Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Zulu Warrior in Belgium


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The 26 eclectic-genre short stories for my #AtoZChallenge are excerpts from travelogue notes by
novel character Gahlen, who first appeared in SHARDS OF MEMORY – Oral History in a Heartbeat.

Each A-to-Z daily post is a complete, stand-alone tale.



Zulu Warrior in Belgium
Genre: Shared Fantasy
(305 words)



Belgium demonstrates its humor in unusual ways. They honor a rather risqué, diminutive bronze sculpture, Manneken Pis, located on an obscure corner near the Grand Place in the heart of old Brussels.
Strangely enough, nobody seems to actually know why the manneken is there. He is believed to be nothing more than a decoration on top of a fountain, where people in the Middle-Ages came to get fresh water. Already in the 15th century, a fountain called 'manneken-pis' existed in the Stoffstraat/Rue de l'etuve. The official origin can be traced back to 13 August 1619 when the city ordered the sculptor Jerome Duquesnoy to make a new bronze statue of manneken-pis to replace an old and withered one.
As one of the stories goes, during the course of centuries, the little manneken has often been hidden to protect him against bombs of invading armies. According to a restaurant waiter most eager to refill my beer stein, the statue has been stolen several times by plundering soldiers and even by the citizens of Geraardsbergen, a city in Flanders that claims to possess the oldest statue of a peeing boy in Belgium.
The Brussels statue of a naked little boy, picturesquely doing just what the name implies, has over 654 costumes – donated from every country in the world. A Costume Committee reviews each new submission to assure that it meets the criteria of authenticity and proper structure. Costumes range from Santa Claus and a Swiss Soldier to a Zulu Warrior.
The waiter leaned close while refilling my stein once again, and said, “The little statue has become a national treasure.”
With no inclination to question the statement, I sipped my beer in silence. Another question I refrained from asking: “Why would any army want to bomb a little boy who is so desperately in need of relief?”


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Oh, what a relief to have arrived at the letter Z in the #AtoZChallenge!

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Monday, April 29, 2019

Yeoman's Daughter


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The 26 eclectic-genre short stories for my #AtoZChallenge are excerpts from travelogue notes by
novel character Gahlen, who first appeared in SHARDS OF MEMORY – Oral History in a Heartbeat.

Each A-to-Z daily post is a complete, stand-alone tale.


Yeoman’s Daughter
Genre: Historical Romance
(386 words)

Katerina stared toward the aging castle looming over the Bohemian countryside. Its crumbling structure served as a backdrop to her life. Memories surfaced of her father’s return from the war, alive but crippled for life. Whether limbs or part of their minds were lost, most men who survived were left to struggle with farm life.
*
Her father, a yeoman, could no longer make simple decisions such as when to till the fields or how to plant and sow. He roamed the fields when left unattended. If he wandered into town, the feed mill owner escorted him home after shop closing. Sometimes the local priest walked him home and stayed for supper.
Katerina’s mother was a daughter of the yeoman who originally owned the farm. She had gradually stopped contending with the uncertainties of life and taken to her bed. If she spotted the priest strolling down the lane with her husband in tow, she barred her bedroom door.
“Evening Miss Kate,” Father Tam would say, doffing an imaginary hat. “Your father and I have been for a walk. We could both use a shot of brandy and a bowl of soup. If that is not too much bother.”
Katerina dutifully poured the brandy and heated the soup. Her poor father went along with Father Tam’s charade, never appearing to doubt that the priest spoke the absolute truth. Following the sparse meal, Katerina settled her father in a chair near the wood stove, wrapping a blanket tight around his legs.
Then she and Father Tam would step outside. With the abandoned castle at their back, they discussed her father’s condition, pointedly ignoring that her mother might be suffering with a different problem.
*
Katerina walked out to the lawn swing, adjusting her skirts to sit. As her gaze wandered up to the castle, a touch of melancholy filled her. The affair, as secret as it was forbidden, had lasted a year. She still blushed to think of how they inhaled the essence of each other’s souls and dreamed the intimacies of one another’s ambitions.
They never tarnished their love by consummating the relationship. When the parish choirmaster had recommended a transfer to a congregation in Prague for Father Tam, Katerina was devastated. But the week after the priest vacated their town, her mother left her bed.

*****

Saturday, April 27, 2019

X-Mas Carol for Good King Wenceslas


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The 26 eclectic-genre short stories for my #AtoZChallenge are excerpts from travelogue notes by
novel character Gahlen, who first appeared in SHARDS OF MEMORY – Oral History in a Heartbeat.

Each A-to-Z daily post is a complete, stand-alone tale.

By engraving by Brothers Dalziel - 
http://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Hymns_and_Carols/good_king_wenceslas.htm, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12404573


X-MAS CAROL for GOOD KING WENCESLAS
Genre: Musical History
(319 WORDS) + song lyrics

Singing carols on the eve of Christmas is a holiday tradition. Relatives who emigrated from Bohemia sing the Christmas Carol “Good King Wenceslas.” Ancestors christened Wenceslas were named for the man who ruled as duke of Bohemia from 921. After the duke was assassinated by his brother Boleslaw in 935, he was declared a saint within the Catholic Church.
Wenceslas, also known as Vaclav the Good, is the Patron Saint of the Czech Republic. His day is celebrated on September 28. But the Feast of St. Stephen, a martyr mentioned in the song Good King Wenceslas, is celebrated on December 26 so the carol is sung for the Christmas holiday.
Children of the era recited by heart the lyrics of John Mason Neale’s work, published in 1853. The song opens on St. Stephen’s Day, also known as The Feast of Stephen. This holy day is celebrated in most of the Germanic states of Europe, as well as in Ireland, and in Canada where it is known as Boxing Day.

Stephen, once a stable boy, became a deacon of the church and distributed alms from community funds to church widows. Dissatisfaction arose over alleged slights in distribution, and strong disagreement with Stephen’s teachings. This culminated in his death warrant, that of public stoning, around AD 34. Whether he died at the north end of Jerusalem or the east, St. Stephen’s Gate now honors his memory on the east side of the city.

According to the song’s lyrics:
King Wenceslas demonstrates to his page the act of giving by collecting food and wine and logs for burning. These he will deliver, in the dead of winter, to a needy family living in the woods. When the young page complains of his difficulty in navigating the deep snow, he is directed to walk in the footprints made by the king. The page perseveres and learns that helping others brings blessings upon himself.

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GOOD KING WENCESLAS
by John Mason Neale

Good King Wenceslas looked out,
On the feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about,
Deep and crisp and even.

Brightly shown the moon that night,
Though the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight,
Gathering winter fuel.

Hither, page, and stand by me,
If thou know it telling:
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?

Sire, he lives a good league hence,
Underneath the mountain,
Right against the forest fence,
By Saint Agnes fountain.

Bring me flesh, and bring me wine.
Bring me pine logs hither.
Thou and I will see him dine,
When we bear the thither.

Page and monarch, forth they went,
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind’s wild lament,
And the bitter weather.

Sire, the night is darker now,
And the wind blows stronger.
Fails my heart, I know not how.
I can go no longer.

Mark my footsteps my good page,
Tread thou in them boldly:
Thou shalt find the winter’s rage,
Freeze thy blood less coldly.

In his master’s step he trod,
Where the snow lay dented.
Heat was in the very sod,
Which the Saint had printed.

Therefore, Christian men, be sure,
Wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor,
Shall yourselves find blessing
*****

No longer copyrighted, John Mason Neale's words
are now in the public domain

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Friday, April 26, 2019

Wishing on the Blarney Stone


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The 26 eclectic-genre short stories for my #AtoZChallenge are excerpts from travelogue notes by
novel character Gahlen, who first appeared in SHARDS OF MEMORY – Oral History in a Heartbeat.

Each A-to-Z daily post is a complete, stand-alone tale.

By Gerd Eichmann - Own work, 
CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=77077363


Wishing on the Blarney Stone
Genre: Historical Recollections
(365 words)

During the self-guided tour, through enclosed areas and ramparts, we climbed the 127 steps to the top of the castle. We rested before approaching the Blarney Stone. Our cab driver Devlon offered practical details about the consistency of the stone, limestone of some sort. His wife Kerry focused more on the unlikelihood of any earthly gains through kisses and wishes.
In the spirit of tradition, we accepted the challenge of kissing the stone which required a bit of gymnastics. It involved lying down, bending slightly backwards while holding onto metal bars for support, and then stretching forward to kiss the stone. Half-jokingly, most wished for riches and fame. Others confessed to wishing for improved physique or heightened eloquence.
We descended slowly, stopping to view the countryside and winding river. Kerry wandered off on her own, overcome by reminders of Ireland’s history.
During a circuit of the gardens, we discovered an ancient cemetery. We roamed the grounds, touching headstones. We created imagined lives between recorded birth and death dates, the only biography allotted to most people as they crossed over to whatever awaits all of us.
Kerry caught up with us in the parking lot. Apparently, the Blarney Stone had kept its promise to her about eloquence. She had spoken little on the way to the castle but was unable to stop talking on the return trip. Devlon drove while Kerry shared her knowledge of Irish history based on stories handed down from ancestors.

Only months later, after translating the scribblings in my notebook, was I able to piece together the information Kerry shared on the return trip from Blarney Castle. Although the bitterness of her recollections bled through as she spoke, I had ignored the devastation such memories must wreak upon the soul. Back in Wisconsin, further research corroborated much of what she had related concerning the effects of famine on the Irish population.
Even the role England played in the spiraling conditions proved accurate. But the image of vile degradation imposed on her ancestors, as she described the slow wasting away of bodies, the inhumane burials of multitudes, and the stark fear devouring the living, is not something easily assimilated on a well-nourished belly.

*****