silas? “He wouldn’t still be working, would he? I could try the auto shop first, and then…why didn’t I get his phone number before?”

Jerry shook his head and started across the wet grass toward his car.

As he fumbled with the keys, trying to unlock the Honda, a pickup turned onto the street. Jerry turned uneasily to watch it cruise past him. Its red tail lights disappeared into the cold mist.

Knock it off,” Jerry told himself. “Just relax. You don’t think a shadow is going to jump out and get you—do you? Or, maybe I do. At least…I do hope Silas is still at the shop.”

He got in, dropping his laptop case onto the passenger's seat.

It was usually a ten minute trip through downtown, across to the old railroad tracks, where Silas worked at his one garage auto shop. In rush hour, it could stretch to twenty, but Jerry made it in eight.

As he half expected, the shop was dark. Jerry pulled over, turned off the car, and sat staring at the light splashing along the garage door, the dark, cracked rows of windows.

Jerry got out and trudged up the sidewalk to the narrow door beside the big garage door. Only the street lights shone—no light above the front door, no exit lights gleaming inside, no night lights, nothing. He rattled the doorknob. Still nothing. Of course it would be nothing. Just like the silly Shadow in his photographs.

Now what?” he wondered. He glanced up at the dripping gutters and caught sight of the small plastic sign tacked above the door. The bottom corner had broken off in the middle of a letter. “Silas Hunter Auto –epair. Isn’t that what everyone does—in the movies—stare at shop signs when they can’t think of something better to do?”

Jerry stepped backwards to get a better view and almost fell off the low front step.

In disgust, he turned away and splashed back toward his car.

He was opening the door, just about to get in, when he turned around suddenly. There was something—no, yes, there is was again—a flicker across the shop, a shadow passing.

Jerry yanked the car door open and reached for the glove compartment. He was still staring at the shop, hands shaking as he reached for the flashlight and the Canon he kept there. He could hardly get the lens cap off, but he was out again in a second, shoving the car door shut as he fumbled to adjust the aperture. He was across the small lawn, nearly out of the faint circle of street lights, before he realized he had no idea where he was headed.

For a moment, he hesitated and glanced back at the car. He wondered what they would do in the movies.  “Keep on,  of course. They'd plunge straight into the darkness,” he told himself. “Not even stopping to think.”

So he plunged...

(Continued in Night Shot 5: Shadow Chase)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Creative Work: Photos

This week, Monday through Friday, I'm teaching an art class for 4-9 year olds with a few 2-3 year-olds wandering about. While the class has very little to do with writing or stories (which this blog is supposed to be about), it's been a major project for me, and I wanted to share some of the photos with you.

For the past couple of days, we've been very busy turning newspapers and a gallon and a half of glue from something very messy that looks like this:

...into some amazing papier maché eggs. All it tooks was a bit of tissue paper, some gold wrapping paper, a few sparkles, and lots of cleaning up afterwards!

Yesterday, I showed my class how to make a simple tissue paper flower like this one:

They created a flower garden with a brilliant variety of colors and styles.

I'm not sure how they did it, but my other projects will have to wait just a little longer...we're having too much fun with creativity right now.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Night Shot 3: Shadows

“A Shadow?” Jerry wondered

He stood his living room a moment longer, studying the photo, hardly noticing the car engine start outside and pull away. The noise faded into the slow hum of traffic, but Jerry still stood and stared at the photo. He rubbed at the gray smudge in the corner. He caught himself hoping it would fade, disintegrate, grow an orange caption, anything—but it was still there. “Now how could he find anything about a Shadow?”

Google it, of course.

Jerry rushed to his kitchen and pulled his laptop from under the pile of other mail. Pushing the open packet of photos to one side, and the stack of bills into their corner of the counter, he opened his laptop and started typing.

“Shadow”—“Shadow crisis”— “Shadow catastrophe”—“Shadow end of the world?”

After the first half hour, Jerry changed modes and created a search bot to sort the links for him. Then he created another search bot, and another.

After about six hours, Jerry leaned back from his laptop and rubbed his forehead. “Okay—not working. Not working at all.”

One of his bots began flashing at him, but Jerry hit “suspend search” and minimized the window.

In frustration, he opened another search page typed and typed in “Shadow,” but he sat frowning at the screen. “Of course the search hadn’t changed. He had 607,000,000 hits for ‘Shadow,’ and all he knew was it couldn’t be Jungian psychology, a quirky cartoon hedgehog, or any of the other top hits. ‘Shadow aliens’ seemed the best option so far, but when did the police department begin investigating the appearance of ghosts?”

Jerry ran his finger over the touchpad and watched the cursor jump across the screen—“Wait.” He scanned the list of Google searches: images, maps, videos, news, shopping, books, more. Maps? Jerry clicked the link.

Shadow Lane, Shadow Ridge, Shadowdale…

Shadow on…“What, ten minutes away—just past the railroad tracks? How did that happen?” Jerry leaned back, tapping his fingers on the desk as he thought. Who would know something about that? Who did he know—?

Silas! Of course—Silas would know. Rapidly, Jerry flipped the laptop lid down and reached for its case. The stack of envelops and bills slid over the table, but Jerry shoved them back into place and stood up. Silas was always talking about odd stories like ghosts and shadows and that sort of craziness.

He felt sure Silas would know something.

Probably Silas could tell him exactly why Captain Nwin wanted to know about Shadows. And then Jerry could explain why he didn’t know anything about a Shadow, and Captain Nwin would have to leave him alone.

(Continued in Night Shot 4: Silas's Shop)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

An Unexpected Gift

I received a very special gift today, one that many people don’t usually get—I have an extra day in my week.

How did this happen?

According to the calendar, today is the second official day of spring. According to the weather here, though, it is a snow day. We had more snow at my house this morning than we’ve had yet this year.


For Oregon, that means we have about half-an-inch of snow, maybe a little more.

Still, we’ve had a lot of snow for our area this winter. After my post in January about our annual snowstorm, we had a couple more late-night flurries. We thought once or twice that school might be cancelled, but the snow melted long before morning.

Today, however, we woke up to a thin layer of snow and magic outside. And so, even though we hardly have enough to go sledding, my group decided to cancel classes. I only teach one day per week, but this happens to be the day, and I actually get a snow day!

Usually I would be disappointed about missing a day. In most cases, I would also worry frantically about making up the lost time so my students and I can stay on schedule.

In this case, however, I also have a weeklong art class to plan for next week.

I enjoy teaching, and I’m looking forward to the art class, but I’ve been stressed about doing both together. It’s minor stress, maybe a 2 on a scale of 1 to 10, but that’s hard to remember sometimes just how small a stress it is. My plan for this week was to work frantically Monday and Tuesday for one class, teach Wednesday, and recover enough by Thursday to make plans so I could work frantically Friday and Saturday on the art class.

With school cancelled, my plan now is to make leisurely plans today for working at a moderate rate the rest of the week. Okay, it won’t last. I know that much.

For once, though, I have an extra day in my week to get everything done. Maybe that will help me remember not to stress about the weeks when I don’t have any extra days. Maybe—I'll try!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Night Shot 2: Captain Nwin

Jerry was still standing in his living room, looking at the second photo, when someone knocked on his front door. Jerry jumped and looked around uneasily, before he set the photo on the coffee table and went to open the door.

He rather expected it to be Captain Nwin, the local police investigator, and it was—alone this time, waiting stiffly in a dark blue uniform.

Jerry stood back from the door.

Without even looking at Jerry, the captain stalked in, crossed over to the table and picked up the photo. “So—now will you explain this?”

Jerry shrugged helplessly. “I don’t know. I thought I explained it last time.”

“But it showed up again—how did it happen?”

“I told you last time,” Jerry protested. “I didn’t notice anything.”

“But what happened? What did you see? You must have seen something?” The captain waited. “You really don’t know anything? You really mean to say that you took this photo—actually pointed the camera at this thing, looking straight at this, and took the photo without noticing it?"

"I wasn't taking a photo of it," Jerry protested. "I was trying to get the splay patterns from the street lights. See, with the trees back here—”

Captain Nwin held the photo out of his reach. “And you really didn’t notice anything?”

Jerry shook his head.

“You idiot,” Captain Nwin said.

Jerry reached for the photo again. This time, the captain tossed it to him and marched to the door. “You’d better call me if you find you do know something—at once.”

As the door banged behind the captain, Jerry picked up the photo and looked at it again. He wondered vaguely what Captain Nwin thought this thing was. It seemed so ridiculous to get worried about a silly shadow, when all it did was get into people’s photographs.

Then Jerry frowned, studying the small gray streak in the lower corner of the picture. Come to think of it, the Shadow itself was more annoying even than the captain—at least the captain didn’t try to jump into photographs without permission. He was going to have to do something about this Shadow...

(Continued in Night Shot 3: Shadows)

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Hound of the Baskervilles

From romance to horror story…

After Cinderella, the Hound of the Baskervilles?

After staging the popular Rodgers and Hammerstein production last fall, Corban University Theatre set a new pace for this spring with Tim Kelly’s dramatization of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s nightmare story—where everything is definitely not as it seems. I saw the play a couple days after it opened and enjoyed it overall, though with a couple reservations.

In this production, as in the original story, Sir Henry Baskerville (Peter Ellis) gains a large inheritance after his uncle, Sir Charles, dies suddenly. Sir Henry, however, soon discovers that his uncle’s death and the estate itself may be linked to a two hundred year old curse.

One of the two most regrettable changes to the story appears in the opening scene, with the introduction of Lady Agatha Mortimer. Lady Agatha (Claire Clubb) replaces Dr. James Mortimer as the local country doctor, and Sir Henry’s concerned friend, who brings Holmes and Watson to the scene. While Clubb played Lady Agatha well, the character feels forced at times, especially when Lady Agatha (a female doctor in the Victorian era) announces that it was she who performed the autopsy following Sir Charles’s death.

Apart from this historical anomaly, however, the story spins on into beautiful chaos. Almost against his wishes, Sir Henry is forced to call on Sherlock Holmes (Jon Bennet) for help. Holmes declares he can’t possibly take the case—not yet anyway, although Dr. Watson (Joe Kraft) can stay if he likes.

With this meager assurance, Holmes leaves Watson to ward off the ancient curse of the Baskervilles, while Sir Henry falls rapidly in love with his beautiful neighbor Kathy Stapleton (Hayley Dawson), fends off Kathy’s infuriated brother Jack (Taylor Husk), and frets over his butler’s underhanded conspiracy.

Watson, left to himself, blunders along in most Watsonian style, aghast at the country ignorance which refuses to eat carrots because of the crunch they make and convinced that he has investigated every possible clue—except those too trivial to worry about. While the other members of the cast struggle at times to play the age of their characters, Kraft gives the most convincing performance, acting and sounding like the middle-aged Watson. He is both disgruntled and yet true-hearted, grumbling when Holmes calls him away from his well-earned dinner, yet instantly ready to follow him onto the moor in a desperate attempt to rescue Sir Henry.

The format of the play necessarily limits its action, but guest director Rachel Ost balances these limitations with the intimacy of a thrust stage—a square stage surrounded on three sides by the audience. Ost presents the audience, in fact, as guests in Baskerville Hall, where they watch the action unfold firsthand.

This intimacy, with the energy of the actors, carries the audience past the smaller weaknesses in the play. Neither the actors nor the director can avoid the larger problems with Lady Agatha’s character as a female doctor and the script’s final efforts to surprise audience members already familiar with the story. Still, despite these flaws, I found the play intense and absorbing, though not for younger viewers—at least one 12-year-old audience member believed the play might inspire nightmares of his own. Go and see it if you can, or at least reread the story and marvel at the dark horror on the moors.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Night Shot 1: The Beginning

It was a dark and snowy night…

Suddenly, a camera shutter clicked.

Since getting my new camera in January, I haven’t had a lot of time to take photos, and last week, I started to gripe about the camera. Sure, it takes good photos, and it’s got a color-selection feature which my old camera lacked, plus a wider range of scene settings. It wasn’t the same, though. It just wasn’t the same, and it doesn't even let me turn picture review off. Maybe I now need to focus on getting two or three good photos, rather than clicking through a dozen at a time?

Then I found that the new camera, while it may not give me as much control as my old one, does indeed have a separate night landscape function. It doesn’t exactly work for taking pictures while driving—my sister taking the photos while I drove, that is—but it does work quite well in low-light situations, something I never quite managed with my old camera.

“Tuesday evening, Jerry took the photo. He was busy that week, and he sent the photo off to be developed until Wednesday morning the following week. That afternoon, the detective showed up at his home to ask about the odd Shadow in the lower corner of Jerry’s photo. Jerry hadn’t noticed it before. He couldn’t explain how it got there.

“After two weeks, Jerry believed he had, finally, convinced the police that he didn’t know anything beyond what he had told them already. Then the Shadow appeared in another of his photos…”

(Continued in Night Shot 2: Captain Nwin)