Excerpt


“The mega-pigeon! The mega-pigeon! The mega-pigeon returns!”

The birds fluttered about excitedly. Surely, the long-vanished mega-pigeon, largest and strongest of pigeon-kind, would lead them back from the brink of destruction.

A dodo emerged from the summoning circle. “Hey there!” it said. “How’s it going?”

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The rules stipulated that no competitor or any of their agents could interfere with the racing pigeons. But it also held that birds lost due to “accident, predation, or misadventure” were disqualified from the prize purse.

So the problem facing Rotelli was, basically, how to do a 32-bird hit and make it looks like an accident. He’d had challenges before working for Carmine, but he quickly decided that this job was for the birds. But that six-figure payday was just too much to turn away.

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“Tell me,” Schmidt said. “How did you get your automatic car to drive itself so well?”

“That’s for me to know,” Ellen said. “And you not to know.”

She returned to the garage where the Silver Torpedo was sitting idle. Opening the control panel, she revealed a pigeon strapped in to an old pigeon-guided bomb control.

“Mommy’s little chickie did good today,” she cooed. “Who wants some nummy seeds, huh?”

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“Roberto’s a nut,” said Giovanni. “Just sits up there all day with his birds.”

“He is a nut,” agreed Angelo. “But cut him some slack. He got hit real bad during the war. Krauts cut off his whole platoon and he lost most of his guys.”

“Fine, fine,” Giovanni said. “But what’s that got to do with a bunch of smelly birds?”

“Pigeons saved his life,” replied Angelo. “The carrier pigeons got word to get them relieved. I guess Roberto’s just trying to give something back, you know?”

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Fayne Island was named after an obscure British fur trapper, and remained one of the largest unsettled islands in the Great Lakes until a community of Mennonites moved there in 1801.

The Mennonites, originally from lower Michigan, were worried about temptation and influence from the world outside their sect. So they moved their entire small community to the island to set up a self-sufficient settlement in what was then the frontier.

Harsh winters and stony soil made for a very difficult time, and the Mennonites found themselves increasingly unable to farm for a living by the 1840s. Eventually, at a contentious meeting, they decided to solicit outsiders to trade for materials they could not make themselves and for food in years when harvests were bad.

By 1860, a small trading community of non-Mennonites had formed, and it grew rapidly. The first non-Mennonite buildings outside the docks were laid out in the 1870s, and by the 1880s the Mennonites were a minority on Fayne, with many having left the faith and others moving to join less tiny religious communities elsewhere. A small number of Mennonites remain, isolated and on cool terms with the rest of the population.

Fayne had become a popular summer destination by the turn of the century, and many of the main buildings date to that time. The Golden Gardenia Hotel dates to 1897, becoming a favorite of those who couldn’t afford other island hotels like the Grand on Mackinac or who simply preferred a cozier atmosphere.

The end of the lake trade in the 1950s and 1960s badly hurt what had become Fayne Township, and the island fell on hard times with many closures and a loss of population to the mainland, a trend that continues to this day. Though the economy improved in the 1990s, and the Golden Gardenia was saved from demolition, it is a far cry from the salad days of the late 1800s.

Contemporary Fayne Island finds itself at a crossroads. The population is rapidly aging, and many of the young people are moving away. While still relatively popular, tourist attractions like the Gardenia make residents worry about an influx of outsiders that could wipe away the township’s uniqueness. Many older residents are very outspoken about making the island another tourist trap for “fudges” a la Mackinac.

To open itself up to the world and possibly lose its uniqueness, or to remain isolated and possibly dwindle into nothingness–those are the options confronting Fayne Island in the 21st century.

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The Blue Jar of Yblesh is one of the more famous supposed examples of an out-of-place artifact or OOPArt. Excavated near Yblesh by Sir Roger Stanley in 1894, the Blue Jar appears to be a simple cobalt class container, shattered and then reassembled with a lid. It was found in a strata indicating that it had been buried in approximately 2500 BCE.

However, the Jar appears to have been made using the Schürer process, which was invented in Europe around 1400, and it is in a style more akin to the late 1600s or early 1700s. The presence of an early modern glass in an early modern style continues to excite speculation. Time travel enthusiasts, young-earth creationists, and even alien abductees have all cited the Blue Jar of Yblesh as proof of their views.

Naturally there are skeptics, most of whom claim that the Jar was either planted by Sir Roger or accidentally mixed in with an improper strata during an excavation that left much to be desired by modern standards. Carbon dating does not work on glass, and detailed studies on the Jar have been limited to its current owner, the Vatican Museums, which is reluctant to potentially damage an item popular with tourists.

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Marine clowns often gather in beaches in large numbers, especially during the summer, for they are gregarious and communal creatures. However, this does expose them to predation by clown-eating gulls.

The gulls will not take clowns from large groups, as their prey will sound an alarm and huddle together for protection. Instead, clown-eating gulls prefer to pick off stragglers. They will circle before diving and then sinking their claws into their prey to carry it off. The forlorn honking of a victim’s nose is often the only sign that a gull has taken its prey.

When the gulls have eaten the clown or fed it to their young, they also ingest the quantities of greasepaint and zaniness that they need to maintain their polka-dotted plumage, much like wild flamingoes.

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