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Exclusive Middle Grade Short Story

Goblin Stones

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Dance Puppets … Dance

August 23, 2014

I often wonder what I would turn into if I were really rich. I don’t mean wealthy, or simply comfortable. I mean Dick Cheney buying a new heart for himself in his seventies kind of rich. That kind of money. Those of us without that financial scope typically are that way for a reason. Maybe it’s luck, birthright, or plain stupidity. It happens. But some of us aren’t rich because we don’t like what we see when we look at the world’s super bourgeoisie. We see addicts. Junkies that can never get a strong enough hit, jonesing for a fix, and willing to anything to get it. We don’t want to be that kind of person.

But, personally, if I were…well, some of the things I’d do. Wow! I’d be nothing shy of a monster.

Napoleon is often quoted as saying, “Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.”

Perhaps that was true for the bulk of human history. Lately with the ecumenical decline in faith, as one of those super rich, I’d have to turn to other means of keeping the paltry proletarians, the meager masses, and the worker drones from storming my palatial homes and such. I don’t want your filthy hands touching all my Stuff! Hmm, so fear of a hellish eternity just isn’t cutting it anymore…let’s see, what can I do to keep my coffers full and my fat ass alive? Hmm? Keep you puppets dancing to the tune I’m whistling.

Well, if the masses aren’t afraid of a god maybe they should be afraid of each other. Yeah, that could work. Fear will keep them in line. It always has as long as we don’t take away too many comforts. They have their fast food and TVs still. Oh, there’s an idea. Let’s use those. TVs, yeah that always gets their dander up. Offensive. Defensive. Violence. Outrage. Perfect!

Now how do I go about this? Hmm, well so many of them seem to want what I have. Money, money, money, money! Money! Even in small doses. I can toss it out like stale bread to ducks and they just gobble it up! Why don’t I pick a few who are desperate enough and stupid enough (I suppose that last part goes without saying) that I can pay them to stir up social unrest on the old boob tube, eh? Yeah, I like the sound of that! Wait…what should they stir up? Hmm. Oh duh! Race! Always go with color and creed. Set those masses against each other with their differences! So easy! So simple. Pull a string here. Pull another one there. Dance. Dance. Dance. So… Simple…

…Just one fool with one gun and I can keep them all distracted. It’s worked before. It will keep on working.

~Nick Shamhart

Illiteracy Leaves Little Basis for Comparison

August 8, 2014

I was recently asked to give my opinion on what I felt was psychologically right or wrong with the Fifty Shades of Grey books.

I had my doubts that my contribution would see the light of day because I did not take what I am sure was the anticipated, belligerent yes or no stance that is the hallmark of inexperience (and, sadly seems to be the mindset de jure). I wanted folks to have the chance to read it, so here goes.

“Art is of course subjective. Personally I shudder to label a Bodice Ripper as art, but some people consider Robert Mapplethorpe to be an artist. It’s a matter of personal choice – the externalization of the internal.
That said, to tear apart the Fifty Shades trilogy would be unfair. The phenomenon that the books stirred about had little to do with the quality of story telling, the prose, or the presentation. What happened was that the populace brought it upon themselves. Worldwide reading trends are quite sad. Entertainment on demand fired a bullet pointblank into the floundering corpse that was the publishing industry. The statistics for the USA are nothing shy of terrifying. 58% of Americans will not read a book after high school. One in ten thousand Americans is an avid reader, meaning they read more than one book a month.
What happened with the Fifty Shades books was a direct result of those numbers. When people don’t read they have little to use as a basis of comparison. So, instead of E.L. James’ books being swept into the growing heap of erotica, with the likes of Steele, Collins, and other ladies that have been working that trade for decades, people took notice. 
Social Media, and its fickle trends helped word spread about the books.
It was the same ecumenical ripple effect that Rowling’s Potter books had. They were fine for what they were, in that case fantasy for Fifty Shades erotica, but for true avid readers that could compare the books to a much broader and larger personal library they were nothing special. 
That’s why children like simple, brightly colored toys. They are stimulating, and the child has no previous experience to say whether the toy is good or bad. Most of the staunch supporters of the Fifty Shades book that I have met read very few books annually. Half a dozen at best, so if they have read less than a hundred books in their lifetime. Who is to say what they are basing their love of Fifty Shades against?”
~Nick Shamhart

Misunderstanding Patience

August 2, 2014

Our definition and concept of the word patience varies greatly.

1. the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain without complaint, loss of temper, or anger.
2. an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay.
3. quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence.
In the West we take those ideas and pervert them to our constant need for more. Our delusion of something better, something more, something else, greener grass, bountiful pastures, promised lands – all fuel our fire of desire. We salve our need for greed with a virtue we so blithely dub patience.
We tell ourselves to be patient and we can have everything we want. Be patient and stay the course for great reward! Be patient and you shall have a better job, more money, a bigger house, a golden retirement, a slimmer waistline, a calmer demeanor, and more and more and more.  But, patience is not about acquisition. It’s not about waiting the clock out. Time isn’t our friend who’ll come sweeping in one day like Santa Claus to reward all us good boys and girls who were patient.
The cicada has always held a special place in my mind, when I think of patience. Like many people my wife thinks of heat and summer when she hears their chattering call. That’s how you know it’s hot in a movie, right? You hear the cicadas.
The cicada knows patience better than any human. Some of them remain as nymphs (immature cicadas), buried underground for as long as seventeen years,  and emerging for only a few weeks as matured adult cicadas. Think about it. Some of the cicadas you hear this summer may have been born before Princess Diana died!
Patience. It is not about waiting to get something. The waiting already is something!
Next time your hear a cicada don’t think of it as the sound of heat or summer. No, it is the sound of patience.
~Nick Shamhart

Square Pegs & Round Holes

July 14, 2014

I recently returned to my hometown for an evening. I always find it strange to see the hand of time at work.

In a quick conversation with a friend’s mother, we referenced an odd moment of my past. A moment that is nothing shy of laughable to me and the man I have become…but, as a child? that moment accounts as the vector for a huge portion of stress from my adolescence. Offhandedly I deemed it a matter of square pegs and round holes. But later that night, driving home, I thought about how often those cases eat at the world – cancerous, leprous, rotting away at the fabric of society. Culminating in small instances of insecurity for some adults, or going so far as to twist others into violence and malice.

And the asinine cause is – square pegs and round holes. That’s it. Simple. Easy to overcome, but often left to fester.

There’s nothing wrong with the square pegs. There’s nothing wrong with the round holes. They just don’t work together. They’re in the wrong place. But, instead of seeing the difference as blameless, as part of how the universe works, they typically find it’s easier to feel that the reason they don’t go together is the fault of the other. Opposition. That’s how society works, right? That damn dualistic perspective that pits man against woman, black against white, good against evil, the lightside against the darkside, dogs against cats, Ohio Sate against Michigan, heads against tails, and so forth and so on…that perspective keeps people entrenched in a limited world.

The universe is infinite. It’s the limited human mind that sees things in twos. How much and how many do you see? … that’s up to you.

~Nick Shamhart

It’s Hard to F@#k Up Vanilla

July 10, 2014

Sometimes when I travel to a book signing nearby I bring a friend along with me. He’s a young man. A good kid. We bullshit, chew the fat, and sometimes just listen to the radio.

…..Look, I never set out in life  to be some guru or sage. I watch the world go by and sometimes I make an observation about what I see. Sometimes those observations help people. Sometimes they hurt, though that has never been my intention and those who were ever hurt by my words I hope you have the strength to forgive me.

Somehow I still find myself in that role of teacher, though. With that in mind, I’ve found that direct answers are easily forgotten. It’s lessons that are learned when a student comes to their own conclusion that sticks with people.

On the way home from a recent signing my young friend was telling me about some S’mores flavored milkshake from somewhere that was amazing. I told him I liked vanilla. His response was, “But vanilla is boring.”

I said that may be true, but it’s reliable. I know I’m going to have a sweet, tasty drink no matter where I purchase it. Other flavors can be chalky or too sweet and cloying. How often do you hear about some new flavor? All the time, right? Something better. Something newer! You build it up in your mind and when you finally try it … well, it wasn’t all that great. Meanwhile I’m sitting there enjoying my boring old vanilla. It’s hard to fuck up vanilla, brother.

Now, of course I like vanilla shakes. My ever fluctuating waistline is a testament to that. But I was hoping he would take that concept and apply it to life in general. You know the drill, learn to appreciate all the small, little boring things life gives us. That’s what life is, isn’t it? A bunch of boring things. A breath. A smile. A laugh. Small, tiny, insignificant, wonderful, boring things.

…………. Last Friday, a week after his seventeenth birthday, my friend had an accident. He suffered serve head trauma from a fall, and has had a craniotomy to lesson the pressure in his skull. His pressure has continued to fluctuate over the last week. His family and friends wait and wonder. We hope. We pray. And we hope some more.

Small things matter, friends. Little things. Boring things. Take a moment and enjoy them.

~Nick Shamhart


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