The Calling Part 5

December 31st, 2010 by Wordsman

Since verbal communication had failed miserably at their first meeting, he tried a different approach.  Opening his bag, he waved it past her crooked nose.

No response.

Escobar was confused.  Surely only the most devout monks had powers of self-denial great enough to scorn that smell.  He opened the bag a little wider before making another pass, this time shaking it to emphasize the delicious rattling of excess sugar crystals.

Nothing.  The woman was unbreakable.  Far less breakable than Officer Escobar, anyway, who was forced to give in and eat one.  Then, because you don’t go to Paris just to look at the Eiffel Tower and fly straight back home, he ate two more.

As he licked his fingers, he stared at his indomitable opponent.  He wondered if she really was dead, but no, there was the breathing.  And it wasn’t just breathing.  She was muttering to herself.  Curiosity beat out concern for the woman’s privacy in a heartbeat, and he leaned in to catch what she was saying.

“Everyone could use a little adventure now and then . . . something to spice things up . . . something to let you break free of your daily routine . . .”

In some ways these words made a lot more sense than the ones she had spoken before.  In others, however, they were just as crazy, and maybe even a bit dangerous.  Escobar recalled a man from his childhood, whom the neighborhood kids called “Almirante Loco” because he generally looked like he had just fallen off a boat.  The Almirante had informed them that the moon was not to be trusted, that it had struck before, wiping out the dinosaurs and the Roman Empire simultaneously, and that it was biding its time until it was ready to come back and finish the job.

The woman frowned and shook her head, clearing her mental Etch-a-Sketch.  “Have you ever considered a career as a romantic fortune seeker?  The pay’s not always great, but there are fringe benefits . . . you get to set your own hours . . .”

But Escobar remained unconvinced that she was as crazy as she appeared.  These were not random, fevered mumblings; she was planning, maybe even plotting something.  Her voice, though soft, remained as clear as ever.  As he thought about it, he remembered that even the Almirante’s words had eventually found a sort of rhyme and reason, as he revealed that the only way to stop the moon was to donate to his Stop the Moon Fund.  Escobar had even given him a quarter once, and, in all fairness, the moon had yet to fulfill its cataclysmic ambitions.

It sounded like a sales pitch, though not a very appealing one.  A woman twice his age had no business using words like “romantic” and “fringe benefits.”

The woman seemed to agree, for she shook her head again, slapping it lightly against the pillar for inspiration.  Or perhaps not so lightly, for her voice picked up a few decibels as she said, “Don’t you feel that there’s something missing from your life?”

Officer Escobar decided to leave her alone.  He had other stations to check on, and she wasn’t in a conversational mood.  Besides, with a bag of donuts from the Dough-Re-Mi in his hand, there was nothing missing from his life.

As he leaned back and stood up, the woman said (possibly to him but most likely to herself), “Who am I kidding?  No one’s ever going to buy this.”

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This Day in History Entry #98

December 28th, 2010 by Wordsman

Football games, as a rule, are not staid
But sometimes there is history made
Johnny’s Colts would not yield
They marched straight down the field
To win the Greatest Game Ever Played

Event: The Baltimore Colts win “The Greatest Game Ever Played,” that year’s championship and the first NFL playoff game to end in sudden death overtime
Year: 1958
Learn more:,_1958

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How the Wordsman Stole KYPC

December 27th, 2010 by Wordsman

All the folks down in Netville liked KYPC (pronounced “kih-pick” or “kye-pick,” as you like) a lot

But the Wordsman, on his Wordsman website, did NOT!

Driven off of his nut by all those KYPC needers

He stood there on Monday Eve hating the readers

Staring down from his site with a sour Wordsman frown

At the warm lighted comments below in their town

Then he growled, his ‘man fingers nervously drumming

“I MUST find some way to keep KYPC from coming!”

Then he got an idea!  An awful idea!

The ‘man got a wonderful, awful idea!

He decided to be lazy and not do anything the day after Christmas because he was tired.


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The Calling Part #4

December 24th, 2010 by Wordsman

Day 1:

The next day dawned over Crescenton, chilly and overcast.  People got up, groaned, sampled their favorite hangover remedies, threw the newspaper away unread in a fit of anger.  Everyone agreed that it would be best to forget about the events of the previous day as soon as possible.

Everyone except Officer Escobar.

That brisk morning found him hustling down into Simon Park Station, clutching a bag of warm pastries close to his heart.  There were several reasons why he had stopped in to buy a bag of mini-donuts on his way to work.  One was as insurance, in case he ran into Larry again—the man’s ability to be across town when you wanted to see him and right behind you when you didn’t had led to speculation that he was not only a ninja but a ninja with a twin brother.  The second was as a gift for the mystery woman, who, presuming she has spent the night down there, would be in need of warm food.  The third, of course, was that resisting those deep-fried rings of soft, faintly crunchy, brown sugary goodness required feats of will of which Escobar was, quite frankly, not capable.

The station looked different in the morning.  In the eight or so hours he had been away, the place had woken up.  A steady trickle of passengers-to-be flowed past him, punctuated by the occasional surge in the opposite direction whenever a train arrived.  Shops had come to life, offering everything from coffee to coffee with sugar; the quality was poor, but the price—and, more importantly, the time investment—were right.  Officer Escobar, who had already had two cups of fine French Roast and was holding a bag containing more than his Recommended Dietary Allowance of sugar, ignored them.

Though the morning rush hour had passed, he worried that the sharp upswing in hustle, paired with the accompanying increase in bustle, would prevent him from finding the woman again.  Even more disturbing was the idea that she might no longer be there at all.  He could not say why he was concerned; the idea of her vanishing was just somehow unsettling.

After fifteen minutes of searching, near the end of which he half-seriously considered abusing his authority to evacuate the station, he spotted her.  She was sitting against the same pillar, on the same side, outside the primary flow of traffic but still at some risk of being stepped on (or tripped over).

Escobar approached.  Her head was down, just as it had been the night before.  For an instant he panicked, thinking that she had passed on, that he had left an old woman to perish all alone, and that it was only the mingled foul odors of the subway station that had covered up the corpse-stink and prevented her body from being found.

She was breathing.  Escobar shook his head.  He was not normally much of a worrier, a fact his wife reminded him of almost daily.

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This Day in History Entry #97

December 21st, 2010 by Wordsman

She was pretty but not very bright
Taking that highly suspicious bite
Most sane people these days
Would the apple appraise
But then, none of us are named Snow White

Event: Premiere of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first animated feature film
Year: 1937
Learn more:

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Know Your Picture Characters Entry #36

December 20th, 2010 by Wordsman

A. 怒りの葡萄 B. 王子と乞食 C. 誰がために鐘は鳴る D. 白鯨

E. 響きと怒り F. 緋文字

It seems clear that A Fan is the most well-read of our contestants, or at least the most interested in showing it off.  We can’t tell you what led him to call on some of the more obscure works of the authors in question, but we can do two things: the first is to recommend Twain’s “Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses.”  The second is to point out that, among his eclectic guesses, there was one that did appear on the list: Grapes of Wrath.  Unfortunately, he put it in the wrong place.  The Steinbeck tale comes up first at A, where it was correctly identified by Theoman, who is perhaps more of a bibliophile than he himself believed.  One last consolation for A Fan: perhaps he can take some solace in the fact that he is more in tune with the authors than with their works; the titles are wrong but the writers are right on his guesses for C and E.

Theoman is on a roll, and he’s beginning to show his swagger.  Note the brusqueness of his “guess”: “B is The Prince and the Pauper.”  Not “I think,” not “B could be,” it is.  And he’s right, which means he’s two-for-two this week, and how many other KYPC regulars can boast that kind of success? (I don’t know; maybe you folks are keeping track better than me).  Shirley had two guesses as well, but her record this week was a little less impressive.  She wanted to find what A Fan called the recognized great American novel, and, in her defense, I wanted to include it, but books with names in the title don’t work well for this game, so Twain’s river-rafting epic sat this one out.  She should be glad, however, that the featured Hemingway work was For Whom the Bell Tolls, which shows up not at B but at C.  Shirley was correct in saying that B and C were Hemingway and Twain, just not quite in that order.

And then we had a last-minute entry by Dragon, who probably does all her shopping on Christmas Eve.  She came in seeking forgiveness, though she chose a strange way of showing it by making her guess a tale of vengeance.  “Now wait,” you all say (yes, I can hear you), “You said no titles with names in them!”  I did say that, or rather, I implied it.  But I did also point out that one of these works has a slightly different title in Japan.  And this is it.  The characters in D mean “white” and “whale,” and I don’t think I have to explain which book that is.  So, in the spirit of Christmas, I have no choice but to forgive Dragon for whatever the heck it is she’s so sorry about.

Our outcasts this week are E and F, which are Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury and Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, respectively.  One of them I read in high school and thought it was boring, and the other of which I have only heard is boring.  Hey, there are a lot of books out there.  They can’t all be winners.

Much as you may not want to think about it, we’re running out of time before Christmas.  Need help with gift ideas?  Check out this list of things my true love gave to me.  I’m telling you, she just won’t stop!  Seriously, it’s been almost two weeks, and she just keeps handing these things over.  More and more and more of them!  Maybe you can figure out what they are, and why she seems to be suffering from such an acute attack of Christmas spirit.  (Just to let you know, they’re not listed in order.  At least, not the order you would expect them to be in).

A. 雁 B. 雉鳩 C. 卿 D. 黒歌鳥 E. 鼓手 F. 小間使い G. 淑女

H. 白鳥 I. 笛吹 J. 雌鶏 K. 山鶉 L. 指輪

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The Calling: Part 3

December 17th, 2010 by Wordsman

Though he had neither address nor phone, Larry was not a hard man to track down.  It just took a while.  So Escobar cut straight into Simon Park, skipping his patrol car, where he might have been distracted by reports of mild rioting near the university.  He strained his eyes until he spotted one of the people he usually could not see.  He inquired after Larry, and the man on the bench simply pointed north.

Escobar nodded curtly and followed the directions, looking for the next link in the chain.  It took all his focus to seek out those he had trained himself not to detect, so he remained oblivious to the shouts and the sirens—while still a far cry from Rome in 44 BC or Paris in 1848, Crescenton that night was a city of discontent.  But Escobar was single-minded.  Following the fingers of those who, like him, had much bigger problems than the ones who were making all the fuss, he went east, then southeast, then east again, then south, then east, then, aggravatingly, back west, until he found who he was looking for.

“Evenin’, Officer,” said Larry, though by that point it was closer to morning.  He was smiling broadly, but with Larry you could never tell if a smile was genuine.  The cap he was never seen without seemed designed to droop down and cover his eyes.

Escobar, out of breath after nearly an hour of walking, took a moment and then explained that he wanted information about a presumably homeless woman living in a subway station.

Larry chuckled.  “Whaddaya think I am, King of the Bums or somethin’?”

Larry, the self-proclaimed King of the Bums, was the leading expert on the city’s “free” population (he chose to refer to them by what they had rather than what they lacked).  He could tell you everything there was to know about the free people of Crescenton, unless of course you actually wanted information, in which case his normally overactive mouth snapped shut and could only be pried open by the careful application of money, foodstuffs, or spirituous beverages.  Since Escobar did not have any cash, baked goods, or booze on him, he resorted to Larry’s other favorite thing: flattery.

“I dunno . . . you say she’s in the subway?  I don’t go in much for that public transportation.  Not that I can’t afford it.”  Despite his steady business as an information dealer, he probably couldn’t afford it, at least not on a regular basis.  Though he never left the city, his job called for a considerable amount of travel.  “A man’s not a man unless he can get where he needs to go on his own two legs.”

This may have been a crack at Escobar, who was built much more like a shotput than a javelin, but he did not have time to crack back.  If Larry was in a philosophical mood, the conversation could last until sunrise.  Escobar repeated his query, and his faith in Larry’s omniscience, and this time he threw in a promise that next time they met he would be carrying a bag of goodies from his favorite bakery.

“Hmm.”  Larry stroked his beard.  The condition of the beard, like that of all the other elements of Larry’s appearance, was remarkably consistent: unkempt, but not dramatically so.  Like all kings, he spent a great deal of energy maintaining his appearance.  “What does she look like?”

Escobar gave the best physical description he could, which, despite the fact that he had been standing only a few feet from her, was not that good.  “And what’d she say?”  Escobar repeated the phrases, which, despite their seeming meaninglessness, he remembered perfectly.  “Eh, I’ve heard stranger, but not much.”

Larry flashed his ambiguous smile.  “I gotta say, I’m surprised.  I don’t think I know this lady.  And here I thought I knew everybody in our fair city.  Maybe she’s a visitor.”

This explanation did not ring true with Officer Escobar.  Something about her had made him feel that she was a fixture, a part of the station, that she could no more come and go than the pillar she was slumped against.  But questioning Larry’s judgment to his face was often an expensive move, so he did not share his misgivings.

“I can try to find out more if you want—as long as I’m compensated, that is.  You want me to keep an eye on her?”

Escobar thanked him for the offer but said that he would be taking care of that himself.

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This Day in History Entry #96

December 14th, 2010 by Wordsman

Aiming north, he thought it might be droll
To switch tacks to an opposite goal
Roald told all his fans
“There’s a small change in plans
Looks like we’re heading for the South Pole”

Event: Roald Amundsen and his team become the first to reach the South Pole
Year: 1911
Learn more:

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Know Your Picture Characters Entry #35

December 13th, 2010 by Wordsman

A. 嵐が丘 B. 高慢と偏見 C. 動物農場 D. 二都物語 E. 蝿の王

F. 指輪物語:王の帰還

First off, we at the Wandering Wordsman have been instructed by Ray Bradbury’s lawyers to inform the audience that he is from Waukegan, Illinois, which has not been part of the British Empire since more than 120 years before Mr. Bradbury was born.

But on to the guesses.  B was a popular choice this week, with both Theoman and A Fan assuming it was Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  The former identified it based on the inclusion of “and” in the name, and A Fan presumably recognized it based on his extensive knowledge of Austen and her oeuvre.  It is curious that neither of them went for Sense and Sensibility, also a well-known Austen work that follows the “_____ and _____” formula.  Curious and fortuitous, for B is none other than P&P.  Well spotted.

There was also considerable mention of Mr. Orwell’s 1984, which, as Theoman surmised, is not on this list.  People seem to have forgotten about the other Orwell book that they always make kids read in school: Animal Farm.  Well, I guess A Fan didn’t forget about it, he just misplaced it.  Napoleon and Boxer and all their communist buddies are hanging out at C, trapped between Mr. Darcy and . . . whoever is the male lead in A Tale of Two Cities–I never read it–at D.  A Fan’s guess of Animal Farm for E (provided, of course, that we assume he meant to write “E” instead of “F”) is slightly right in that the title does contain the name of an animal.  The symbolism in E, however, is much more Christian than Marxist, as it is William Golding’s Lord of the Flies (similar in that it also tells a story of living beings that really shouldn’t be in charge of anything having to take care of themselves).

Shirley’s devotion to  Trollop and A Fan’s to Greene are inspiring but, in this case, unhelpful.  And there were a couple of Shakespeare guesses as well, though none of his plays appeared either (hmm, might have to consider that for a future quiz).  The final remaining answer, F, is Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.  This was a hard one, I admit, both because it’s not one that most people read in English class and because the Japanese title is not quite as literal a translation as with the others: Yubiwa monogatari is the “Tale of the Ring(s)” rather than the “Lord of the Rings.”

Oh, and A is Wuthering Heights.  What a terrible book.

And now this week we have the follow-up: American Lit.  To help you guys out, I will say that we have one work by Faulkner, one by Hawthorne, one by Hemingway, one by Melville, one by Steinbeck, and one by Twain.  If I were you, I would take Theoman’s advice and not look for titles featuring people’s names or numbers (though I will say that one of these is not a direct translation of the English title).

A. 怒りの葡萄 B. 王子と乞食 C. 誰がために鐘は鳴る D. 白鯨

E. 響きと怒り F. 緋文字

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The Calling: Part 2

December 10th, 2010 by Wordsman

Luckily Escobar was able to regain his balance, because the floor of the subway station was something he wasn’t entirely comfortable walking on, let alone meeting face-first.  As he turned around he dove into a standard cop apology, the kind designed to make you think the whole incident was mostly your fault.

The woman slowly lifted her head to look up at him.  She looked as dazed as if someone had just flung her off the subway without so much as a “No ticket,” so he had trouble telling whether what she said was a statement or a question: “Buckets of dead hair.”

Her words unsettled Escobar.  In his line of work—at least as it was conducted by officers with less powerfully selective senses—hearing a homeless woman muttering gibberish to herself was, sadly, not that unusual.  This woman, however, was not talking to herself.  Her wandering eyes had latched onto his face like he was the only man at a high school reunion with whom she had not had a messy breakup; she expected an answer.  And she was not muttering.  The woman spoke with perfect clarity.  Escobar wished she hadn’t, so that he could convince himself she had said something different.

Rather than attempt a response, he decided to take advantage of his new perspective on the woman’s face to get a better look at her.  His first impression was that she looked like an old witch, but not one who could afford ruby slippers, castles, or armies of simian aviators.  She had a face ravaged by age, though she lacked the warts and other skin diseases children come to expect from practitioners of the black arts.  Her hair, most of which was stuffed into a shapeless hood, could have been any color, especially under the unnatural lights of the subway station.

The rest of her was covered in filthy, faded, frayed garments that would make a fashion designer cry and a germaphobe gag.  Escobar could not tell if she was wearing one layer or many, and her figure was a total mystery (a mystery he felt was probably best left unsolved).

After sizing up his opponent, Officer Escobar took another, friendlier stab at conversation—making sure he hadn’t hurt her, asking who she was, why she was there, etc.

The woman’s eyes narrowed, as if it was finally dawning on her that what they had here was a failure to communicate.  “Satan’s zoo of bees?” she asked, this time in a decidedly questioning tone.

Escobar decided that this was as good a point as any to give up.  The woman was clearly nuts, but she seemed like one of the harmless ones.  After her second errant serve, instead of yelling or attacking him, she put her head back down and began speaking rapidly under her breath, like an orator who had gotten lost in the middle of a speech and was trying to find her place again.  Mere insanity was another thing Escobar believed did not merit police intervention; he himself had been known to lose it from time to time when he arrived at the Dough-Re-Mi only to discover that they had run out of their Minuet in Glee cookies (three quarters dark chocolate chips, one quarter white chocolate chips, one hundred percent sinfully delicious).

Still, something about the woman bothered him, and it wasn’t just her fondness for grim imagery.  He wanted to find out more, and if she wasn’t going to tell him anything useful, then there was only one place to go.

Officer Escobar gave Simon Park Station one last sweeping glance.  Satisfied that it was safe for another day, he set out to find Larry.

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