Sunday, October 17, 2010

What happened?

It was at this point in the story that I took it on myself to interrupt.

"Wait, wait, wait," I cried out. "You're just gonna gloss over that whole thing where Odin just sat down and let that little punk kill him? What kinda goose droppins is that?"

The ghost of the meth zombie scratched his dirty blonde hair through his trucker hat. "Well, I was gonna, you know, work it into the story there somewhere. I was thinkin maybe there'd be this big dramatic meetin between Hiroki and his gang and the leaders of Clan Platypus where they'd be all 'Oh, Hiroki, you're so powerful! How did that happen?' and then BOOM! he'd tell em what he saw in the book."

"Naw, naw," I just shook my head, "it's gonna be crap if you tell it like that. Take it from me, I've told a story or two in my time. What you gotta do is just tell us now, so we ain't waitin the rest of the story thinkin 'What the heck happened there?' and cursin your name like we was watchin some overly dramatic movie starring the latest pretty boy actor in his 'break-out role' but it's actually just three and a half hours of people talkin quietly about stuff that doesn't really matter."

"What, you mean, like, just TELL you what happened?"

"Yeah, that's exactly what I'm sayin. I ain't standin out here in this scorched wasteland under this freaky blackened sky talking to an army of former meth addicts what has been turned into ghosts for my health, you know. I'm just tryin to make sure my home doesn't end up the same way, you know?"

"Well," he spat, "I guess if that's the way you want it."

"Sure do."

"Well, allrighty then. It turns out that what Hiroki had seen on that paper was a recipe for breaking what was called the 'narrator spell'. I ain't gotta spell it all out for ya, but, in short, it was a spell that trapped a person in a story. And the writer of the story could get that character to do whatever in the heck he wanted him to do. The Grimoire of Necrography had cast this wicked thing on the first person who'd wandered by it in almost 30,000 years, which happened to be Hiroki. The whole trip to the world tree and the burning and everything was all a plan by the Grimoire to get Hiroki to do his bidding. You see, the book, being just a book, couldn't get all the ingredients it needed to make the spell permanent. Apparently, and I ain't no kind of wizard or whatever, to make a person under that kind of spell do what you want, you gotta write it in blood, which wasn't really a problem for the Grimoire. It just chewed up a couple rats that were wanderin the shelves and used their blood. But, to make the spell permanent, the caster had to write the victim's name in god blood, which ain't easy to acquire.

"So the book concocted the whole scavenger hunt for ingredients to help heal Tommy, the deaf, dumb and blind pinball wizard. What the Grimoire didn't count on is that Odin, whether in a story or not, is a crafty old codger who's always lookin for ways to twist the fabric of fate. He also knows everything about anyone who eats and drinks in his hall. So, when Odin took Hiroki for the feast, he found out that he was under the narrator spell. Odin knew the Hiroki was gonna need god blood from somewhere, and on that tree, there was really only three choices.

"Knowin all this, Odin contrived to hide for a bit and then follow Hiroki back to his master. When he saw it was the Grimoire, he knew he had to destroy the thing. He'd had some dealings with that awful book in the past, and knew it was evil from cover to cover. Well, except the title page. That was just bureaucracy.

"Turns out that, a couple thousand years ago, Odin used that very book and the narrator spell to lock up his brother, Loki. They'd always been at odds and Odin was always pickin on Loki, cause he was the younger brother. One day, Loki decided he'd had enough and went to Baldr to ask for a hammer. He was plannin to nail the door of Odin's hall shut. It was just gonna be a little prank. He wanted to catch Odin comin out the window of his hall and was hopin his pants would snag on a nail or somethin and come off as he was comin out.

"Baldr wasn't the brightest sun in the sky, though, and he thought Loki was askin him for a warhammer. He got to makin the hammer, but his muscles got tired. So, he set everything aside and went to bed. Going to his forge groggy in the morning, he got to thinkin about how his muscles were sore. He kept chanting to himself 'Sore, sore, sore" as he stoked the fire. Eventually, that turned into 'Thor, Thor, Thor'. And he convinced himself that he'd been making the hammer for Thor.

"Needless to say, Thor was a little surprised when his uncle brought him the greatest warhammer ever created. When he asked his uncle why the gift, Baldr responded 'Oh, that's right! That was for Loki! He was gonna use it to get back at your dad!'

"As you can imagine, Thor was pretty shocked. He went straight to his dad to tell him about this. Odin, being the totally level headed and rational being that he is, pulled out the Grimoire and wove the spell that would make Thor kill Baldr and get Loki blamed for it. Then, to make sure no one would undo the spell, he ripped out the next two pages of the book, which conveniently explained how to do just that.

"And that's how those Norse gods got themselves locked in that terrible cycle they were in. Then, when Hiroki came along, Odin saw a way out for himself and his family. So, he got the two pages he'd ripped out of the book and, as I said before, followed the young ninja back to the Grimoire.

"So, he sat himself down in that chair and showed Hiroki the way to undo the spell. The only way, according to the book, was to put a period on the narration. Sounds easy, but the catch was that the period had to be made with fresh god blood. When Hiroki hesitated in this, Odin let the page slip and showed him the narration spell that had been written for Loki and Baldr.

"When he saw that, Hiroki knew that he wasn't just doing this for himself, but for Odin, too. Naturally, he didn't know where in the book the Grimoire had written his story, so Hiroki put all his might into the blow and drove the staff, with its flat, round end, all the way through the book, effectively putting a giant period on each page.

"So, there ya have it, that what was goin on with the book. Satisfied?"

"Almost," I said, thinkin. "What about that explosion, though? What happened there?"

"Oh, that?" He seemed surprised I'd asked. "The Grimoire of Necrography, being one of the oldest dark magic texts in the universe, contained a whole lot of magic in its pages. When Hiroki destroyed the book, all that magic was released at once and formed, as magic will, a fiery hurricane."

"And it didn't hurt him none?"

"Not one bit. The staff, being made from a magic tree and soaked in the blood of three gods, brothers no less, soaked up all that magic and became one of the most powerful weapons ever known. And that's what you need."

"Super," I said, "and where do I find this staff?"

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Two months for two pages.

When Hiroki came to, he felt as if months had past. His mouth felt like a whole army of tooth gnomes had been in there pasting up Andre the Giant posters, got tired of that, and then decided to carpet the place in thick, deep, green 70s shag. You know, the kind of carpet you'd expect to find in the back of a van if it had a viking warrior riding a horse/motorcycle hybrid jumping over a tank full of vicious narwhals with laser beam eyes painted on the side. Which is, coincidentally, exactly what the young man had been dreaming about. And he was pissed that he was awake, laying in his dusty cold room filled with weaponry and poison instead of riding his horseocycle.

"mmmmm" he mumbled into the floor.

"What was that?" asked the grimoire. "I didn't quite catch that."

Hiroki cleared his throat. "I said no."

"No?" shot back the book. "No what?"

"No," said Hiroki calmly, sitting up, "no, I won't do this. I won't be bound like some animal put out for show. All my life, I've been told what to do, who to be, who my father was, how to be him. Well, I'm sick of it. I'm sick and tired of being tied up, and I won't do it any more." As he said this, he rose unsteadily to his feet, using the staff to prop himself up.

"What do you propose to do?" questioned the book, full of snark.

"He'll do what he has to do," came a low voice from the corner of the room.

Hiroki turned around to see Odin standing behind him. He looked older, much older than he had a week ago. His face had lost all the friendliness that Hiroki had seen when they first met. But, too, it didn't hold any of the anger he had expected to find there. Just, what, peace? Resignation? Whatever it was, it was solid as a marble statue sunk in amber and frozen in time.

Hiroki bowed formally to him, knowing that the god could sweep off his head at any moment. "Sir," he stated, "I am sorry for the damage I have caused to you and your family. I know there is no way to make amends."

To his surprise, Odin waved him off. "Bah," the old god almost shouted, "they were all gonna die anyway, eventually. Actually, I should be thanking you. Now I don't have to go through all that who-killed-who rigmarole again. Tell ya the truth, I'm pretty darn sick of living that cycle and I'm pretty excited to see what this one has to offer."

"Don't listen to him," whispered the book, "he's up to no good."

"You know what I love best about stories, boy?" Odin asked conversationally.

"No, sir," Hiroki responded, wrinkling up his brow.

"What I love best," continued the god, wandering around the room slowly, "is that each time you tell a story, you can tell it different. Sure, the gist of the thing still needs to be there, but you can change the little details. After all, a story belongs to the teller, and the teller can do whatever he wants."

"Don't trust him!" shouted the book.

Hiroki stood looking back and forth between the god and the book.

"Problem is," continued Odin, as if nothing had happened, "people think that once something is written down, it's gotta be the same way forever. But that's small thinkin."

He turned towards the table on which the grimoire lay.

"Don't let him get too close!" yelled the book. If it could have sweated, it would have. But Hiroki stood and did nothing.

The All Father went on, laying a hand on the book. "That's just the short view. In reality, books may last a little longer, but in the end, they ain't any more permanent than a story, or even a character in a story. I mean to say, a book's gonna break down eventually. They get passed around from hand to hand, sometimes a page or two falls out. In the case of a smart book, maybe it makes sure a couple pages fall out."

He picked up the book and opened it up, seemingly at random. "Oh, what's this?" he asked, false surprise in his voice. He laid the book open on the table and turned it towards Hiroki, who didn't move.

"He lies!!!" shouted the book.

"It's ok, boy," said Odin reassuringly, "come have a look." He waved the young ninja over.

And so Hiroki came, and looked at the book. He didn't know what he was looking for at first, so he read over the pages. Then he saw it. He looked up at Odin, an expression of concern on his face. "It jumps from 1488 to 1493," he said.

"That's right," Odin nodded. "Seems to me, two pages musta fell outta that book somewhere along the way, and gotten lost to history. Course, if a man knows where to look and who to talk to, maybe he could find those couple of pages and maybe, if one were to see those two pages, there could be a way out."

"And do you know where to look and who to talk to?" asked Hiroki.

"I didn't trade my eye for nothin, boy," said Odin gruffly, reaching into his vest. "You see, I just happened to be carrying these with me for the past couple months or so," he pulled two pieces of yellowed paper from his pocket. "And it also just happens that these pages are marked, let's see..." he pretended to read them. "Oh, lookie there, pages 1489, 1490, 1491 and 1492. Isn't that amazing?"

"Run!" Yelled the book to Hiroki. "Get away from this man! He will destroy us all."

"Not quite," Odin said. "I think maybe, if a boy was smart and had the right tools, he could maybe read these couple of pages and then decide for himself what he wanted to do. And it also seems to me that anyone that wasn't willing to let him make up his own mind was maybe manipulating him into things. What do you say, boy?"

"SAY NO!!!" Yelled the book, almost deafeningly. "SAY NOOOOOOO!!!!!!"

But he didn't. Hiroki nodded, ever so slightly. Odin smiled a small, sad smile, and put the two pages back into the book. There was a moment of blinding light, and a sound like a frog being stepped on in reverse, and then the pages lay in the book as if they'd always been there.

Strangely, the book was silent as Hiroki leaned over and read the two missing pages. Whether the two pages or fear had silenced the book, Hiroki couldn't say, but he didn't much care. When he'd read the two pages he simply nodded a bit.

Then he looked up at Odin. "You're sure about this?"

"Sure," responded Odin. "Seems like maybe couldn't be worse than the alternative."

Hiroki thought for a moment, sucking on his lip a bit. As he did, Odin grabbed the book and sat down in a chair to read it. He made hmmm and awww and aha noises as he thumbed through it. He barely felt it when Hiroki's staff punched through his chest and buried itself in the book.

Odin's head dropped back to regard Hiroki one last time. "Freedom," he whispered.

The firestorm that followed will live forever shrouded in legend and mystery. Some say that ghosts tortured the residents of Clan Platypus headquarters for months. Others say that they were surrounded by fire that never burned and never consumed. Others say that they were plagued with laser-eyed narwhals that were kind and offered to clear the dishes after every meal. Regardless of what happened, at the end of it all, Hiroki stood in his room, his hair gone completely white, holding the staff still in his hand.

His weapon now thrummed with a steady power. It was hard to say how it was felt. It was something like a warmth and something like a pressure, but not at all like either. He breathed deeply but steadily.

"Holy cow! Hiroki?" Yelled his companions from his door. "Is that you?"

"Yes," he said to the wall, "it is me." He turned to face them and they all gasped. The storm, in addition to turning his hair all to white, also took one of his eyes.

"Are you....are you all right?" One of his friends asked.

"Better than all right," he stated, plucking an eye patch off the end of his staff. "I'm free."

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Returnin from a road trip

You ever been on a road trip? Sure ya have. Everyone's been on a road trip. Well, maybe not everyone. I bet there are some people somewhere that ain't got no roads or ideas of what a 'trip' is, and they prolly don't take a lot of road trips. They prolly also wear gourds over their junk and hunt with sharpened sticks, which is cool for them. I mean, I prefer wearin layer after layer of cotton and silk over my junk and I prefer huntin with a dull stick, but that's just my thing, you know?

Anyway, if you ever been on a road trip, you know that it always starts out as fun, you and your buddies got a cooler full of fried chicken and pasta salad, a week off work, and the open road stretchin out before you. The cool wind of freedom is blowin through your soul and you feel like anything's possible. Maybe you'll drive to Vegas, break the house, spend all your earnings on a fleet of racing cars and C4, go out to the desert and blow the crap out of a pile of McClaren F1s and, just to spite all those suckers who had to work, you ain't gonna take pictures of it. Or maybe you'll drive out to the coast, swim in the ocean, get caught up in the undertow and find yourself getting dragged down to a mysterious underground bubble city where the merpeople make you their king for a week and then you'll meet a beautiful mermaid who falls hopelessly in love with you, but you gotta tell her you gotta go back to Iowa because, as beautiful and enchanting as her undersea world is, it just ain't your world, but you primise you'll write, and you will, for a time, but it will slowly drop off until a day comes twenty years from now when you're wondering whatever happened to her and, just then, your doorbell rings and there's a boy of about 20, who looks to be 3/4 human and 1/4 fish callin you daddy and explainin that he just got accepted to Iowa State and could he stay with you for a bit while he gets his feet wet, no pun intended.

Yeah, that first hour of a road trip is filled with hope and dreams. Then the farting starts. The guy sitting in the back sleep, lulled by the heat and the hum of the tires on the road starts drifting off and losing control of his methane. At first, you try to pass it off by laughing. After all, you ain't gonna let a little butt bubble get in the way of your pile of explodin cars or aquatic love child. But as he slips deeper and deeper into his car-induced trance, his breakfast of last year's cottage cheese mixed with a finely aged durian comes back to haunt everyone else on the trip. So, you gotta make a compromise and roll down the window, which changes the air pressure in the car and blows out everyone's ears. Now, there's no way to listen to the super awesome road trip mix tape you put together but you daren't roll the window back up for fear of vomiting in your own lap. And the sound has woken up Mr. Backseat, who is now all grumpy because his nap got disturbed. So he starts yellin about how it ain't fair he's gotta be stuck in the back seat and the two people in the front seat start yellin back about his fartin and a fistfight breaks out. Then you get pulled over by a cop for runnin over some endangered species of goose while you were takin care of business with Farts McPoot in the back seat and you find yourself in jail. And, because you don't want to give up the dream of the greatest vacation ever, you try gettin the other inmates into singin "Don't Stop Believing" but they're just not into it. Finally, you get released on your own recognizance when you've only got 12 hours to get back home so you can go back to work. So, the whole drive home is a bitter, sullen prolonged silence and, when you finally stumble back into your digs, all you want is a shower and a nap.

That is exactly how young Hiroki felt when he got back to Clan Platypus' headquarters. All he wanted was a shower and a nap. So, usin all his ninja skills, he snuck back into his room. Being the prodigy he was, he avoided being spotted by the guards, the patrolling evil spirits and even the super advanced sentry robots. But, no matter how quiet and cloaked in shadows he was, he couldn't sneak past the Grimoire of Necrography, which was laying on the table of his room.

"Did you get it?!" shouted the book as soon ad Hiroki stepped past the sliding paper doors.

"How did you get in here?" asked the young ninja, knowing that he'd left the book in the library.

"Perhaps I didn't make this clear before," the Grimoire stated, "I am THE GRIMOIRE OF NECROGRAPHY!!!! BOW BEFORE MY POWER MORTAL!!!!!"

"No, no," Hiroki said, holding up his hand, "you made that clear. I just...I don't have hands or legs. Physically, how did you move from the library to here?"

"Oh..." mumbled the Grimoire, much quieter, "I...well...promise you won't tell anyone?"

"Sure, whatever," sighed the ninja.

If the book had eyes or a head, it would have looked around to make sure no one was listening. "I got someone to carry me."

"Oh," Hiroki nodded, "I guess that makes sense. I don't see anything wrong with..."

"BUT I'M THE GRIMOIRE OF NECROGRAPHY!!!!!!" interrupted the book.

Hiroki held up his hands again. "Shhhh. I know you are. You made that crystal clear before. Why is it a big deal if someone carries you? I carried you."

"YES BUT..."

"Shhhhhhh" Hrioki hushed the book again.

"Oh, sorry, *aherm*" the book continued softer, "I'm the most powerful book ever created. I create and destroy kingdoms at a whim. I am used to commanding, but you ninjas, you're all about politeness. I actually had to say please to get someone to carry me. ME! I said please!"

"Oh, gee, that's too bad. I'm so sorry you had to say please to someone to accomplish something." shot back the ninja.

"Are you being sarcastic?"

"Who, me? Nooooooooo. Well, yes."

"That's not nice," scolded the book. "You wouldn't understand how hard that was for me."

"Don't talk to me about hard!" insisted Hiroki. "I killed two gods and burned a sacred world!"

"I know."

"You know?"

"Yeah, I know."

"How did do you know?" asked Hiroki suspicously.

The book sighed, "Open to page 458."

The young ninja was taken aback. It couldn't be possible, could it? All that Loki said about being trapped in stories and unable to get out? He proved that wrong, didn't he? Loki was dead and so was Baldr. Lokie couldn't kill Baldr like the story said because they were both already dead.

Hiroki's mind was racing as he flipped through the book and, at the top of page 458 saw

"Then I am not responsible," said Hiroki standing, "for this!" He swung the saw in a wide arc, catching Loki across the throat. As a bright rooster tail of blood shot from the god's jugular, his eyes went wide with surprise.

Then he fainted.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Mr. Wilson

I only flew through space once. And when I did that, I was on a spacey pirate ship. You may remember that, it happened about a week before me helpin myself to wage war on this here meth planet, which is what I'm doin right now. I feel like I may have digressed from that story just a smidge, and I'm gonna get to tellin you how that whole mess went and got itself resolved and everything, but first I gotta finish this here thing with Hiroki and that stick he took away from the world tree that he burned right up.

Like I was sayin, when I flew through space, I had myself some time to think. I ran into a little problem with that. You see, I don't much like thinkin. I prefer pontificatin or combobulatin or the occasional fancyin, but I don't hold no truck with none of that thinkin. So instead, I played me some cribbage. It's a great way to pass the time without thinkin. Some people will tell ya that a tv is the best way to have no thinkin time, and others will tell ya booze or other drugs is the best way to have non thinkin time, but they're wrong. In fact, they couldn't be wronger if they bought a wrong sized wrong directly from the wrong factory in Wrong, Virginia, paid for it using the wrong credit card number and had it shipped to the wrong address. All that stuff does is give you brain cavities.

Cribbage, on the other hand, is the game of kings. Sure, they're drunken, belligerent kings that make up the rules as they go along, but they're still kings. It allows you to hone your wits and counting skills while you zone out and think about other stuff, like a bikini made out of donuts. The thing about cribbage, though, is that you need a partner to play it with. You can't play cribbage with yourself because you'll cheat. You know you will. You'll tell yourself that you're gonna play each side like you would play a normal game, not knowin the other hand. But you won't. You'll do as much as you can to give yourself the best hands possible just so when you're down at the local waterin hole, you can talk about the time you got a 23 point hand.

I only ever knew one person who overcame that difficulty; old Mr. Wilson from over in Westerville. He'd grown up on a pig farm and so didn't have what you might call a refined sense of smell. He one time ran over a whole family of skunks on the road and got them lodged up under his car, sittin directly on his muffler. For a whole month, whenever he drove anywhere, people in a 30 mile radius could be treated to the delightful scent of hot skunk. But Mr. Wilson didn't know anything about it until his ol hound decided the skunk had been properly cooked and got himself up under the truck. Mr. Wilson had to go into town to get himself some fertilizer. So he walked out to his truck, saw the hound's fat tail waggin from under the truck, grabbed the dog and yanked. He pulled out one happy hound dog with a whole pile of skunk in its mouth.

Well right then, he solved the mystery of why Sheriff Tom had caught him speedin, turned on his lights to chase, and then turned 'em right back off. No sheriff in his right mind was gonna approach that truck to write out a speeding ticket. I mean, his eyes would be waterin so much he couldn't see the ticket book anyway, so it was an excercise in futility. Ol' Mr. Wilson wasn't about to give up that kind of power, so he put the skunk pile back under the truck, and threw some pig slop on top of it in order to glue it down. Then he strung some chicken wire round the running boards of his truck to keep the hound out. And with that, he had himself legal immunity from most minor traffic offenses.

Of course, the downside is that ol' Mr. Wilson, after spendin months drivin around in a cloud of baking skunk and pig effluviva, was havin major problems findin himself a cribbage partner. He tried playin fairly by himself, but fell into the same cheatin trap we always fall into.

Always resourceful, Mr. Wilson thought himself up a plan. He'd play with himself, but between switchin hands, he'd hit himself in the head with a hammer. That way, he'd forget what the old hand was, and sometimes, his name as well.

Mr. Wilson kept up his single game of cribbage until the day he, bein a little confused after playin 20 straight games, hit himself with the wrong end of the hammer, shut down his higher brain function, and wandered off into the woods, where he was promptly eaten by a bear. At first, we couldn't believe it. But we waited a couple days and the bear passed the hammer and the stinkiest pair of overalls you've ever seen, giving us definitive proof.

Once we had the proof, we had to legally declare that Wilson was eaten by the bear after hittin himself in the head with the wrong end of a partially blunt instrument. As a consequence, the judge declared the bear to be the new legal owner of the Wilson pig farm because of some quirky law that's been on the books for an eon. It wasn't all bad. That bear has a knack for pig farmin and he stinks a whole lot less. We still see him down at the co-op sometimes and listen to him complain about the price of feed and how the politicians are ruining things for bears in this country.

I guess what I'm tryin to say here is that, when you're in space, you got a lot of time to think. Hiroki found that out as he drifted back to his home planet. Like I said before, he was sick of bein told what to do, and especially sick of livin in his father's shadow. He needed to make a plan. He needed to get his head together. Most of all, he needed a vacation.

**********************Author's Note***********************
I didn't want to put this as a seperate post, but I feel my readers deserve an explaination about the drop off in post frequency in the past couple of months. I've been meaning to say something for awhile, but you know how it is. If you're not interested, it's cool, you don't need to read this part. There won't be anything that affects the story. You know, except for the part where I tell you Hiroki is actually a woman and can shoot lightning out of her fingers. But, seriously, besides that, there's not going to be anything important for the story.
The simple fact is, I've got a lot on my plate right now. My wife and I are expecting our first child in October or November. We couldn't be happier, but it does require me to do some more around the house. Second, I am in the process of getting another bachelor's degree. We really want to raise our child in the US, but there are really no jobs for someone with my particular set of skills. Let me amend that. There ARE jobs, but nothing that is willing to pay me a salary that I could live on. With that realization, I need to get myself a different set of skills which can get me a job which will allow me to raise my child in decent surroundings. Finally, I have two other projects I'm doing. I am seeing some small success in DJing as well. It's not huge, but I have gotten residency on an internet radio station (Boost.FM) and I'm playing shows there twice a week. I also have a weekly podcast I do with a friend of mine (Kings of Effin Awesome (adults only)). If you're interested, you can subscribe to it in the iTunes store or at
With all that going on, I haven't had the time to spend on Pat that I would like to have. Also, to be honest, I keep trying to get to the end of this story line so I can get Pat back to a place of storytelling that suits him much better. I tried going big with this whole meth-world thing, and it seems to have gotten out of hand. However, because I read a lot myself, I'm not willing to kill a story in the middle and leave people wondering what happened. Right now, I'm sort of stuck in a position where the voice of Pat isn't being used right, but I need to bend the story back to a place where it can be used right.
I honestly don't know if I'll get back to posting with the frequency I was earlier. I've been trying to post once a week, but we all know how that has worked out so far. In the end, I still want to write Pat, and I want to write other things as well. I just have to get through what Ken Keasy called "the suck" in order to get it to the level it needs to be at. You deserve in and Pat deserves it.
Oh, and Alistair is secretly a robot. Take THAT giver uppers! :)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Bustin out all over

"I believe this is your branch," said Loki to Hiroki.

Hiroki just nodded his little head, bent down and got to work cuttin that branch. And let me tell ya, nothin clears existential dillema out of your head like a little bit of wood cuttin. I remember back when I was 18 or 19 or somewhere about there. I got myself hired down at the shoe factory, puttin the paper in the toes of the shoes. Of course, this was long before all that kinda stuff was outsourced to 2-year-old Chinese robots or whatever. Anyhoo, there was this guy named Tony who worked at the factory as a box polisher. He'd been polishin them boxes in 12 hour shifts for neigh on 15 years, so he was a little loopy in the head. People said he took the polish home at night to drink it, but I don't think that was true, because I figure his farts would be shiny if he did and, even though they smelled like turpentine, they sure as poop on a pringle wasn't shiny. Regardless of the reflective properties of his gas, this Tony was a real well read sort. He told me once that he had himself a PhD in literature or some such thing, but didn't want to deal with all the politickin of a university job, so he polised boxes, read and wrote criticism in his spare time. At the time, I was gettin mighty interested in readin, but I could mostly only get my hands on old newspapers because I'd been banned from the library for reasons I won't go into right now. When Tony heard I liked readin, he gave me a couple books he said were like to blow my mind.

He gave me a couple books by these guys, wait, there's a 'z' in there somehwere. Good lord, that boy's name is right hard to spell. Anyway, he's this guy who talks a lot about Superman for some reason and says God gone and died. Then he gave me this other book by this Kafka guy. He wrote this story about a guy wakin up as a giant bug one day and his family gettin all mad at him because he can't go to work no more and feed them. Also, they don't seem to like bugs too much from the beginning. At first, I thought he was there when I went through the whole hullaballoo at the library, but then I read the intro and saw he had written that book quite a bit before the library thing, so either he was psychic or he was really writing about the plight of the working man in a society that only cared about his ability to produce wealth for the elite and then discarded him as soon as his productive days were over, showing that, in an industrial society, man has no inherent value as a person, but only as a means to an end. I felt this reflected somewhat on my position as a shoe stuffer. I started feelin like I wasn't nothin but a cog in this big machine, totally without control over my own actions. So, you know what I did? I cut down a tree. With a rock. Then I killed a rabbit with a piece of the tree I'd just cut down and roasted the rabbit with the rest of the tree. In short, I got right back to my primitive roots, where I was in control of my basic survival. It was right then I decided to forgo the whole shoe stuffin business for a couple years and light out for the territories, as it were. That when I got into all the alligator wrestlin mess and all that I believe I've gone over before. But if you don't remember, let me sum up. I wrestled alligators for a bit. There ya go, all caught up.

I guess what I'm tryin to say here is that, when you feel like you ain't nothin but a tiny little piece of a great big ol' machine, ain't nothin better to cure your malaise than cuttin down a tree. Barrin that, you could cut off part of a tree that it roughly tree sized. So, based entirely on my own experience with ennui, I woulda said that Hiroki would have gotten his mind straight in sawin off that tree branch and then woulda gone out to wrestle some alligators for awhile before goin back home and accepting his place as a tool of the corporate machine. I guess in this case it would be a literary machine, but that don't matter none. But instead, he did somethin crazy.

He was sittin there sawin at the branch and he asked, "So, whatever action we do has been chosen for us, right?"

Loki nodded.

"And so we our actions are not subject to our own will, but some sort of fate made by the story teller?"

Loki nodded again.

"Then I am not responsible," said Hiroki standing, "for this!" He swung the saw in a wide arc, catching Loki across the throat. As a bright rooster tail of blood shot from the god's jugular, his eyes went wide with surprise. Now, like I said, I may have wrestled an alligator or two so I could assert my independance and get in touch with my personhood, but I never really considered deicide as a valid option. I guess I was wrong. It worked out pretty well for Hiroki.

Something had come loose in the boy. He was tired of everyone and everything telling him what to do and who to be. All his life, he was the son of this or the member of that. He was used as a tool by Clan Platypus and would never be anything more, if they had a say in it. And what was his rebellion? Pizza. What the heck kind of rebellion is going for pizza and playing pinball? That ain't hardly no rebellion at all. And now, now that he was thought he was doing something on his own, something good and kind, he was used as a tool by the gods. Gods, for god's sake! Well, he wasn't havin none of that. He cut down his tree limb, covered both ends in Loki's blood and went on the hunt.

First, he went to Al's cabin. He kicked the door of that sucker in so hard that splinters flew across the room and killed the unkillable pig. Spinning his new staff just like he'd learned when he was three, he went whirling and twirling through the hall of the undead warriors; a compact, woody tornado of death. And because his weapon was made from the world tree, those whom he killed stayed dead. There wasn't none of that "risin in the evenin to drink and carouse" stuff they'd been doin up until then. Many of them warriors, not realizin what was happenin, just drank and laughed, waiting for their turn to be slaughtered. Some jumped up and started swingin swords and axes just because they enjoyed doin that sorta thing. Sides formed in the room and the battle was joined full force. But Hiroki was his own side. He waited until one group of Vikings would form up behind him, hoping to press into the enemy ranks, then the turned and slaughtered those nearest to him. Thinking he was pulling a brilliant double-cross, the enemy side would group up behind him to press back, but they got the end of the stick as well. All the warriors in the hall died that day. Their souls did not move on to some better, more perfect world. They lay in the spilled grog and pig drippins on the floor of that hall, never to move again.

After the slaughter of the Einherjar, Hiroki went to visit Baldr. The lame god saw him enter and attempted to arm himself. But, god or no god, it's right tough to move faster than a ninja when you got two bum legs. Hiroki's staff met him in the teeth and mingled the brothers' blood for the first time since they were in the womb together.

But the killing wasn't enough. He needed to wreak a destruction such as had never been seen. Hiroki tore the shirt off of Baldr and wrapped both ends of his bo in rags made from the dead god's clothes. Then he spotted an oil lamp on Baldr's shelf. He smashed it with one end of his staff, covering the rags in the oil. Using his lightning ninja speed, he twirled the staff 180 degrees before the oil had time to splash on the ground and soaked the other end. Then he thrust both ends of his oily q-tip into Baldr's forge, lighting up the former tree branch with the fire of the gods.

With his new firey stick of death, Hiroki ran through the tree, killing all those who came in his path and setting the limbs on fire wherever he could. The fire spread slowly at first, but when it reached the thinner outer branches, it ballooned. Before Hiroki could find Odin, the smoke and the heat began to overwhelm him. He took one final breath, held it in, and jumped off the planet. As he was slingshotting around the sun, Hiroki got one last glimpse of the space tree, lit up like the worst Christmas imaginable. He knew that Odin would be coming for him and he would be prepared. After all, he was master of his own destiny now.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Tales within tales

I'm gonna admit right up front here that I ain't got much experience in the whole "gonna go do somethin that is gonna get someone killed and even though I don't wanna do it I've been told by a couple gods that I gotta do it so I'm sorta resigned to bein complicit in murder, but that's prolly ok because I have been raised by ninjas, after all, but I still want to understand what's going on and is there really such a thing as fate" thing. I have, however, had quite a lot of experience with chicken wings, which is sorta the same thing. I been sittin on my porch of a Saturday afternoon thinkin to myself that what I could really go for is a whole mess of chicken wings, some fries and a pitcher of frosty barley pop while I'm watchin whatever's on the game. At that point in time, it's pretty well assured that I'm gonna find myself in Ed's Chicken Shack and Discount Record Store in a couple hours with a veritable charnel ground of chicken bones heaped up before me like I'm the barbarian who conquered the chicken yard, one or two fry ends sitting among a field of salt, a forest's worth of orangified, greasy napkins strewn about like the petticoats of a fast woman in the 50s and a quarter pitcher of my favorite ale sweating on the table as I work up the courage and stomach space to polish that sucker off. I know this is gonna happen as soon as the thought pops in my head. But I also know that I will wake at 1:30 am the following morning with a family of starving flame beavers attempting to chew their way out of my body, lower end first. So I sit there in my rockin chair, whittlin away at whatever project I'm currently on, and debate myself. I say, "Pat, them wings is mighty delicious." Then I retort, "I ain't denyin that, Pat, but that hot sauce ain't gonna do your stomach a good turn, and if you spend too many more nights sleepin in your recliner, your back's gonna be so twisted and deformed that you'll be able to sit a magazine on the toilet tank while you're doin your business and read it just fine. And you know you're gonna be doin a whole lot of business after them wings." Then I'll shoot back, "But PAT! They're delicious!!!!!" And so it goes. Before I know it, I'm sittin right where I knew I would be from the beginning, pile of bones up to the ceiling, leanin back in my chair and burpin fire, gettin ready for the pain to come.

So, even though it ain't never led to anyone dyin or anything like that, I know a little somethin about inevitability. I bet Hiroki was feelin a little like confused-over-chicken-wings Pat when he was given the magical saw and sent off with Loki to get himself a piece of the tree.

That's prolly why he started askin questions like, "Are you really going to kill him? Baldr, I mean?"

"Oh, no," replied Loki, "I couldn't possibly kill my own brother. There's almost nothing worse than a fratricide. I'm going to have Thor do it for me."

"But why? You're going to be chained to a rock and then destroy the world!" Hiroki was shouting by now.

Loki lowered his eyes, "I know."

"Then why do it?! Is a hammer so important?"

Loki sighed, "I don't have a choice. And neither do you." Then he wept a little.

The young ninja wrinkled his brow. This was very unexpected. "What do you mean?"

Loki pulled himself together with visible effort. "I love my brother," he said. "And I hate seeing him die, but it happens over and over and over, and there's nothing I can do to stop it."

"Why not?"

"Because I'm just a story, that's why!" He shouted, throwing his arms into the air. "I'm just some words, some pictures in someone's head! And so are you!"

Hiroki was taken aback. "I am not a story, I am Hiroki Hatayama, son of Tetsuo Hatayama, member of Clan Platypus, and I am a real person."

"No," Loki replied, "no you're not. You are naught but words and imagination, Hiroki. So are my brothers, so is this tree, so is all of it."

"It can't be true," Hiroki gasped. "How do you know this?"

"A little birdy told me." Seeing that this answer didn't satisfy his audience, Loki went on. "As you may know, my brother Odin once hung himself in a tree for nine days, as a sacrifice to himself. During those nine days, a raven came to him and offered him omniscience in exchange for his eye. As you saw, he took it."

The ninja nodded, "That's in the Havamal, I believe."

Loki chuckled, "It is the Havamal. But yes, you know the story. What's not in there is that, in gaining omniscience, Odin learned something he could not bear alone. So he talked me into sacrificing for the knowledge as well."

Hiroki looked at him askance. "You still have both eyes."

"Smart kid," Loki shot back. "The raven didn't want my eye. I had to sacrifice something more. And so Baldr dies, I get chained to a rock with water dripping on my head for thousands of years, and when I get out, everything gets destroyed. And what do I get in exchange? I get to know that we're all really just stories.

"Listen, boy, I know you don't like to hear it, but it's true. This place we live in, it's not as it appears. We're just words and images. And the nature of our universe is such that, when a story is told or remembered, it becomes real. So just now, when I told you of Odin in the tree, that was really happening. Somewhere out in a far off corner of the universe, there was a real Odin hanging in a real tree somewhere.

"And me, I can imagine a man standing on a planet speaking to an army of ghosts about this very story and that is real, too! And maybe that man imagines, I don't know, a man sitting at a magic box where he presses some buttons and makes all those stories come to life, something crazy like that. Even that is real. It's all real. And we're all imagining each other and making it real. We're all products of each other's imaginations, you see.

"So whenever you read a story or tell a story or even remember a story, it becomes real all over again. Each time you read about me getting my nephew to kill my brother, it has to happen somewhere. But I'm omniscient from that first sacrifice and so I know that I do it over and over and over again. I have no way to stop it or to not know about it."

Hiroki fell to his knees. "Can it be true? Am I nothing more than some ink, some words?"

"It's true," said Loki.

"Then how can I go on? What meaning does any of this have?"

"That's a good question, boy."

Friday, May 28, 2010

Back to Bob's

Hiroki got hisself up, said goodbye to the large, hairy men who he'd been havin his dinner with, and followed the two btohers out of the grand hall. When he got outside, he was right confuzzled for a second. He'd been in there so long that he'd plum forgot that the whole eating and drinking hall was nothin more than a broke down shack on the outside. He was fixin to ask his hosts about it, but they was engaged in a furious, but very very quiet, rhetorical contest of some sort, complete with hand gestures and not a little of subtle pushing.

The two brothers kept their heads bowed next to each other the whole way back to Bob's shack. So Hiroki didn't get much of a chance to ask the questions that was buggin him so much. He weren't no fool, that Hiroki. He'd done all his reading about mythology in his ninja propaganda classes. You see, mythology was a required area of study for all ninjas bent on world domination (and I imagine others bent on world domination would benefit from it as well) because it's a whole heck of a lot easier to dominate a culture when you can prove their god/gods/angry sea trolls approve of what your doin than if you just went in there with your fire and your swords and your crazy new language and food that smells like fish that's been wrapped in raw egg and sat in the sun for a good week before you went and threw it into that well. Heck, even the Romans knew that much about conquering stuff. But anyway, because he knew his history and his mythology and everything, Hiroki was sorta uncomfortable about the situation he found himself in.

Despite Al's protestations to the contrary, our young antagonist was pretty durn sure the one eyed guy was Odin, the king of the norse gods. And with that bein so, that would make "Luke" prolly Loki, Odin's brother and a trickster. Finally, that would mean that Bob, who was makin the saw, was most likely Baldr, the third brother. Now, it didn't bother Hiroki so much about them bein brothers and all, but he was pretty uncomfortable about what was about to happen. Near as he could remember it, in the story Baldr was impervious to all weapons except those made out of Yggdrasil, the world tree.

But there was all this jelousy that Loki was harboring because Baldr had made a super cool hammer for Odin's son, Thor. It's sorta like when your friend gets himself a brand new fishing rod that's got all the spinners and knockers and whatever other contraptions that they're puttin on them rods nowadays, and you really want to have one just like it but you've just lost your job down at the shoe factory and so you gotta go easy on the funds for awhile because, even though you've got some money saved up from that time you did pretty well in the lottery, you don't know how long you're gonna need that money to last and you're just hopin that you ain't endin up old and alone in a home somewhere with a giant guy everyone calls Chief because you think he just may bust out of there when the guy from that movie where he had the gay neighbor and that little dog and he was seein that waitress who was in that other thing about tornadoes or whatever with that guy who played the president a whole bunch for awhile there gets a chunk of his brain taken out and things just ain't gonna be the same again. It's a whole lot like that feeling you get then, except in the case of Loki and Baldr, it was a whole lot more murder-ey.

And along with this, Hiroki also knew that Loki got himself a piece of the world tree, fashioned an arrow out of it, and tricked Thor into killing Baldr. For that, Odin chained Loki to a rock for the rest of time and turned his sons into wolves. Then, when Loki finally got free, it started the end of the world. So, you can see how our young ninja, who was in this thing in order to help people, might be a tad uncomfortable playing an active role in the end of all the world. I know I've seen some ugly stuff comin down the pipe, like when I'm asked to buy a cake for Aunt Edna's birthday, and I don't much care to participate. I could just imagine if that cake was full of suffering, death and destruction. Usually it's just strawberry cream, though, so I'm lucky there.

Well, the three went on over to Bob's shack. As soon as Bob saw Loki, he dropped his forgin hammer and took up some super heated tongs, which he tried to use to beat his brother about the face and head, but "Luke" managed to dodge all the strikes. Now, I don't wanna sound like I'm disparagin the differently abled or anything like that cause Lord knows I got problems of my own, but when a guy with whithered legs is swinging at you, it ain't that hard to dodge, especially if you're young and in shape and a god to boot.

In his rage, Bob was just swingin and swingin away, but he didn't hit nothin but air. If he'd been ragin against the oxygen molecules wanderin around his head, he coulda felt right satisfied that his work was done. But, sadly, he was ragin against a target that was a) seeable and 2) movin around, so he didn't get himself much satisfaction. And the whole time, he was yellin "No! I ain't doin it again! You hear me? It's NOT happening!"

Eventually, the poker went cold and, since it wasn't tempered right, the end broke off in Bob's hands. Then Al sidled up to him and started whisperin in his ear. It went a whole lot like the conversation between Luke and Bob in the hall went. It started with a whole lot of no's, then some silence, then quiet aquiescence.

Bob turned to his forge and grabbed the saw blade he'd been working on. It was carved all over with runes that glowed slightly blue. Other than that, it looked to be a pretty normal hand saw. He turned back to his brothers, tossed the saw gently into the straw at his feet, and then spit on it.

"Here," he said bitterly, "take it. And gods damn you both."

Al nodded to Luke, then picked up the saw saying, "We're already damned, brother. Some of us just don't know it yet."

Luke turned then to Hiroki. "You want your staff? Get that saw and follow me."

The young ninja looked to Al, who nodded and held out the saw.

"I know what this is," declared Hiroki. "What if I refuse to take the saw?"

Al shook his head slowly. "Don't matter. It's gonna get done somehow. It's all gonna get done. Only thing that changes is you getting what you came for."

"I don't understand," said Hiroki. "Are you saying it's fate?"

"Not exactly," said Luke. "Take the saw. I'll explain on the way."

Hiroki stood still. Not believing he was a part of all this.

Al shook the saw a bit. "Take it son. It's gotta happen."

The ninja looked to Bob, who sighed. "He's right. It's gotta happen. Take the saw."

And so Hiroki reached out his hand and took the saw. Luke clapped his hands together and giggled gleefully. "Great! Now follow me."

Hiroki nodded and followed the young brother out of the shack. At the door, he turned back to Al. "Why did you lie to me?" he asked.

"How did I lie to you, son?"

"You told me you weren't Odin," stated the young ninja.

"Not true," replied Al, "I just told you I was sick of hearin the question. Don't necessarily mean that I ain't him."

Hiroki nodded, slowly, realizing that he'd been played like an accordian made of poker cards. Then he turned and left the cabin behind.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Eat and drink they did. Al took Haruki to a long, low log cabin. It weren't no regular cabin, though. Maybe it was the shape of the tree or a trick of the light, or simply just exhaustion from workin all day, but to Haruki, that cabin looked much bigger on the inside than the outside. And I ain't talkin like when you go down to the IHOP and order yourself up a mess of pancakes and they turn out to be too much for ya because you guessed the size off the picture. So you gotta sit there and wait until you free up enough room for three or four half pancakes and while you're sittin there, your ex, Betty, comes into the IHOP with her new beau Bo on her arm and she's just laughin and havin herself a good ol time. And then she sees you and feels like she's gotta say somethin and so she asks you what you're doin and you explain to her you're waitin for pancake room to open up so you can finish your meal and get to work on that new project you got goin on and she just shakes her head and sighs. So there you're sittin full of heartache and pancakes wishin things could be different than they were, but they're not and you gotta leave without finishin the meal because you can't watch 'em anymore. At least, that's how it sounded when Jared told the story to me, but I wasn't there to say. But that ain't really the point here. Havin a pancake that looks bigger on the plate than it did on the menu doesn't really seem to compare to a cabin that looks like little more than a hobo hut on the outside and looks like a three mile long, gold covered dining hall on the inside. Or maybe it does. Like I said, I wasn't there.

Of course, it was a good thing that the hall was so darned big, because it was filled straight to the brim with all manner of large, bearded men who were already well into their cups by the time the two arrived.

"Gentlemen!" boomed out Al when he walked through the door.

"Where?" responded a voice from the back. There was a rousing course of laughter.

Al snickered. "This here's my friend Hiroki. He may not be one of you, but I vouch for him and expect you to grant him every courtesy that my hall demands."

They all lifted their cups and shouted "HIROKI!!!" It sounded like giants playing patty cake. Then Al sat himself at the head of the table, seeing to it that Hiroki sat to his left.

"Have a good time," he instructed the young ninja. "We may be here awhile."

Hiroki and Al musta sat there for days, swiggin honey wine from animal horns and eatin pork that came straight off this magical pig that was wanderin around. You could carve a hunk right off the pig and, not only would it be perfectly cooked however you wanted it to be, but the pig would grow back right before your eyes. I don't know where this tree is, or even if it's still around, but I'd love to get my hands on one of them pigs. I could save me a ton of time in cookin and lookin up recipes and goin to the hospital to get my stomach pumped because you're apparently not supposed to cook pig medium rare.

Out of the blue, Al leaned over and looked Hiroki in the eye. "I seen you lookin!' he bellowed.

Hiroki looked around. Was this drunk giant really yelling at him?

"Yeah, you" Al slurred. "I seen you starin at my patch! You wanna know what happened, don't you?! DON'T YOU?!" He slammed his drinking horn on the table hard enough to lodge the point in the wood. The hall fell silent. "A thrice cursed raven ate it! A RAVEN!!! Took my darned eye right outta my head an I couldn't do nothin about it! You wanna shee? Do ya?!?!?!"

He was getting out of control and Hiroki was afraid the next place that horn might lodge was in his young ninja head. Al reached for the eye patch, began to tug. But he was drunk enough that gettin a simple eye patch off became an exercise in futility.

"Again?" The voice echoed through the silent hall like a screw droppin through an engine, pingin off everything and somehow suckin the air out of the room. "Can't you bring someone here without getting drunk and getting into a fight, brother?"

The voice got closer and closer. It belonged to a handsome young man, maybe 22 or 23, dressed in velvet and what looked to be cloth-of-gold. Most people these days and in this county would say that if he was wearin somethin like that, he'd have to be a little effeminate, but nothing could be farther from the truth. As all them writers of all them hero books may say, he cut a dashing figure.

Al waved towards him dismissively. "'smy brother," was all he said in explanation.

The young man bowed, deep and formal. "Pleased to meet you, Hiroki Hatayama. You may call me Luke."

"How did you...?"

Luke smirked. "I make it my business to know these things. Sure, I may not be as good at names as my brother here," he nodded towards Al, "but I have my methods."

"Pleased to meet you," replied Hiroki politely but cooly.

"You're in my seat kid. And I've got something my brother and I have to discuss. So, if you could..." Luke wiggled his fingers towards the ceiling.

Hiroki looked to Al. "'sok. Hessnot gonna hurt me."

So Hiroki stood, not knowing where to go. A group of burly men waved him over. He joined them to welcoming shouts of "Hiroki!!!!" And more mead guzzling. He ate and drank with the men, but kept his eye on the whispered, yet heated conversation at the head of the table.

Al was yellin "No! NO! NOOOO!" Slowly, though, it turned into, "I don't think...I see..." and finally, "Ok."

The two brothers stood together and walked over to Hiroki. Al slapped the ninja on the shoulder, somehow removing all the drunk and full the boy had felt.

"Come on, kid," he said. "It's time."

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Bob's shack

'Twernt easy, but after searchin high and low and everywhere in between, Al and Hiroki found themselves an ash stick that was perfectly straight and exactly six feet long, as the book had told Hiroki to do. Of course, findin the branch was only the beginnin of the work. Once they had the thing located, they had to find themselves a way to separate that thing from the tree what had given it life. And let me tell ya, that tree was none too ready to be partin with its parts, if ya take my meanin. Hiroki and Al musta worn through three Swiss Army Knives, a half a dozen handsaws and at least two chainsaws working their way through the first layer of bark. It got to the point where they just had to sit down and rethink the whole thing.

"Look, son," Al said, wipin the sweat from his brow, "are you sure you really need this stick? I mean, do you really need this thing? Couldn't you just, you know, take some regular straight twigs and just tape them together?"

"I'm afraid I cannot," replied Hiroki. "I am doing this project for my friend. I have saved his life and now I am responsible for him. I must to this to cure him of his blindness."

"Well, I spose I know half about that," chuckled Al. "Listen, I got this brother that could prolly whip us up a saw. He's pretty good with his hands, but not so good with his legs." He laughed. "I guess you gotta meet him before you find that funny. Anyways, I imagine he could make us up a saw fit to cut anything we might want to cut. Let's meander down and see what we could talk him into doing."

Hiroki only nodded and followed Al to another part of the tree. There, they found themselves a little, worn down hut that looked like it had been built a hundred years and fifty hurricanes ago. When they opened the door to go inside, they were blasted with heat and light that felt like a thousand suns had decided to have themselves a hugfest right in that shack. On top of that was this clangin, ringin sound like what you get when you put your timing belt on wrong. When they got into the shack, Hiroki saw that there weren't no bright, hot engine in the middle of the dirt-covered floor. Instead, there was a man swingin a hammer down onto some metal, sweat flyin off his soot-stained fists at every blow.

With his barrel chest and arms like pythons what had swallowed elephants, he woulda been the biggest man Hiroki'd ever seen, ceptin for his legs. They was withered and twisted like licorice ropes that had been left out in the sun too long. Truth be told, the man looked like a bearded barrel standing on a couple of toothpicks. And he wasn't even really standin on them, he was surrounded with this leather and brass contraption that held up his torso and let his useless legs dangle underneath him. Not to say he looked funny, mind you. Despite his mobility difficulties, Hiroki thought the guy'd have no problems putting that big hammer of his through a bank vault door, if need be. Fortunately, he was usin that hammer to bend metal to his will. He and his contraption was placed halfway between an anvil and a furnace and, when Hiroki and Al walked in, the giant man seemed to be making a spiked hammer of some sort.

While Hiroki was taking all this in, Al slipped quietly up to the man, laid a hand on his shoulder and whispered in his ear. Big boy furrowed his brow and looked at ol' one eye oddly before giving a quick nod. Al smiled, slapped him on the shoulder and turned to Hiroki.

"This here's my brother Bob," Al told the young ninja warmly. "As you can see, he's a blacksmith. I'd go so far as to say he's the best blacksmith in this tree. If you ask nicely, I bet he can help you out."

Hiroki gave a deep bow. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Bob."

"You, too, kid," Bob returned. "What is it I can do for you?"

Hiroki explained his situation. He told Bob all about his quest and the reason for it while Bob nodded slowly.

When he finished, Bob said, "I see. So you need a saw that can get that limb off?"

"Yes, sir."

"Well..." Bob gave a sidelong glance to Al, who nodded. "I suppose I can make something to help you out, but you gotta promise me something."

"Anything you wish," vowed Hiroki.

"You can't let our other brother have that saw. You gotta keep it in your possession at all times and, when you're done with it, you gotta bring the saw straight back here so I can melt it down again."

"Certainly," Hiroki bowed.

Bob turned to his brother. "Al, I don't know...are you sure about this?"

Al nodded and slapped his brother on the shoulder. "You worry too much, Bob. Look at this kid. He's trustworthy. What's the worst that could happen?"

"I dunno," Bob shrugged. "The end of the world?"

"Trust me," Al said.

Bob turned back to his anvil. "That's what you said last time," he muttered before hitting the metal on the forge. "And look where that got me."

Al shook his head, chuckling a little. He placed a gentle hand on Hiroki's shoulder and turned him towards the door. "It'll be a little bit," he explained. "Why don't you come to my place and we can eat and have a drink with some old friends of mine."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tree Meeting

Now, findin a needle in a haystack ain't easy, as the old saying would attest to. But findin a straight branch on a world-sized ash tree is like findin a needle with a 15 milimeter hole in a pile full of needles with 14 milimeter holes. Maybe it's harder than that. Maybe it's like findin integrity in politics. Yeah. THAT hard. Haruki prolly wouldn't have been able to find it at all if he didn't have himself a guide.

He was wanderin around that big ol' ash tree, just feelin overwhelmed at the enormity of the task and wishin his ma would just show up, eat everything and just be done with it all. But before he could sink too low in his depression and anxiety, that squirrel he saw before came runnin back to him, with an old man in tow. Haruki noticed two things about the man right away. First, he had himself a beard of epic proportions. I tell ya, there ain't nothin to make a man stick out in a crowd, on stage or in a tree like good beard. It's your best friend in the winter and your worst enemy in summer, but it'll get you through tough times and make you look regal doin it. If this has convinced you to grow a beard, you just go ahead and do it, but make sure it's a proper beard. Don't be growin no soul patch or anythin like that that's gonna just make you look ridiculous. And don't ever, never grow yourself just a mustache. Only cops and perverts have only mustaches. And the man approaching Haruki didn't seem like no cop or pervert. He weren't no cop because of the second thing that Haruki noticed about him, which was that he only had one eye up in his face and there ain't no one-eyed cops.

He could still have been a pervert though. I ain't sayin everyone with an awesome beard is a pervert. I mean, I got me a stylin beard (you know, to cover my superfluous chin), and I ain't no kind of pervert or nothin. And if any of y'all try to insinuate that I am, well, them's is gonna be the last words that come through your teeth.

Sorry, I'm just a bit riled up. The computin machine on which I usually do my writin and story tellin and yarn spinnin decided out of the blue for no reason to just not work any more, and I spent the last week tryin to fight it. I shoulda been doin other stuff in my life during all that time like, say, writin some stuff here, but the great and almighty computer didn't want to allow it. I didn't want to git on here and make another excuse for the delay, because I don't like doin it and I know y'all don't like hearin it. Soon, though, I'm gonna find myself an alternative. But that alternative might be handwritin everything and sendin this out as a chain letter, so be prepared to send me all of your addresses if I request them.

Anyway, Haruki didn't have much time to think about whether this bearded fella was a pervert or not because the guy belted out with a, "How do, there, stranger?! Welcome to my tree!"

"Thank you," said Haruki, bowing. "I do not mean to intrude."

"It's no big thing," the stranger roared in a voice like rocks rattlin round a coffee can, "all are welcome in my tree. Even you, Haruki Hatayama."

" did you..." the young ninja stammered.

"Oh, I make it my business knowin who's in my tree, don't you know," and the stranger touched the side of his nose and winked. "That and you're wearin your school name tag."

Haruki looked down and saw that, indeed, he was still wearing his name tag. Funny that he had forgotten to take it off. It was even funnier that he didn't remember the school givin out name tags. But, if he was wearin it, they must have give it to him. Unless...

"Wait," said Haruki, "are you Odin? I've read my Norse mythology, and you seem an awful lot like the Allfather."

The stranger sighed. "You know, I am so sick of that question! Just because you got yourself one eye and a beard, and you happen to live in an ash tree with three nice old ladies, everyone goes around thinkin you're the father of the viking gods! It's inescapable!"

"I'm sorry," said Haruki quickly, "I assumed too much. You have my deepest apologies."

"It's all right," replied the stranger, "it ain't your fault. It just all adds up and gets frustratin. I'm seriously considerin just gettin a name tag that says 'Not Odin' on it, so as to avoid all this confusion."

Haruki bowed again. "I am most sorry, sir. If you are not Odin, what may I call you?"

"You can just call me Al," the bearded man said, slapping Haruki on the back. "And don't worry non about that Odin thing. Now, what can I do ya for?"

Haruki explained his situation and his need for a straight branch from an ash tree.

When he was done, Al nodded, stroking his beard. "Well, now, that's a mighty tall order. But it's for a deaf and blind kid, you say?"

"Yes sir."

"All right, then. I dunno where there's a straight branch on this whole tree, but I'll offer ya my services you help you find one."

"Thank you, sir," Haruki bowed.

They turned to leave, two men off on an adventure together. Then Al turned and looked at Haruki. "Wait, Hatayama..." he said. "You wouldn't happen to be related to Tetsuo Hatayama, would you?"

"I am his son."

"All right, all right," Al nodded vigorously. "Maybe when we find that stick for you, you could help me with this little problem I'm having with my brother. You're just the chap for the job."

"I shall return your favor in kind," Haruki told him. "The Hatayama are an honorable family and we always return our debts."

"Great to hear!" said Al, slapping him on the back again. "Now let's go find that stick."

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Ash me no questions

I'm just gonna come right out and say it. I hates me some shoppin. I hate everything about the shopping experience. I hate drivin all the way over to the Wal-Mart in the next town (which I gotta go to because of my aforementioned troubles). I hate walkin in and havin some guy who looks like an unwrapped mummy and smells like a truck carryin Vick's crashed into a truck carryin cream cheese tries to say hi to one last person before shufflin off this mortal coil. I hate seein roughly eight metric tons of back fat wanderin around stuffed into a half ounce of tank top. I hate how they're always tryin to reorganize everything so it's easier to find. I just wanna scream at Mr. Wal "Hey, doofus! Thing'd be a lot easier to find if ya quit movin 'em all over hither and yon."

A couple months ago, I went to get myself some toothpaste and they had it next to the candy aisle, which I thought was a pretty good lesson for the kids. But then, I went back in there a couple weeks ago and it was almost within reaching distance of the angry tentacle beasts. First, I had to wander all over the store to heck and back to find where it was, then I had to go into the garden center to grab myself a shovel with which to fend off the unwanted touch of them accursed pseudopods. Then, I had to get myself a plastic sandwich bag or a glove or something to pick up the toothpaste so the acid from the tentacle beasts' spit didn't eat right through my hand. I decided to use the sandwich bag. But, just as I was pullin the bag outta the box, this employee came around the corner and started tellin me that I was stealin and I had to buy that whole box of bags now even though I already had about a hundred boxes at home from when Douggy was tryin to make himself a floaty suit for the pool. But that's neither here nor there, just so long as you know I warn't wanderin in there ever intendin to buy me no sandwich bags. But I sure as heck walked out with some. That and they charged me for the tentacle beast that I had to whack in the head with the shovel because he was gettin a mite close to the Crest. And then they had the gall to charge me for the shovel, as if it was my fault that the blade dissolved after it met tentacle beast face. In the end, I went in for toothpaste and came out with a shovel handle, a box of sandwich bags I didn't need and a dead tentacle beast in a plastic bag. In all the excitement, I'd forgotten to buy the toothpaste and so I still ended up brushin my teeth with baking soda for the next week.

I'm just tellin ya all this so that when I say that Haruki's collectin everything on his shoppin list what the Grimoire of Necrography gave him sounds to me like the worst thing that could happen to a guy, you'll be able to keep it in perspective and not go yellin about how he coulda been devoured by a Sarlak or somethin stupid like that. I know that it might be a touch more painful to get digested for a thousand years in the belly of a sand worm, I ain't stupid. But it still wouldn't match the sheer frustration of findin some of the stuff that Hatayama kid had to find to help out his pinball wizard friend.

I mean, sure, the first stuff was easy and he just had to pop on down to the seven-eleven or the eight-twelve or the thirty six-twenty four-thirty six or whatever convenience store they had on his crazy planet. He could just go on down there and pick up all the coffee and gummy worms and actual worms and dried newt's eyes that he needed. Plus he coulda picked himself up a Powerball ticket while he was at it. I know, I know. He was super rich and inherited his dad's crazy big pile of money when his dad ran off, but it's still nice to win somethin once in awhile.

His first big problem was in findin the, ahem, privates of a turtle what had killed a man. He looked all over high and low for that thing. He musta been in and out of a thousand stores and weird medicine shops. He saw enough turtle privates to last a normal person a lifetime, but none were labeled as to whether they'd been attached to a man-killer or not.

He was gettin mighty despondent and started considerin himself a different career path. In that spirit, he bought a self-help book that urged him to "think outside the box" and "solve problems creatively". It was really inspirational. And not in that "Eatin Chicken Soup With Five Maurys on Tuesdays in Heaven" sorta inspirational, but inspirational in that it taught him somethin he didn't know before and inspired him to act. So, he acted. He killed a guy with a turtle, then "harvested" what he needed. Bing, bang, boom. Problem solved.

In this way, Hiroki got himself all but one of the ingredients. Not in the "killin a guy with a turtle" way, mind you, but in a "thinkin creatively" sorta way. His final task was to get a perfectly straight stick, six feet in length, off an ash tree. And it couldn't be no trunk, either, but had to be a genuine branch of the tree. Now, I ain't no horticulturalist but I'm pretty sure that's near well impossible to do. I ain't even totally convinced you could grow yourself a tree with a perfectly straight six foot branch if you really wanted to.

I gotta say, though, until I got mixed up in this whole squirrel versus ninja business, I wasn't what you'd call a great success in life. And I been told that I gave up a lot of stuff to easily but, really, tryin all the time to get yourself a bunch of stuff is a lot harder than pickin up a jar of "I don't care" moonshine and watchin the sun set from your front porch. People say the secret to success is persistence. Well, persistence and inheritin a giant pile of money. So I guess Hiroki had all the ingredients to be successful.

So, he wandered around from planet to planet until he found the biggest durned ash tree in the universe. This thing was, at rough estimate, the size of a million, billion suns. I ain't seen it for myself or nothin, so I'm just goin on word of mouth here, but I'm relatin it as I heard it, so you can choose to believe that about its size or not.

Hiroki came up on this tree and saw these three old women sittin underneath in havin themselves a sewin circle. He politely introduced himself and clarified with them that this was, indeed, an ash tree. To which they responded that they knew durned well who he was and they knew that if he couldn't tell an ash tree from a hole in the ground, then he was about to have a lot more trouble than he realized. He just went on the assumption that these grumpy women weren't gonna tell him a whole lot more and so he might as well just go ahead and start lookin for the straightest branch he could find.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The importance of Pinball

There was young Hiroki Hatayama, sitting in the spooky section of the library, reading by candlelight and fending off the bats that would swoop down and try to bite him on the neck and other exposed skin surfaces. He pored over tome after tome while the lightning continued to strike outside, lighting up the dark corners of the library and making Hiroki promise to himself never to look into some of those corners again.

But it was late, and his eyes were heavy. His head tilted forward just a little, and he dreamt of pinball. Ahh, sweet pinball. I know y'all out there is young and don't recall how important pinball was in the '70s. Let me see if I can spell it out for ya. Pinball was, and I ain't exaggeratin here, really important in the '70s. In fact, I would go so far as to say pinball was really, REALLY important in the '70s. Does that help? I thought it would. I know me and my buddies would go straight to the pizza parlor (where all pinball machines were kept in those days) after a long day of building houses or shaving bears or whatever job we had at the time, and spend hour after hour just watching that silver ball bang and bounce around while the points racked up. Everyone under the age of 60 became a master in the game and, for a time, we considered doing away with elections in the House of Representatives and just selecting people according to pinball high score. I gotta say, after watchin C-Span over the last 20 years, I think we may have been a lot better off if we'd gone with that plan.

Of course, where I was goin with this is that, of course Hiroki was dreamin of pinball. We was all dreamin of pinball at the time. We weren't all bein awakened from out pinball dreams by hearin our name bein whispered, even though we knew we was alone, which is the situation Hiroki found himself in.

"Hiroki..." came the soft, seductive voice, like warm waves crashing over a supermodel.

He awoke with a start, "Wha? Huh? Screw you tilt!! If you weren't aware, this was the most common thing to say when being awoken in the 70s, followed real close by, "Maybe big hair ain't that great," and "Peanut farming rocket scientist!"

Hiroki looked around, but he didn't see nothin or no one who coulda been talkin to him. He was about to dismiss it all as the large peperoni and anchovy he'd had for dinner and go back to sleep, but he heard it again. "Hiroki....Hiroki Hatayama!"

I ain't never been a ninja myself, but I've seen and heard enough about them guys to guess they prolly got themselves a high tolerance for bein creeped out. I mean, a regular guy like me, I see a spider that's got itself a little too much hair and I'm screamin like a schoolgirl and climbin on a chair. Ninjas regularly make pets out of giant, hairy spiders that look like Yetis with eight legs and a dozen eyes, so it takes a whole lot more to creep them out. Hiroki, though, that guy was right creeped out.

He drew his sword and checked that his throwin stars and calipers were where he had left them. Then he dropped back into the shadows like he was taught, becoming part of the background. He slid along the walls like he was made of shadow, scanning around to find the source of the voice. He didn't have to wait long.

"Come on!" The voice yelled out again. "I can still see you, Hiroki! No, don't try to climb that wall. Seriously, I can see you're reaching for a throwing star. Don't bother. Really, I can see you. No, don't pick your...Hey! I didn't need to see that. Wait, no, don't eat tha....EWWWWW! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!?!"

Hiroki smacked his lips and dropped his eyes. The source of the mysterious voice had penetrated all his ninja camouflage powers and watched him eat that last slice of peperoni from his pocket. So he went for a different tactic.

"Who are you?" He asked.

"I am the Grimoire of Necrography!"

"You're the...Grim...of..." Hiroki stuttered

"That's right!" The voice said. "I'm the Grimoire!"

"A talking book, huh?" asked Hiroki.

"Yep," the voice responded, "a talking book. Isn't that awesome?!"

"Not really," responded the young ninja. "You're, like, the sixth or seventh talking book I've met in this section of the library. Seriously, it's a wonder anyone can get any studying done in this section of the library, between the talking books and the bats and having only candlelight to read from. There is such a thing as a desk lamp, you know!"

"Woah, hey," said the Grimoire. "Ease up there, little tiger. Don't get your panties all in a bunch. I just wanted to help you out a bit. But if you don't want my help..."

"No, wait," said Hiroki. "I'm tired and frustrated. I didn't mean to take it out on you."

"That's ok," replied the book, "I forgive you."

"So, what did you want to help me with?"

"I know you're looking to help your friend Thomas," started the book. "And I have hidden withn my pages the spell that can do just that. The problem is, though, that it's written in a special invisible ink, so you can't read it."

"That doesn't help me much then, does it?" The young ninja was snarky, like all teenagers get around that age.

"Well," said the book, "it could if you'd just shut up and listen. Look, I can't tell you the spell. But, I've seen the spell used before and I can tell you what you need to read the invisible ink."

"Really?!" gushed Hiroki.

"Really," said the book, smugly.

For the next two hours, the Grimoire of Necrography recited to Hiroki a list of ingredients, quantities and where to get them, while the young ninja wrote everything down. As the sun came up, Hiroki, with new hope in his heart thanked the book and turned to leave the library. The book chuckled lowly to itself.

"What was that?" asked Hiroki, turning back.

"Huh? What?" asked the Grimoire, innocently.

"That sound," said Hiroki.

"What sound? I didn't hear anything?" The book was talking a little too fast.

"It sounded like you chuckled lowly to yourself."

"It...what? No, that's...that's.....well, here's the thing. I was thinking of this joke this other book told me."

"Oh yeah?" Hiroki was suspicious. "What was the joke?"

"It see, it was a book joke, and you just wouldn't get it. But the punch line is 'rifle, rifle'...."

"Uh-huh," nodded Hiroki. "I guess I'll just be going now, shall I?"

"Yep, sure, go ahead and get those ingredients. Have fun." Shouted the book.

As Hiroki turned to leave, he heard the book chuckling to itself again and decided he should find another library.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Teenage Ninja

I guess from the time he organized all the chillins in revolt until he reached adulthood, the ninjas tried to keep Hiroki in isolation as much as they possibly could. But, you know how it is. Boy will be boys. And, sometimes, this particular boy killed all the guards outside his room with increasingly deadly poison and more advanced delivery techniques, and went down to the local pizza parlor to hang out and blow all his allowance at pinball. Naturally, this bein the 70s, he gave deference to this handicapped kid that came in to play. There was just somethin about deaf, dumb and blind kids in the 70s that made them sure play a mean pinball.

Sure, in the end, the Clan Police would always show up in riot gear, shoot tear gas into the building and slaughter the customers as they came out, only sparing the sons of the ruling council, but Hiroki thought his twice weekly pizza and time with other boys his age was worth the time he spent developing his tear gas resistance. Partly because Hiroki loved him some pinball and partly because he built some good connections.

First, he got himself hooked up with the sons of the entire Clan Platypus ruling council. To be fair, he didn't exactly make those connections just at the pizza shop. He actually met the group of thirteen when he first staged his little nursery room takeover. Thirteen of the kids in the nursery at the time were sons of council members and they remembered the impassioned speech Hiroki made against parental oppression. When he later began to show up to the pizza parlor of a Friday night, he became default leader of the group.

Second, he made friends with that deaf, dumb and blind kid. They began hanging out and challenging each other to beat high scores. After some time, they became fast friends. Their bond became much stronger when, during the Friday raids, Hiroki protected the kid from certain death. You know, there's usually two ways to make life-long friends. You can A) meet people who are going to die pretty soon or B) keep people from dying right after you meet them. Either way, you really gotta put yourself in a lot of dangerous situations in order to make real friends. In fact, Douggie and I met one another on a plane full of promising young rock stars one winter as they were traveling across the country to deliver presents to orphans and be reunited with long-lost fathers. Ain't no more dangerous place to be, really, because that plane had a 90% chance of crashing. It never did crash, but still, it was a dangerous situation, so my point remains valid.

Anyway, Hiroki spent a lot of his free time with the deaf, dumb and blind kid (who was named Thomas, by the way), or thinking about how to help him. Because of his isolation and intelligence, Hiroki had mastered the ninja arts by the age of fourteen, and was allowed to pursue any area of study he saw fit. He spent a year or so studying conventional specializations (advanced beheading from a distance, pirate weaknesses and particle physics) and then moved into more esoteric arts. By the time he reached sixteen, he was an avid practitioner of magic. And this wasn't no "oh look at me, I can stand on one foot for a week" kinda crap like what passes for magic nowadays. It wasn't even none of that "make the Statue of Liberty" disappear kinda magic. One, it wasn't just illusion and two, they didn't have no Statue of Liberty. The closest they had was a statue to the Great Narlock, Eater of Hearts. Oddly, both statues had the same inscription on them;

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Except the statue of Narlock finished with, "So I can eat their hearts."

Regardless, Hiroki wasn't makin that statue disappear. He was doin himself some honest-to-goodness, plain, ol fashioned magic. Stuff like turnin sticks into snakes and snakes into ladders. Sure, there's an easier way to turn sticks into ladders (it's called rope), but it ain't as flashy. Hiroki pursued magic for two straight years, giving all of his non-pinball-and-pizza related waking hours to the project. He was really looking for a way to help out his friend Thomas. I don't think Thomas ever really asked for ninja help with his deafness, dumness and blindness. I mean, he seemed to be doin all right with his pinball career. I guess Hiroki never asked or somethin, but he wasn't aware that Thomas had been featured in international news pieces and had optioned his life story to a promising young rock band. I don't know if anything ever came from that, but he'd made about a bajillion dollars off the deal.

Well, as it turns out, magic ain't a great way to cure purely medical problems. I guess it'd be the same thing as if you'd had a demon and you tried gettin rid of it by hosin it down with hand sanitizer. I ain't gonna go into all the sordid details right now but, trust me, that ain't the way to get rid of a demon. But that little Hiroki kept at it. He tried all sortsa different formulas to get rid of Thomas' problems, but nothin seemed to work. So, he ended up doin himself some research in the forbidden part of the library. You know, that section they have in every library that's sealed off with heavy chains, always seems to be wet and dark and, even though the rest of the library's spotless, is always covered in dust and cobwebs? Yeah. That's the section he did his research in.

Now, I don't wanna sound like I'm just tellin ya any ol story here, but there's some things that's always true. If you punch a bull in the nose, he will get mad. If you meet a guy named "Bad, bad" Leroy Brown, you can bet there ain't a man in the whole damn town badder than that guy. And, if you start doin research in the spooky section of the library, you will end up practicin black magic and nearly destroying all life on the planet, even if you do it with the best of intentions. It's just a rule of nature. And that's precisely what the teenage ninja did.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Now, I ain't gonna stop fightin them or nothin, but I gotta admit there's one advantage a person could get from bein a ninja. Them guys know when opportunity is knockin at the door with a box of girl scout cookies and a check from Ed McMahon. That is to say, they know how to take the lemons of life and turn it into hard lemonade. This kind of behavior ain't always good for people who isn't ninjas, but I imagine it'd be pretty darn good if you was a ninja yourself. You ain't a ninja, are ya? I don't want no ninjas readin this here thing. It's got all my plans and deepest thoughts in it. I mean, it's got ninja killin words in it. It's full of words so powerful that, if you happened to be a ninja and someone just told you about this here blog, your head would blow like you had stuffed your nose full of m-80s just before you remembered you was allergic to gun powder. So, no ninjas readin this.

Like I says, them ninjas can make some great lemonade out of life lemons, and that Hiroki Hatayama kid represented one heck of a lemon. He was sittin his sad, cryin butt on the ground, just wishin one of his parents would come back and give him some food or help him wipe his nose or whatever it is abandoned kids think about, when a couple of members of Clan Platypus, who was out for a head clearin stroll, happened to spot him. I know, you think I'm bein too hard on the kid. After all, you say, that poor kid was just left by his parents. But I would have to point out that you forgot that I myself went through this same sorta thing. Sure, my parents didn't turn into hideous creatures, and my pa fell through the crust of the Earth instead of giving me an existential dilemma before leaving, but other than that, it was just the same. And let me tell you, when your parents have left you to fend for yourself with nothing to take care of you but ninjas or, in my case, harbor seals, you gotta wipe away the tears, pick yourself up by your bootstraps, and grow the heck up.

It may just be me, but I think that is he hadn't wanted so badly to be coddled, things woulda turned out mighty differently. But things weren't different. Things happened exactly as they happened, which is how things always happen, if you notice. And as it happened, in this case the kings that was happenin was that the ninjas was bein super nice to the cryin kid they found because they remembered him from the family picnic and they knew he was the son of the most famous killer in the universe.

So, the ninjas picked him up, wiped the boogers off his upper lip, offered him some milk and cookies and took him to their underground volcano base. Now, at the time, Clan Platypus was still pretendin to be a friendly, happy corporation that was just tryin to do good for the world. I gather they was tryin to look like a manufacturer of paper plates what could be washed and stored after use. If it were real, it woulda been a pretty solid idea. Sadly, they was actually makin the plates out of plastic that had been made to look like paper because A) it was cheaper and B) they was plannin on slowly replacin the plastic with woven meth. But, at the point in time as these happenins was happenin, they was still just usin plastic. I ain't sayin they was right in doin that or nothin, but, if you ask me, havin a plate made of plastic is a whole heck of a lot better than havin a plate made out of a drug that's gonna keep you up all night and eat your bones. Maybe that's just me. But, because the Clan was still tryin to act like responsible corporate citizens, and so they had themselves a pretty nice Child Care Center inside that volcano base.

It was into this Center that they put little Hiroki while they went to talk to the CEO, Ted, about what they should do. He responded by calling them a couple of idiots and told them they had to run down, collect that kid and make sure they oversaw every aspect of his education and life until he was grown up enough to do it for himself. They agreed that was probably a good idea (mostly because their other option was dying in a pit full of grizzly bears covered in razor blades) and ran themselves right back down to the kiddie room.

When they arrived, they were met with a hail of missiles that had been quickly, but efficiently, carved out of bottles and wooden blocks. The child care technicians had mostly been taken hostage and the security guards were trying to negotiate with the terrorists who had taken over the play room. In the end, Clan security lost eight good men, two of the baby sitters suffered irreversible psychological damage and it was discovered that the mastermind of this situation was none other than the young Hiroki Hatayama. In the fifteen minutes it had taken the ninjas to get yelled at by Ted, Hiroki had organized the children into a well equipped and disciplined army that was attempting to secede from the rest of the company and form their own country with Hatamaya as Great Grand Poobah In Chief.

When they saw this, the ninjas who had picked Hiroki off the beach knew they had something special, but very, very dangerous, like a Christmas package filled with nitroglycerin. They took charge of the situation, removed Hiroki into his own apartments, arranged tutors for him and raised him as if he were their own, very dangerous, son.