January 2020

“You’re missing the point,” Ethel said to Topsy.

“Oh, am I?” Topsy squawked. “Well, perhaps you’d care to enlighten me.” Beyond the bird’s usual squawky register, Ethel definitely detected a note of anger and sarcasm.

“If we steal the jewels from Agnes Oxtoby, we’re doing her a favor, and Colonel Oxtoby as well,” said Ethel. “We owe it to them–to ourselves–to try.”

Topsy cocked his head. “That’s the worst excuse for petty larceny I’ve ever heard. We owe it to them to steal from them? And I suppose we owed it to Lord Chatham to clean out his account, as well?”

“No, he deserved that. But think about it. That jewel is insured, so Agnes Oxtoby won’t be put out by it. And maybe, just maybe, she’ll stop wearing it out for her little trysts. Or the Colonel will catch her. Either way it will strengthen their marriage.”

“Or ruin it,” drawled Topsy.

“Like I said, we owe it to them,” said Ethel. “Now, are you going to help me steal and fence this jewel, or am I going to sell you to the circus for an equivalent amount?”

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To the mouse the maiden did say “I fear you not, but please go away.”
To the maiden the mouse did say “Why do you fear me not on this fine day?”
To the rodent’s query she made reply “No silly fear-ridden girl am I.”
“Where other girls will jump and squeal, I’ll smash you flat beneath my heel.”
With such a threat upon the air, the mouse reared up and then it stared.
“I will depart a moment hence, if you’ll allow me recompense.”
“If I can guess what scares you so, then I may stay and you will go.”
To the mouse’s plan the girl agreed, although she did not see the need.
“Your quest is vain, you silly rat, for I fear no man nor fowl nor asp.”
To this the loquacious rodent replied “It terrifies you that we all must die.”
“My life is short upon this earth, and though longer you have scarce more worth.”
“In a hundred years, to give or take, t’will be forgotten what you make.”
“Whether a book you wrote or a child you bore, it is as nothing on eternity’s shore.”
“Look on me here, upon your floor, and see your death yet at your door.”
“For though you’re not afraid of me, you’re terrified of what you see.”
At this remark the girl did call, and clamber upon her table tall.
“Oh help, oh help, a mouse is here! I’d squash it flat, if not for fear!”

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Through the downpour we run
Silver drops against silver skies
Invisible but for the soaking
Fabrics sodden by skywater
It slips in sideways, unrelenting
No matter how rich you are
How powerful you’ve become
Who your family is or was
What you had to do to get here
A gentle but fierce rain reminds
You can and will get soaked
Just as much as the man
Huddled under and overpass
Who has owned more dogs
Than umbrellas

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We’ve all seen it: men-at-arms, trained in the art of war, charging under-armed peasants. All seems well until your best man is incapacitated by a blow from a cast-iron frying pan, that humblest of tools, wielded by a formidable commoner. They usually escape with their life, too!

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“You must choose: the maiden or the moth. For the silken cocoon will stop for no man, yet it is absolutely essential for the next phase. You may try to keep her a gorged and oblivious worm, but it will be a hollow life made all the worse by the knowledge of what she could have been. That is the great mystery of the silk threads, the great gamble of the swaddled chrysalis: one never knows what will emerge therefrom. But to choose the maiden over the moth is to cling to the past over the present, over the future, and to be looking ever backward. It is to let fear of what may be poison what is. You must make the choice, and you must make it now. But choose wisely.”

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If you must know why I feel so sad, you must know I feel I’m going mad.
“Ridiculous,” said the picture hung. “You’re as sane as anyone.”
When to his speech I raised protest, I was cut off at my mirror’s behest.
“I see things as they are, not as they should be, and sane you are, as sane as me.”
A mirror, I said, should never talk, nor should my portrait take a walk.
That I had seen both happen that day, seemed proof that madness indeed held sway.
My end table croaked, upon this remark, “You must be sunny though things seem dark.”
“Madness in the beholder’s eye doth live, to yourself some latitude give.”
The chair beneath me agreed with a laugh “If you be mad, so am I by half!”
Surrounded thus by such happy things, I felt my heard begin to sing.
That mad am I there can be no doubt, but the company’s good while I ride it out.

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I shook his great paw with gusto, and he returned the gesture to me. I asked him what he was doing there, and he returned the question to me. I told the bear I was traveling, a wanderer finding his way. He told me that he was similar, his arrangements changing by the day. With a bit of bashfulness I followed it up with a question abut what he ate; the bear reassured me quite sweetly that I wouldn’t end up on his plate. Humans, it seems, are not tasty, when one can have honey and wine; a bear is not likely to eat us but they fear that we covet what they dine. I told my new friend with assurance that he could expect better from me; the bear seemed to believe it, but said that we’d have to see. I could tell he was a bit frightened, and badly wanted to run; when I asked him what was the matter, he asked if I owned a gun. When I told him I didn’t, I could see he was relieved, but the bear reminded me warily that his worry was scarcely eased. For a lifetime in the forests had taught him one thing well: close by any unarmed human was a gun-toting one as well.

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