Hello Dearest Readers,
The month of March is almost over and this is an Early Spring already, February was unbelievably warm for a Winter month. Spring in the South is yellow, all pollen from pine trees, watching the wind whip up yellow dust devils down the streets and gutters. Spring in Chicago was the temperature rising over 35 degrees and the sudden appearance of wisps from the cottonwood tree floating along streets like down feathers from cherubs. Spring in the NW of Arkansas is having the storms go around our little plateau so that the thunder sounds like it is growling through the ground; the weather just slowly gets warmer with each drop of rain until you realize the little flowers are peeping in the grass.
The first two pictures are of the Late Winter sky that is practicing to give us Spring weather. The last two are the itty bitty peeping flowers and mosses in the suburban jungle.
I am a rather sensitive person and often have small little worries or fears pop up of upsetting people, and yet for certain aspects here I am not worried. I realized a few weeks ago that I still have no idea where half my baking supplies are in the cabinets of the kitchen and still have no “den” feeling in the bedroom. And of course my husband and I are both allergic to the house, Benadryl has become our bedtime friend. I have also realized that while we were in Edwardsville I had already taken dozens of pictures and was planning out a garden, not here. So we are hunting for a new rental home and I rather like the search of having all these possible houses show up in my e-mail. We have till July so we are slowly packing up the house. Yep, packing up the house when the world outside is screaming about toilet paper and hand sanitizer. We will simply fill up all the U-Haul and liquor store boxes we already have before worrying about getting more. The garage with my pounds of stones and geodes is going to be the bear to pack and my office will be the next hardest room to wrangle. Our dream is to be able to have a home built by the wonderful Deltec company but regardless of our fortune we will be changing houses. Deltec allows you to send them your ideas and because that part is still free I sent in my plans. As a little girl I made house plans for fun, starting out with bedrooms and kitchens and graduating upward to putting in hallways and doors, so a goodly part of me is thrilled with the idea of having my grown up plans put into reality.
Showing off my idea. Just add a little historic Gothic and some William Morris to the hinges and knobs and light fixtures. (And add a rock garden landscape on the outside.)
When I can navigate through the house and use full sentences, my days are lively and lately busier and more interesting. We have The Bins here in Bentonville and every two or three weeks Ian goes with me to dig through them. I just love the search and hunt through strange debris. And somehow just having his company makes everything more fun. Our Bins have some of the best piles of books!! Apparently books worth reading are rare from Bins but even as we pack the house up I manage to bring two or three back with me. I have also found an Erin Knit Wool sweater and a vintage “Ms Maiszel” type coat with a real fur collar. I also won an auction on crochet blankets; and those can be weird because until you inspect them by hand you can’t tell how used they could be. The newest batch were definitely from a crochet stash, one of those folks who like me makes things just waiting to give them away. All but one or two of the blankets were crib sized and with this quarantine going on I hope colorful, well made, baby blankets will be in demand in 9 months. In the strangest turn of luck and perseverance I have made sales on e-Bay. Yep, little ol’ me took the leap and entered items to sell. Now the profits are a pittance but once I can sell 10 items I can open my own Store Front and that is what I am aiming for. I have sold three items already!!! in just three weeks which is a blizzard of activity for me. (wicked, dry humor, snicker-snort-chuckle) But dearest friends PC and KF who also go crazy at thrift stores and curb side sales will know how exciting this is for me.
Friday we were between rain clouds so we went to this overflow creek, not the cement kind prevalent here but the natural kind. I realized how much I miss the soil and ground beneath my feet. At first my mind went “Oh no!!!! I’ll get my feet wet!” then I said to myself “Nancy, did you just get wussy???!!” ( And I know it was me ’cause Ian was talking to the dog.) I wear ugly Vibrams for a reason and they can get wet, and muddy, and all kinds of fun so I merrily traipsed across to the other side: I was super lucky!!! Fossil bearing chert everywhere!!! Some of the pieces were more fossil imprints all together than they were rock. I feel certain I found coral imprints, shell, crinoid stems, and worm tunnels. I couldn’t take up any big hunks because I was just off the highway but I did find pieces I can try and cab up as well as treasure. How glorious to feel the wind blow humid air across my skin while having my toes in the water and earth. I have the two buckets soaking in a bit of bleach because the stream has a lot of run off but as soon as I get them soaked and scrubbed a bit I want to show you some close up pictures.
The cement drainage culvert after a week of rain that runs behind the church where we walk the dog, a suburban river. The chert creek that is overflowing its banks. The creek after the water has gone back down (the wind was blowing and I felt like a middle aged fairy princes.)
5 ‘o’ clock AM is that apex hour in which the False Dawn has not started yet but you can just feel the gentle tug of Morning’s fingers. Since the late of February the hour before false Dawn has started to bring out the little song birds. These are the soft and fragile looking balls of feathery fluff that come in brown and tan spots and mottled stripes. Now in reality it is 4 in the morning because daylight savings is a farce and it is somehow comforting to know the birds ignore it. (In an aside I feel certain that even a Cynobite or Lord Vermin (Google him) could be voted in as president if they promised to abolish Daylight Savings.) Then there is Night, in late February and parts of March, where it is just warm enough after a day of rain to leave the screen door open: and then I can hear a trilling peep from local frogs. Edwardsvile, IL was somehow pocketed throughout with fountains and ponds that had quaint little armies of frogs but here even with cement culverts and thin mountain creeks scattered like straw the little trilling peepers were unexpected.
Ok, confession time: I play a few video games and phone app games. So I am going to go off on a few quirks that yours truly complains about (which gives the husband a chuckle so can it be so bad?) I play this fashion doll game called Covet where you are given challenges to dress your model with specific items and styles to fit a short five sentence story. Most of the samples shown or expected are Vogue and Haut Couture imitations so some leeway is expected BUT FOR F*CK’S SAKE!! 1) “Style a look to source diamonds in Dubai.” What in the world are some of you thinking???? This is Dubai so why is your paper doll dressed in a crop top, a mini skirt, fish net hose, a fur stole, thigh high boots, and or a see-through evening dress??? What part of Dubai and diamonds do you not get?!!! 2) “Dress for a fun day in the park for a Mother and Son day together.” To quote a beloved pro wrestler, Charles Wright, “Make way for the Hoooooo train!” Why would you wear a bra top and hootchie shorts with your young son? Stilettos in a park with a little boy? Thigh length ruffle skirt? Are you nuts??? 3) “You are a world renowned dancer of raks sharkie (?) and have been invited to dance for the Berber leader under the desert moon” (Sure lots of ladies do not know what a dancer and a stripper are, so this is really a pet peeve.) Get out the eye bleach!! Neon hair, little school girl outfits, platform pumps, T bars, and or see through dresses. Then some get this idea of doing some sort of semi cyberpunk with eye makeup that looks like flames. God help us all! 4) “Style a gracious look for a beloved commoner about to marry the Prince” (Please reference one Diana or Kate or Meghan) Aaaaaarrrrggg! Bring on every crown, every faux Queen Bess, Venetian renaissance gown with pearls, every scepter, and or mermaid head gear that can be found. What part of “commoner about to marry the Prince are you missing??
I also play a game called Design Home, an actual partner to Covet. You design a house for certain people with different occupations and in different countries/areas. Mostly it is just a matter of taste and what couch style you have in your inventory but once in a while I simply can’t figure people out. 1) “Design a bedroom for a Dutch couple expecting their first baby in Brussels.” Sure, sometimes the rocking horse would be cuter than the purple teddy bear but WHY DID YOU PUT CACTUS AS DECORATIONS ON THE TABLE AND FLOOR?!!! Really people, cactus in a babies room? Or why did they make the whole room in black and grey? Planning on owning stock in Prozac?? 2) “Design a rugged living room in the cabin of a family in Alaska” Sure, the cabin looks like a perfect A frame but decorate it in gold filigree and velvet couches?? Marble table tops and crystal chandeliers?? Do you understand the word rustic?! 3) “Design a living room for an active family of five who like gardening.” And?… you guessed it, the whole living room is white furniture with spindly legs and intricate carving. The paintings are either examples of old world still-lives or contain so much pastel pink the Easter Bunny would get nauseous. God knows my own house is 1/3 Norse, 1/3 Gothic, and 2/3 still-in-college but trust me this is monetary and not choice (and yes I know it doesn’t add up.)
As the Covid-19 keeps going there are heroes outside of police, rescue, and medical. Lets hear it for the grocery store cashier who has been given a flimsy piece of plastic in front of his face for protection “Woot!!” Clap for the drive through people who are given gloves and three feet between their window and the car driver!! “Hooray”. Thank you to the liquor store clerk who told us where they put the folded down boxes around the corner outside but still took the time to get within three feet of me to give us some good boxes from inside “Confetti!” Give a huge Vulcan salute to the whole USPS who touch our boxes and mail and have not failed to deliver my e-Bay packages to customers and still sell me stamps with plexiglass that is flimsier than the cashier’s!! “Live long and prosper”. And then there are the Geeks, oh you salt of the earth: Sharing patterns for Renaissance gowns, sharing their art progress no matter how early in the piece it is, selflessly making ear guards for masks on 3D printers like a pro, promoting reasonable fitness when the couch is more comfortable: And my Husband and the Chicago Crew!!! all spending weeks working from home and still finding time to create Role Playing D&D stories for the weekend to run using Discord “Three snaps in a Z formation!” Thanks to the die hard rock hound friends sharing pictures of offices, geode cutting, aloe gardens, house hold mementoes found in garages, and photos of beautiful nature hikes “Total bad ass babes, all of you”.
And now for a good distraction from the real world. Here is a continuation of Marisha in Red Angel’s Rise. She has been given a sudden emergency case away from the mystery of the train stations and the charnel warehouse. Now you can get a feel for a bit more of Cinerarium on the streets. This is a bit more of my voice even though Ian coached me some. cont….
Ansel Casterwell was a fair haired, politely unassuming young man not much older than Mariesha herself but eminently more important in the schemes of the city; by reading between the lines it became obvious that with a single minded desire someone wanted him found alive. The Casterwells were a family of judges, lawyers, inventors, and artists, all eventually connected to a very powerful undead family by birth and by marriage. And as can happen with the amount of death and undeath flowing through them and their blood, there were also half-wits and sterile cripples. Ansel was referred to by family as healthy, virile, and vital just as often as amiable, even tempered, and sociable. He had an older brother who was muscularly weak, suffering with seizures and spasms, and an older sister who while extremely lovely was said to be rather “simple” and worse of all showed no signs at twenty of entering womanhood.
Mariesha took a drink of her ale and wondered what it must be like to be loved for your sperm. She then traded her half of the file with Elsbeth, mopped her plate clean with her napkin and chewed thoughtfully, “So, what do you think Els?”
“I must say Inspector Greywaves, if we question every enemy the Casterwells do have or could have we will never get off of this case.”
“Yea, I’m readin’ that now. Gotta say I agree.” Mariesha finished swallowing her napkin and put her ale mug on the edge of the table for a refill. “Although whoever questioned his mates from that night sure did a good job.”
Elsbeth took a sip of her chilled cider, “I think on your next page should be the report from the family necromancer.”
Mariesha read carefully then nodded her head, “Well, I’ll be screwed blue and ta…” Elsbeth was giving her a cool starchy look across the table. “Er, um, I’ll be Hornswagled,” restarted Mariesha, knowing when to press her unladylike habits and when not to. “They have a top-hat cutter able to search through this city for the boy and all the necromancer can say is the poor sod ain’t dead.”
“Yet,” added Elsbeth while turning a page.
“And there isn’t any ransom note either,” Mariesha pointed out.
Elsbeth’s brow creased slightly, “So, just where could the young man be?”
“Don’t know, but it does mean we’re gonna’ be slogging through some back streets starting with the Star Gazer.”
Elsbeth gave her a firm nod and then carefully drained her drink.
*** ****** **** ****
The information they would get in the upcoming sober bar-crawl was nothing if Mariesha wore her scarlet cloak, plenty of inappropriate offers if Elsbeth wore her normal dresses, and sympathetic offers of grub and ale if Mariesha wore a dress herself because she “needs more meat on her bones to please a man.” She had actually convinced the department to pay for her Recorder to have a severe work outfit made by telling them it was armor; a stern, grey colored, split skirt and corset-like leather jacket with a leather hand muff. The tiefling herself wore worn pants and a collared shirt with a heavy leather jacket that could accommodate Murder if need be.
The pair were dropped off from an unmarked hansom cab over three blocks away and they walked through the surrounding neighborhood, their sturdy boots going over worn pavement and cobblestones alike. This was definitely a firm lower class neighborhood with pubs, stables, grocers, apartments for let, and the occasional unmarked gaming den. Through the middle was a grouping of pillons and girders that support two pedestrian bridges and a train trestle: shanty shacks and the remains of an old fountain crowded among them.
The Star Gazer was an inn and ale house that was found by it’s sign, that of a man on his back looking up at a night sky. Mariesha wasn’t sure whether this was because the inn boasted a rickety top room on a seven story tower or that, for good or for ill, the drink knocked people over and out; standing on the edge of the neighborhood it was just respectable enough to be safe and just seedy enough to be dangerous for a group of five slumming nobles.
Mariesha was also armed with expert drawings of all five boys, several photos of Ansel, and a hidden purse with generous amounts of copper and silver. Luckily the bar owner easily remembered the five and was more than willing to talk to what he thought was a wealthy detective with plenty of silver to pass around. The missing nobles had been boisterous, congenial, and inebriated but alive when they had left before midnight heading down the left side of the street singing bawdy songs.
The next question to come up was where the five-some went but that was easily solved when the tavern owner said they kept pinching Bessty the table wench. She lived in two back rooms made cozy from a small wood stove and patchwork curtains. She was comely enough, Marisha conceded, if you were in your fifties, having sturdy ankles, a rounded bottom with matching bosom, and thick grey curls under a scarf.
“Ol’ Rollo says you been hired to look f’ them boys from four nights back. Care for a cookie? I make them ma’ self in the kitchen,” she asked as she took down a tin from a small shelf above the stove.
“That would be lovely,“ replied Mariesha as she and Elsbeth pulled up a foot stool and a wooden chair to sit on.
“Then I’ll just put ta’ kettle on to heat some more,” answered Bessty, finally settling back in a padded rocker, obviously enjoying the attention. For a woman that claimed rheumatism and bad eyes there was not much that passed by her: Not only did she remember the five nobles she also gave good descriptions of their clothes and remembered who liked ale and who liked beer. The Inspector and her Recorder also learned that Chersker is back and that means Autumn cattle drives will start soon; Grisole Bandy Hands had coppers to spend so someone is missing their silverware, he being a good second story man, and Caroe Padget had on silk stockings so her engagement to the mill operator was continuing which means that he obviously has a new order of canvass to make. Given enough time Marisha felt that they would be told the whole underside life within five blocks of the Star Gazer.
“And once more about Ansel Casterwell?” asked Elsbeth trying to get the conversation back on track.
“Ooooh, they were just terrible,” exclaimed Bessty while nibbling on a butter cookie. “Why those randy lads near to pinched my bum black and blue!”
“Have you complained to the Watch then?” asked Mariesha, already guessing they were the highlight of her week.
“Well,” backtracked a blushing Bessty, “They’re jus’ young and seeing as how one is missing… I wouldn’t want to bother their families none.”
Mariesha nodded in sage understanding and brushed crumbs from her fingers, “I can’t thank you enough for the morning tea Goodie Bessty but we must continue the search.”
“Oh, aye,” she conceded in good humor. “Good luck then.”
The two were let out a side door after thanking her one more time and picked their way through the debris in the ally.
Looking over the street, Mariesha turned to Elsbeth, “Are you thinking what I’m thinking of Els?”
“They were looking for women, Inspector,” replied the Recorder.
“Exactly what I’m thinking. And what about over there?” asked Mariesha as she pointed to a small, neatly painted, red sign across the alley and three doors down.
“An excellent guess,” agreed Elsbeth with a slight smirk.
“Very well my fair Recorder, to “Ms. Moaning’s Boarding House” it is.”
Once again tonight we are having a “sever thunderstorm” which equates to rolling thunder in the distance with a sharp breeze every 20 minutes and rain pouring for five minutes every half hour, but the purple flowers on the weeds and the wild violets in the fields are loving the weather and the thin traces of yellow pollen will get washed down. So many friends have posted loving and happy Easter pictures of family and baskets that a mood of happy contentment is nestled around our house. May the blessings of Christ and the continual renewal of the Earth bring rest and joy to your life.