Archive for October, 2009

Friday: Birthday Cop-Out Post

It’s my birthday tomorrow (today by the time you’re reading this) and it’s very late and it’s been a very busy week. So I’m taking the day off.

Starting Sunday, my schedule will be changing quite dramatically. National Novel Writing Month begins for me, and I embark on a quest to write 50,000 words bound together with some form of cohesive purpose, all in the span of one month. This means I need to be writing at least 1500 words each day. It’s a bit of a marathon, especially seeing how it comes right in the start of the holiday madness at the end of the year. If you’d like to learn more about the program, or care to suffer from your own rush of temporary insanity (or inanity, as it may turn out), you may click upon this text.

And now, I leave to open cards from loving family members, sit on a couch, perhaps eat a cupcake and look forward to sleeping in cold weather because that means I can load up tons of blankets and get all nice and super cozy. Apparently I still sleep best when I’m more or less swaddled.

Play me out, keyboard cat.

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Review: The San Diego Chargers

This will prove to be another of those reviews that might not be of much use to you if you’re not from San Diego, or don’t care about football. But, then again, any review is contingent upon your interest, so cease your whining. It’s also a bit poorly timed, since the Chargers just beat the hell out of Kansas City.

The Chargers have proven to be a real roller-coaster ride for San Diego. The team has a great roster, with a pretty broad pool of talent. Short of Phillip Rivers having a bit too much of a mouth on him, there aren’t many issues with volatile personalities. The fans are supportive. Things should be pretty rosy for the Chargers.

Year after year, though, the season ends in disappointment and the team doesn’t live up to its potential. If you want to be strict about it, this is true of all but one team: the Superbowl champ. What I mean to say is that the Chargers are better, year after year, than their record states, and I think this issue has to come down to coaching.

I am not a football guru, by a long shot. I don’t study the game or the teams or memorize stats and player positions. I do, however, understand how the game is played and the strategies involved in winning and game after game I come away frustrated with the way things are being done out on the field for the Chargers.

Much has been discussed regarding LaDanian Tomlinson. The man is already a legendary runningback, but he’s seen a real downturn in the last two seasons. He’s suffered some injuries and appears to have hit the Age 30 wall for runningbacks. He asserts, of course, that’s he’s still got it, but his stats just don’t support this claim. After 2006, all his numbers have been declining. Watching the games gives a better view of the situation, though. On any other team, a star runningback like Tomlinson would be getting frequent carries. On the Chargers, he gets fewer all the time, which of course reinforces the notion that he’s lost the magic.

In 2006, LT averaged nearly 22 carries a game. In 2007, that was down to 19.5. In 2008, down to 18. So far in 2009, he’s on track with about 12.5 carries a game. So, looking at his numbers, a decline in performance seems to match up cleanly with the decline in his usage. His yards-per-carry have dipped, but isn’t it to be expected that opposing teams will be gunning to lock down the LT run? And then of course is the Charger’s offensive line, which has been both plagued by injuries this season and woefully underperforming.

LT is never allowed to reach a rhythm in-game because Norv Turner can’t seem to find a tactic and stick to it. The team is coached in such a fashion that it seems his intent is to constantly rotate the weapons used on the field. Great for variety, bad for momentum. LT will get a play, maybe two, start to get warmed up and then not see action for another couple of drives. Same for Sproles. The only consistent go-to player for the team is Antonio Gates, for good reason. [As an update, in the last game LT was given 23 carries, more than 33% of this season’s total carries in a single game – so perhaps my complaints here will be no longer valid.]

I’d like to see the team show some focus on each of its drives. Concentrate on giving a player time to find their groove and get a feel for the defense. And consider rocking some no-huddle, 2-minute-drill style play in the middle of the game. Rivers is an excellent fast release QB. The Chargers are superb in the 2-minute-drill and march up a field with surprising speed and accuracy. Why not break this out to shake up the rhythm on the field? Keep a defense guessing. It’s a morale breaker for opponents and boost for your squad.

Which brings me to my last point. Norv needs to start showing some emotion on the field. He doesn’t need to be apoplectic with rage, but I need to see him look something other than bemused when something bad happens on the field. It’s not comforting to a fan, I doubt it says anything good to a player. The team just hasn’t seemed fired up enough this season—and neither has its coach.


My Life in Shame – Episode 1 – The Grade School Years

I don’t have too many secrets. It’s just not really my nature. My wife would be generous and say it’s because I like to talk and I tell a pretty good story. I would say it’s because I really don’t have anything too exciting to keep hidden away. Quite the promo for the rest of this post, eh?

What I do have is a small handful of incidents that are the items that I revisit most in my head. This is not to say they’re the only items I ever think about, because I’m not that much of a commercial for things that are depressing. They stand out because they are the things I regret the most. They hover around in my mind and flutter to the surface from time to time, largely unbidden, and make me embarrassed even when I’m alone. We can call this post an exorcism attempt.

There are two incidents from my elementary school days that come to mind.

The first is, fittingly, from first grade. I don’t remember much about what happened, except that it was the end of a school day. I don’t seem to recall being particularly rowdy (I was a pretty well-behaved student) but right as the day was closing, almost literally as everyone was walking to the classroom door to go outside and meet their parents, I was joking around with a kid who was a bit of a troublemaker, the class clown.

As we packed up to leave, he must have said something wacky or done something goofy, because I responded by picking up the jacket I’d brought with me and draping it across my shoulders and pulling the arms across my neck like they were choking me. I let my tongue loll out to complete the effect. I was very clever.

The next thing I know I was being told by the teacher that she had had enough and that I and my supposed partner in crime needed to stay after class. I don’t recall how long we had to stay (I’m guessing only 10-15 minutes), but it was long enough that my Mom wanted to know why I had taken so long. Even as a first grader I knew that this was something to cover up. Children, it would seem, become acquainted with the notion that trouble is to be avoided at all costs pretty early on. I seriously doubt that I managed to be convincing, but I didn’t crack and just maintained that things in class had taken a longer time than normal.

I’m not sure if this incident would be a good reason why I’m so averse to drawing attention to myself in situations where I shouldn’t logically be the center of attention, but it’s the only one I can think of: the time I got in trouble in first grade for being goofy when I didn’t think I deserved it. How’s that for continuity from last week’s Monday post?

The second item is from third grade. All the students were lined up to go back into class at the end of lunchtime. As I walked past two of my friends Friend #1 pretended as if he was choking Friend #2. Young boys, as these two examples are clearly illustrating, are very clever. High-class shenanigans all around.

Seeing this, I wanted in on the fake violence. So I approached Friend #1 and in slow motion did a pretend knee to the side of his leg. My recollection of the event is clearly colored by own desire to not be culpable, as I pretty clearly recall barely making any contact at all with the side of Friend #1’s thigh. My memory is not of making any contact, but clearly I must have been mistaken entirely about that.

As soon as my knee made contact with Friend #1’s leg, he went down in a pretty spectacular display of tears and wailing. Thinking that I had just been joining in on the fun and not even having the intent of making real contact with him physically, the situation became pretty alarming pretty quickly.

I was also not in a situation where this could be covered up and dealt with nicely and neatly. ALL of my classmates were within about a thirty foot radius of this and now not only was I the center of attention, but I was also that kid that made that other kid cry.

What followed was a visit to the principal’s office and what seems to be in my memory about 30 minutes of great weeping and gnashing of teeth. From me. I don’t even think the injured party was present. I proceeded to explain—thinking that my simple explanation of “Seriously, I had no intention of even actually touching him, and must have done so entirely by accident” wouldn’t fly—that it looked to me like Friend #2 was getting beat up on. So I was going to come over and try and make sure that wasn’t happening. I’m not sure how I worked in my Van Damme-age knee to the action, but I must have.

The principal at the time, a Mr. Singer, was pretty bemused. I can recall this now. I was a good kid and I never got in trouble outside of these two instances, as far as I can recall. I was even friends with his son, who was a student in our grade. I think he knew I wasn’t out to enact vigilante justice on the schoolyard. In the midst of my weeping and begging that my parents not be contacted (which I’m pretty sure didn’t happen — which means I’m blowing a perfectly good 20-year-old cover), he very calmly and probably with a smirk on his face that I couldn’t see through the tears, told me that I didn’t really need to go around policing the school. And that was that. I sheepishly returned to class to sit near a still-sniffling Friend #1 and probably didn’t think about it again in my grade school years after that day.

And here I am now, a couple decades later, and it’s still something I think about and deliver a nice, firm facepalm over.


Friday Alternate: Urbansquall Projects

As it’s time for me to start thinking about National Novel Writing Month and as I’m busy a bit lately, I haven’t been able to focus as much as I’d like on Changeling. So it takes a backseat this week and I’ll announce a few tidbits regarding projects I’m working/am related to.

First off is Raving Rabbids: Rabbids Go Home. No… I didn’t pen the actual title, but I did write up the tutorial and descriptions for this here Flash game. This one was a lot of fun to work on because it was very lightweight and it was great to think about how to write in a fashion the Rabbids would approve of. It’s a bit of a bummer there are such space limitations when writing these things, as I had a lot of funny stuff I needed to excise for space requirements. *sigh*

Astute fanboys and fangirls might see a resemblance to Bloody Fun Day. Don’t tell anyone.

Next in the queue are the upcoming titles in the Battalion saga. First came Battalion: Nemesis. Give it a roll and thrill to the rush of combat and savor a story called “suitably melodramatic” and writing that’s “quite good, if a little dry”. (I’m being snarky, but I was super pleased with that assessment)

Then came Battalion: Arena, one of the finer multiplayer games to hit the web, in my humble opinion (and no, I didn’t actually DO anything on that one, so I’m not really tooting my own horn there). Largely free to play and two levels of paid accounts for extras if you like what you see (one-time fee, not monthly cost).

Coming soon, though are 4 more episodes in the Battalion series, all written by yours truly. There are two more single player chapters in the adventure, followed by two shorter cooperative campaigns—and if you thought the story was suitably melodramatic before, I can only assume what comes next is going to rate as wildly melodramatic. (I make no promises the text will be anything but legible.)

So, give a look to these prior releases and keep your eyes open for the upcoming titles, they’re good fun—and great fodder for posts on writing for flash games once again.

UPDATE: Early review of the next Battalion game: “So far the dialogue/story of this is approximately 10x better than Nemesis. Maybe 20x. Somewhere in that range. Tough to measure scientifically.”

I’m ignoring the first part of that and just looking at the part where it talks about how I’m awesome.

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Review: Where the Wild Things Are and POV

Have I already talked about point of view in films? Maybe… but here we are again.

Where the Wild Things Are (WWTA) is a film based on the classic children’s book by Maurice Sendak of the same name. The book has only 10 sentences of text total, so you know that the film is going to be a pretty different experience. Typically, this is the kind of scenario that I would say is practically guaranteed to reek of Hollywood in all the worst ways. WWTA dodges that bullet. The team behind the movie is Spike Jonze (writer/director) and Dave Eggers (writer). If you’re at all into edgy, indie, heartfelt work then this should be a very exciting combination for you, and they hit it out of the park with WWTA.

The plot of the original book features Max, a young boy in his wolf outfit rampaging around the house and getting in trouble. He is sent to bed without supper and in his room pretends he travels to an island populated by the Wild Things, who he conquers. After having imaginary adventures for a bit, he misses home and returns to the real world to discover dinner is still waiting for him. On the surface of the read, Max is a bit of a little butthead. It takes a generous reading to infers that Max regrets his behavior and is worthy of being forgiven by his mother.

The film addresses this ambiguity handily—and here be the spoilers.

In the film, Max is a young boy, as in the book. However, his angst is much more clearly expressed. We see that he’s lost touch with his mother and sister who have grown up and moved on a bit in life, leaving him feeling alone. He acts out to garner attention, is punished, and then runs off and enters into his dream realm. Once on the island, he meets the Wild Things, each of which have a distinct and somewhat difficult personality. Max becomes their king, tries to meet everyone’s wishes and realizes pretty quickly that it is not easy to just make everything better just by wanting it to be so. After a time, Max decides he must return home and is reunited with his mother and gets his hot meal and loving embrace. The film succeeds much more effectively than the book in communicating that Max has learned the impact of how he is reacting to his family and how difficult it must be for them to deal with him. When Max is back with his mother and enjoying his meal, there’s a very real sense that he has changed and his experience was a revelation for him.

It’s important to note, though, that the film doesn’t actually state any of this. No one asks Max if he’s learned his lesson. He never stands up and proclaims he’s changed. In fact, nothing really of substance about Max and his life is ever actually stated in the film. Everything we need to know is communicated through the point of view for the film. There’s a very distinct and narrow point of view: Max’s. We see things only as they impact him; there’s no aftermath or reactions to Max’s initial outburst. Our focus is his frustration and alienation. When he travels to the island of the Wild Things, our understanding of them and their relationships is defined only by Max. The entire content of the action with the Wild Things focuses around their emotional needs and interactions and there are absolutely no clear resolutions presented or reached. How could there be? Max is a child and we experience along with him his child’s frustration at the way of things. Why can’t his new friends get along? Why don’t his plans and reactions fix things for them? Why are things always so difficult? He doesn’t have the answers or words to fix things, but it’s apparent that what he sees in the Wild Things are the more difficult parts of himself.

A film that takes a clearer view of this storyline and looks from the outside in simply wouldn’t work. There would be overt explanations and too self-aware realizations and stiff movie moments. Being told how life can be for a child isn’t nearly as effective as being made to feel the way a child might.

To point to an example about as far across the spectrum as could be, think of Memento. Memento is a film that, without its incredibly focused point of view simply would not work. We need to experience Leonard’s confusion and live in his head for the narrative to work (to clarify: Leonard has no short term memory, and the film plays essentially in reverse. We start at the end of his journey and work back to the beginning to reveal what Leonard cannot himself recall. If we know anything outside of what he knows, the illusion is shattered).

Think about what your story is saying. Is it telling a story, showing some action, dealing with an idea or is it trying to communicate an emotion and state of being? If you want to really communicate a character’s life, make sure the film tells their story very specifically. Write things as only they would understand them. Only place the reader/viewer in scenes that the character would be in. Keep your focus tighter for a better story.

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The Pressure’s On

I went to the doctor’s office about two week ago. It was a totally standard visit in every way. I have a patch of dry skin just near my left ear and I find myself scratching at it quite a bit. Not a problem, but annoying, and something I wanted to get some sort of cream for before dry winter weather hits and exacerbates the issue. That, or I wanted a referral to a dermatologist. All in all, about as run of the mill as a visit to the doctor’s office can be.

After waiting an hour, I’m finally greeted by the doctor and he asks me a couple questions, takes about a 5 second look at my scalp, agrees with me that it looks like it needs something, writes me a prescription and then takes my blood pressure as a matter of course. And it comes out high. Not danger, danger Will Robinson high, but to the high side of normal. Even though we’re both pretty sure it’s a case of nerves in the doctor’s office, he asks me to consider getting a blood pressure device to monitor things for a few weeks just to be sure. So, I get myself a nifty little electronic blood pressure monitor and, what a surprise, each time I test I’m almost textbook optimal.

So what gives with the high readings at the doctor’s office? I’m not a nervous person in general. I hate shots and anything that might lead me to shots, but I wasn’t going in for anything that would possibly merit a needle. I pondered for a moment then why it might be that I would be stressed at the doctor’s office, and I realized that it’s because I was concerned about approval.

I think I’m always concerned about approval. I can’t help it.

At the doctor’s office, I want them to tell me all my readings are solid. I don’t want to hear that so I can be told I’m in good health (I’m already pretty sure I’m at least not anywhere close to bad health), I want them to think that I’m the kind of person that takes care of himself. This is also why it sticks in my head that the first time I went to this office and the nurse weighed me she proclaimed “Oh, you hide your weight well.” *shakes fist at nurse*

I wanted to have a larger post here, with a discussion of what I think this means for me and how it comes up in my day to day life. But after I wrote it all up, it read back as just so much apologetics, which seemed pretty ironic considering the content of the post. So, suffice it to say this is a silly quirk of mine and I’m pretty sure its here to stay.

And now to begin preliminary work on my project for next month, which there will be a post about soon enough.


Friday Fiction: Changeling, Part 2

Continued from here

It became easier once I became an adult. I didn’t have so much growth and change to simulate. I could take a photograph and sequester myself for a week. It didn’t matter who, but I always picked someone that I imagined qualified as handsome in a way that was subtle. I would post the photo near a mirror and study it. I would imagine how people would react to this man and how he would respond. I would map crow’s feet and furrowed brow lines. Then I would turn to the mirror and it would be time to sculpt. It’s not a process I’ve discovered a way to make more efficient.

Aging is still troublesome, but it’s simpler to achieve for an adult. A trip to the supermarket and a bit of hair dye and suddenly you’re graying at the temples and you’ve picked up a few years in age with minimal effort. Growing old, however, is quite different from aging. It’s a bridge I’ll have to cross when I reach it. I’m not entirely positive how long I’m expected to live. That should make for a surprise.

I suspect that my later years will be remarkably similar to my early years. I’ll have less of a sense of myself as others perceive me. My world will draw in upon itself and my appearance will be more a factor of my moods and situation than of surroundings and outside influences. Finding someone to help care for me once I’m unable to do so for myself is a concern I find myself continually trying to ignore. When I was infant, I was largely happy: a textbook perfect child. My appearance was uniform, barring small changes chalked up to the capriciousness of development. As a toddler, though, I was a terror, and my body reflected this. Features would arch, my hair darkened. I became an expression of frustration and will. That middling age is marked by extremes and during happy times it was as if I was a different child, physically and emotionally. My parents told me the first time I came out to see them, happy with a toy I had found shortly after a particularly brutal tantrum, that they had assumed that once again they had been robbed of their child and presented with an imposter. I pray that those golden years I spend waiting out whatever hereafter awaits me are not ones marked by similar moodswings. I know that I would be terrified of an old man that quite literally darkens with rage when he doesn’t get the second helping of pudding he wants.

As a child, the changes were a matter of mood and pure instinct. Reflex and nothing more. When I was in grade school, I thought it was a game and didn’t really believe my parents that not everyone could do what I could do. It only took one terrified classmate and a very long meeting with a school principal to relegate me to homeschooling. I tried to fight the decision once I reached the age for high school, but it was a losing battle from the start. I clearly have a similar life progression to a regular human. I was not immune to the horrors of teenage life and hormones wreaked havoc for me. No longer was changing reflexive or recreational, it became involuntary, like a tic.

These unwelcome spurts of change only served to deepen my resentment. I lived in a world that was by contrast almost entirely static. My parents normal in every way, my home as standard as any other. I rarely went outside, first as a mandate and later out of a sense that I didn’t need anything other than myself. It was exactly the wrong time to be brought to the realization that my parents had never really gotten to the point of understanding me, not in the way that I had expected that they should.

How could they? I didn’t understand myself, and judging others on their ability to do the same was stupid. But at the time it didn’t matter in the slightest that they were doing the best they could. It’s taken a few years of what may not quite qualify as hard living, but certainly lonely living, for me to realize that they probably did understand a part of me very well, as well as any parent understands a child. But I changed.

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Review: Glee and the Peril of Annoying Villains

Glee is a show I was very excited about. The past tense there is more ominous than it needs to be, but it does set a suitable tone for this review: enthusiasm and then slowly creeping suspicion.

Glee is a show that earned itself a rightfully massive amount of prep-premiere hype when the show’s pilot aired earlier this year. The pilot was a knockout, and the sneak preview I was able to see of the show’s premiere episode was as well. The show is essentially Election as an hour-long comedy series. And a musical. The show follows the lives of the members of the Glee Club at William McKinley High in Ohio (fictional, by the by, as that sentence made it sound awfully MTV True Life-ish). Because the show focuses on a music and performance club, they’re able to work in their musical numbers and have them be big choreographed productions without having them be the bizarre reality-breaking episodes that cause some people to shy away from musicals in general.

As I said, the pilot and premiere were just superb. Great musical numbers, sharp dialog, edgy jokes, likable cast, Jane Lynch. There was very little not to like. After the season started, the shows were not quite as luminous as the first two peeks we had been given, but were still fresh and lively and fun. However, as the show advances, I’m seeing a few chinks in the armor.

And lo, here be the spoilers, mild though they may be.

One of the good things about Election is that no matter how abhorrent you may find the characters to be, one way or another, they’ll be gone from your life in about two hours. Not so with a series. One of Glee’s strongest points are its characters (many of which are the typical larger-than-life versions of standard cliches, but all of which have just a little something extra to make them a bit more surprising). They’re all bold and big, as befits both a musical and a comedy. But since the show isn’t a drama, the villains/antagonists/least-likable-characters aren’t so much evil as they are annoying—and they don’t go away.

Jane Lynch as hardcore cheerleader coach and smalltown celeb Sue Sylvester is the show’s chief villain. But Lynch herself is hilarious and she’s a villain so to the extreme it’s clear you’re not meant to take her seriously. She’s a pure “mustache twirly” to use a phrase the mighty Oliver Grigsby taught me: she’s a modern version of a classic silent movie sort of villain who is just too broad and over the top to really be believed.

Jessalyn Gilsig, who I don’t want to dislike, plays Terri Schuester, wife of the show’s male lead. And we hates her. Part is that someone decided she needs to speak in this high-pitched, breathy, condescending and airheaded voice. She’s the true villain for the show’s first season (I’m not so sure she’ll be around for the second). She’s both too-stupid-to-function in a Drop Dead Gorgeous fashion and highly manipulative. It’s a great combo for villainy, less so for long-term watchability. Not helping this is the concept of her “plot” for this season. She has found out, after much hooplah, that her pregnancy is, in fact, a figment of her imagination. She’s triggered a hysterical pregnancy, which is a condition that causes her to manifest the signs of pregnancy without actually being pregnant. Now she’s trying to keep up the charade of her pregnancy, and she tends to cover her lies by being more aggressive and crafty. To top things off, she’s decided her fix for the dilemma is to adopt the baby of a pregnant girl at the high school—who has gotten pregnant about four months after her own pregnancy is supposed to have started. Really?

Many of the show’s sub-plots are interesting. The show’s main romances are compelling enough to keep me hoping. Feuds are entertaining and high school drama is a never-ending font of content. But to then have the key dilemma of the first season hinge on an idea that will in no possible way be something that satisfies me as a viewer, orchestrated by a villain I find irritating, is an almost fatal flaw. How will she explain that the baby she intends to produce will be 4-5 months overdue? Or if the girl she takes the baby from delivers a premature baby, how to explain that her baby was supposed to be take to full term? How will you hide the actual birth from the husband? Hospital bills? Birth records? Is the male lead not supposed to notice that one of his students is magically no longer pregnant, doesn’t seem to have a baby on her person, and the next day he has a happy newborn? The longer the plot goes on, the more dissatisfied I am with it.

Don’t discount your villains, even in something as light as a musical comedy. Villains will drive your show. They provide the conflict that makes your story interesting. Having a character be irritating isn’t enough to make them viable, but it feels like this is the choice the Glee staff have made. Rather than risk having Terri Schuester’s character be a little more realistic and therefore perhaps a little more serious, she’s been made into a totally out there villain. She can’t be identified with or liked on any possible level, and we’re stuck with her hour after hour.

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The Non Post

There’s actually no post for today. This might qualify, but I’m not counting it. I fell ill yesterday afternoon and was simply not able to concentrate on revising and polishing up the post I had started. And sleeping last night was one of the more bizarre experiences of my life.

It was as if my brain had forgotten the specific methods used to fall asleep. I became stuck on a loop where I believed, in my half asleep state, that I had to “delete files” from my brain to quiet it down enough for me to fall asleep. Needless to say, this didn’t prove effective. Eventually I gave up trying to sleep and played a little puzzle computer game for an hour or so, and then when I went back to bed my mind had decided that the proper way to clear one’s head to go to sleep was to shift ideas around like tiles in a game, and by shifting things from the bottom (bottom of…?) that other thoughts would fall to the bottom and be cleared off the board and then I could sleep.

Suffice to say, I think my body was focused enough on trying to fight off whatever food poisoning or infection I have that my brain tripped out a little bit in the process.

And with that, it’s time to curl up in bed, drink ridiculous amounts of fluid and be pleased NetFlix allows me to stream movies to my laptop.

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Friday Fiction: Changeling, Part 1

Depressingly, I am now starkly aware that the largest barrier to my fiction is that structure and I do not see eye to eye. So, I’d like to say that I know where this is going, but I’m not 100% positive. I actually wrote an outline for this one, so hopefully it won’t go the way of “20th”, which I really must do post-mortem on one of these days, but I’m not 100% on if what I’m crafting up will be a satisfying story in any real way. At any rate, I’ve tried for a bit too long now to offer up excuses if you don’t like how this starts off.

The Changeling

I have never known my true face.

There are no portraits or photographs made by a doting mother and father and hung above a mantelpiece, lit by the warm caress of lamplight and the glow of parental affection. The man and woman I could most accurately call parents have long been quit of me. They raised me as far as they felt was necessary. They couldn’t bear to be associated with “my kind”. I remember laughing at that. They knew what I was as well as I did, which is to say that they had only the faintest inklings. It was about all we had in common.

I envy the orphaned. They have either the certainty of a love lost or the wistful dream of a noble and grand lineage. I can suffer no such illusions. I was abandoned. Worse still, I was abandoned in place of a human child stolen from under the noses of my adoptive parents. The man and woman who raised me are decent people by all definitions, but were unfit for my circumstances and I knew that I was always a poor substitute to the child they created together like gods in their own universe. I don’t need any more details about those who created me to frame a clear enough portrait. They were the sort of parents that leave their children mewling in the bassinets of mankind, lost to the world that they were born to.

When I was very small my parents never noticed anything unique about me. They knew that I was not their child of course. They also were not the sort of people to abandon a helpless infant to fate in spite of a sadness that I know was inconsolable, in spite of the concession they were left with. I was a baby in every way that they had wanted one. I cooed and drooled and had eensy toes that I would put into my mouth. The malleability of youth. Were it not so regular I would call it a portent.

The appearance of an infant changes—in comparison to an adult human—with frightening speed. I do not mean false cosmetic change. Applying makeup or changing a hairstyle doesn’t effect a fundamental change. Babies and toddlers, though, change rapidly and surprisingly. Blues to brown eyes. Blonde hair to black hair at the core. Blemishes fade, marks surface. Body shape forms and shifts. Bones fuse and vanish. It’s no surprise I’m most comfortable around children. It’s not because of shared ancestry.

I was just past two years old that they finally decided something was “amiss”. Much is made of outright insults and slurs. I don’t understand the impact. They are a telegraph of emotion. You know how the wielder of an epithet feels about you. They’ve made it plain as day. Wipe them clean from your life.

Something amiss. And said with a smile and eyes that expected commiseration. I don’t ever expect to wash that away. They both asked for hugs after we had that talk and I could see in their stance that they felt some great weight had been lifted from them. They had been absolved and by confronting this issue head-on, they had graduated to mature adults who were proud of the burden they had to bear. I was to recognize them as noble guardians for their acceptance of my strangeness. They embraced me as if I was their new brother in solidarity and I embraced them to say goodbye. I didn’t leave for several years, but I was homeless from that point on.

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