Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Timmy - pt. 1

[Written in 1991 and published in Spire, Elgin Community College’s student newspaper. It is very, very, loosely autobiographical.]

It is very late and I should not be here.

I had to break the lock on the gate to get in. I could not carry what I needed over the fence. I doubted anyone would find anything amiss come morning anyway. I had no reason to fear discovery by the caretaker. He lived like a hermit in his little house. No one remembers ever seeing him. The whole area was an eyesore, because he never came out to tend the grass or the flowers. The whole area had fallen into ruin and decay. No, I did not expect to encounter him at all.

Propping my shovel against a short, gnarled tree, I carried the bag alone to the spot. I carried it past the Olmsteds, and Old Julia Olney with her withered, old flowers. I nearly tripped over the Olsens. Fortunately, I caught my balance. I could not drop that bag. I cut across a path in order to reach – but they were not there! I was amongst the Stuarts when I should have been near the Vullners. Had it been so long since I last visited that I could not remember….No, I could see it then. I had not gone far enough. The Vullner stone was to the right. I hated the Vullners for that big, marble stone of theirs. Although, I confess, I’ve never met them, I can guess they are snobbish, conceited people to have so large a stone.

Then was not the time to dwell on other pains. I had a difficult enough duty ahead of me. I ever so gently placed the bag next to the tiny stone which read, “Kenneth A. Wadford,” my father’s name. I’ll be right back, I thought, but did not speak. I had to go back for my shovel first. I had not yet passed the Olsens when I heard someone at the gate. I could not see the gate, so I must have been equally invisible. Yet my first thought was of the embarrassment of being found, and I hid behind an old, dead bush. I could hear the creaking of leather boots. Had he heard me? I had no doubt been discovered by the caretaker. So, he was more vigilant than I had given him credit for. The gate creaked open. He had discovered my handiwork. Had he found the pliers I so foolishly left at the gate? He must have known I was there, and for a moment I wished he would shine a flashlight on me and get this over with.

He did not come in.

Perhaps he didn’t want to bother, or the night air was too cold for him, but he did not come in. Maybe there was something on TV he didn’t want to miss and so he went back. Cautiously, I waited to hear his creaking boots again. When I had heard nothing long enough, I rose up and fetched my shovel (which had fortunately been on the wrong side of the tree to be seen from the gate). I almost went through the open gate to fetch my pliers, but I realized that the caretaker, should he return, would find it even more suspicious if the pliers were missing.

The bag was right where I had left it. Should it not have been? The caretaker’s appearance had made me frightfully edgy. There was no reason for it, though. The dark and my remoteness would protect me from discovery. Only the moon and the southern cross would see what I would do for Timmy. I had a simply enough task – to dig a hole. How quickly I felt ashamed for thinking such a thing. There was nothing simple about this. The simple thing to do would have been to do nothing. When the church told me Timmy would not be given a proper Christian burial, I could not go along with that at all. Timmy deserved better. I tried to explain to them how Timmy was just a victim of circumstance, but they didn’t understand how important this was. I dug into the earth with my shovel, thus beginning my excavation.

The digging wasn’t easy, but my mind wasn’t even on what I was doing. My thoughts always went out to Timmy. It had always been painful for me that you were not of my flesh and blood, Timmy. Was it difficult for you, knowing you were adopted? I wouldn’t know because I was raised by my own parents. I wasn’t as young as my father was when he had me, but I tried to play the kinds of games with you that he used to play with me. I was on the football team back in high school. Did I ever tell you that? Probably not. I didn’t want to make you feel obligated to follow in my footsteps. If football wasn’t the game for you, then I accepted that. I tried to find things both of us would enjoy doing. We never did try trench digging, did we Timmy? I was exhausted and only two feet deep. Had I become all that tired in body? My limbs trembled, and my eyes were so weak I could no longer see what I was digging. At least, that was my first explanation. Quickly, I realized that the fault lied not in my eyes but in the clouds in the sky. They hid the moon and the stars and plunged me into darkness.

Can you imagine the entirety of the situation? There were no neighboring houses way out there. There were no unshuttered windows to cast light into my hole in the ground, except for one at the caretaker’s house, but that window was so far away as to only be a glow in the distance. I had a flashlight, but I dared not use it. Should the caretaker see it, he would know his vandal was still there and would surely come back out for a more thorough search. Perhaps, my mind at that late hour, and so exhausted from my labor, exaggerated this obstacle, but for a few minutes I was prepared to stop. I tossed my shovel aside and slumped down on the cold earth next to the bag.

I’m sorry, Timmy, I thought to myself. I can’t do it. Will you forgive me if I can’t? Ah, I remember your first birthday. All you wanted was to sleep, but I kept waking you up from your nap. I wanted to sing “happy birthday” to you and give you some birthday cake. I didn’t want to wait a few years until you were ready for a birthday party, so I tried to force one on you. You were so cranky that day. You showed me. Did you ever forgive me for that? Heh, at least I had the sense not to invite the neighbors’ kids. Oh, God, I miss you, Timmy. When the doctor told me you had been sick for so long….Why didn’t you ever tell me? I thought we were closer than that. I suppose you were just paying me back for when I wouldn’t let you take your nap.

Fortunately, the wave of despair which had passed over me did not stay long. What did I need to see for to dig? The ground would be there whether I could see or not. I resumed my work. Those few minutes of rest had done wonders for me, and I worked with renewed vigor. I shoveled out great mounds of dirt, and soon had an enormous pile of disgorged earth to the side of my hole. It seemed I would not fail Timmy after all.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Wimpy Tales - p. 2

#9. "Enter: Geraldo!" June?, 1991.
Antagonist: Sgt. Omar Amir and His Iraqi Commandoes. Starring: ? Guest Stars: Geraldo Rivera. Setting: Chicago. Synopsis: When the Wimpy Heroes learned that Omar Amir and his Commandoes were scheduled to appear on the Geraldo Rivera show, the Wimpy Heroes showed up in time to stop the Iraqi soldiers from holding the live studio audience hostage. And they all broke chairs over Geraldo’s head.

#10. “Herbiwar: Part One” July ?, 1991.
Antagonist: Louie the Lilac. Starring: ? Setting: Rosemont. Synopsis: While the Wimpy Heroes were in Rosemont for the annual ComicCon, a gardening convention was being robbed by Louie the Lilac (from the ‘60s Batman TV show), some goons, and a mutated plant monster. After being captured, Louie spilled that the plant monster had been loaned to him by a villainess called Belladonna and he even told them where to find her.

#11. “Herbiwar: Part Two” July ?, 1991.
Antagonist: Belladonna. Starring: Shrinky-Dink Man, Shruiken, and...? Setting: Gary, Indiana. Synopsis: The trail led to a factory in Gary, Indiana. The factory was protected by some traps, but Belladonna was found working them from the office and was quickly captured. She revealed that her boss was the Plant Man.

#12. “Herbiwar: Part Three” July ?, 1991.
Antagonist: Plant Man. Starring: Variable, Shrinky-Dink Man, and...? Guest Stars: Great Lakes Avengers. Synopsis: The Plant Man was mutating plant monsters and selling them, through Belladonna, to other criminals. The Wimpy Heroes confronted him in his giant greenhouse full of plant monsters. All the Wimpy Heroes were captured, but then the Great Lakes Avengers, who were also on Plant Man’s trail, showed up. The GLA freed the Wimpy Heroes and the two teams worked together to capture the Plant Man.

Annual #1. Antagonist: a moloid (from the Mole Man's kingdom of Subterranea). Starring: Shrinky-Dink Man, Dreamwave, and…? Setting: South Elgin. Synopsis: Reports of a monster sighting in South Elgin led the Wimpy Heroes to do a yard-by-yard search. The trail led back to the rock quarry where a lost and scared moloid had wandered to the surface. The Wimpy Heroes captured the moloid and returned it to where it belonged. Bonus: Comic book Jeopardy!

#13. "The Phantom of the Chicago Theater!" August ?, 1991.
Antagonist: Mysterio II. Starring: Captain Jew, Shrinky-Dink Man. Setting: Chicago. Synopsis: The Wimpy Heroes were
contacted and asked to investigate reports of a phantom haunting the Chicago Theater. The two heroes who showed up found a variety of mechanical traps about the theater and discovered that the “phantom” was Dan Berkhart, the second Mysterio.

#14. Sept. ?, 1991.
Starring: Annoying Man, Shrinky-Dink Man, Dreamwave, and …? Setting: Streamwood. Synopsis: An un-finished 14th scenario pitted the Wimpy Heroes against the Chicago branch of the Maggia. The scenario proved too challenging for the dwindling number of players and an encounter where the Maggia attacked the Wimpy Heroes on their home turf ended in Annoying Man killing a carload of hoodlums, changing the tone of the entire campaign. The campaign was resolved “off-panel”, with me informing the
remaining players how I had it planned. All the heroes but Shrinky-Dink Man would have been captured and the Maggia boss would have revealed that their super powers had all been an accident caused by an experiment to give him super powers. The boss would drain them of their powers, but Shrinky-Dink Man would free them and they would still be able to defeat the boss, even powerless.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Beverly Zombies

[Christmas vacation has kept me, ironically, too busy to share anything for 10 days. Here's a bit of creative nonsense I wrote back in 2005]

While on the road for a long time this last weekend, I composed the following in my head:

Let me tell you of the story of a man named Jed
A grizzly bear ate him and now he's dead
But he rose from his grave as a zombie you see
And then he ate the brains of his whole family.

(Hillybilly brains.)
(Small potatoes.)

So along by now the whole family's undead
They sleep in coffins instead of a bed
They don't need a toilet 'cuz' they don't have to pee
So they moved to a crypt in the town of Beverly.

(Hills, that is.)

(Episode in progress)
Media mogul: I have to admit, I thought I could pull the wool over your eyes with my Hollywood savvy and double talk, but I see now that your folksy charm and honest ways are a better life than my million dollar mansion and jet-setting life.
Jed: Hmm...brains...
Media mogul: (chuckles) Yes, you sure have a lot of brains not to have signed that contract to give my network exclusive rights to your life story for just $10,000. But now that we understand each other, let's start over and see if we can renegotiate --"
Jed: Eat brain now!

(Episode ends to faster instrumental reprise of theme song.)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Top 11 Favorite Books

[I put together this list back in 2005 and it has not changed since.]

We were recently asked here at the library to put together a list of our favorite books for a "staff recommended" bibliography. I did slip some graphic novel/trade paperbacks into my list, but thought I'd share my top 10 (I finally decided on 10!) non-comic book novels and novellas, and encourage you all to do the same. Also, so my list wouldn't get glutted by single authors I like a lot, I limited myself to one book I like best from each author.

1. The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien)
2. With a Single Spell (Lawrence Watt-Evans)
3. Gods of Mars (Edgar Rice Burroughs)
4. Voyage of the Dawn Treader (C.S. Lewis)
5. The Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Graeme)
6. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)
7. True Names (Vernor Vinge)
8. Ender's Game (Orson Scott Card)
9. The Sign of Four (Arthur Conan Doyle)
10. Dirk Gentley's Holistic Detective Agency (Douglas Adams)
11. Alice in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A Valentine's Day Poem

[A highwater mark of my early writing "career". In 1991, I attended a Valentine's Day poetry contest at Elgin Community College, wrote a poem while I sat there listening to the other poems, read mine aloud as a last-minute entry, and won a prize for best humorous love poem. The poem was subsequently published in the 1991 issue of Spire, ECC's student literary magazine.]

Cherished memory of times past,
So much we have shared with each other.
That time we dined at Tony's
And you whispered in my ear,
You must remember the words.
"Can I borrow a hundred bucks?"
"I'll pay you back," you said.
I believed you.
Now, this is the fourth time I've called,
Only to be met by your answering machine.
I thought I could trust you,
I thought I knew you,
And I want my money back.
By the way, Happy Valentine's Day,
And remember, I know where you live.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Character Concept - Jade

[Co-created with my girlfriend Megan, but mainly written by me, for an aborted PBEM campaign]

Name: Jade
Sex: Female
Class: Magic-User (journeyman)
Race: Human
INT: 15
WIS: 14
CHA: 13
STR: 11
CON: 11
DEX: 10
XP: 0
HP: 4
AC: 9
Age: 33
Social Class: MLC
Align: Neutral
Relatives: Crystal (29-yr. old sister)
Money: 1 gold pieces, 20 silver pieces, 8 copper pieces
Items: Shield, simple bow, 12 arrows [made with house rules that allowed magic-users to employ shields and any weapon, but all restricted to 1-4 points of damage regardless of size], dagger, gown, robe, shoes, book, cheese (1 lb.), lantern, salted jerky (1 lb.), waterskin.

Background: Jade was the oldest daughter of two simple villagers in the Village of Barnard. Her father was a tailor and Jade was apprenticed to him in that trade at the age of 16 (being customary for unwed maids of 16 or older to seek employment in the Barony of Blackmoor). Her village was on the edge of the Barony of Blackmoor, along the shores of Loch Glomen. She might have wiled away her years here without any hint of adventure in her life had not a young stranger come to town during her first year of apprenticeship. He was a magic-user, a journeyman in the mystic arts, and was seeking his fortune. He was also young and handsome, just as Jade was young and beautiful. The two fell in love, and the young man promised to take Jade far away to the City of Maus where she could learn magic, as he had, at a college of magical arts there.

Life in Maus proved less than idyllic. The city itself was a nasty, vicious place. Her teachers at the college could be cruel. The student body was small and seldom numbered over a dozen students at a time. Worse of all came the tragic accident during spell research when Jade’s then-fiancé was killed. Numb from the loss, and feeling she could not go back home, she stayed at the college for years, never advancing far as a student.

Finally, with what monies her fiancé had left her spent and with no more ability to work off her scholarship, she gave up college life and returned home. Many years had passed, and Jade was now a mature woman. She thought her home village, at least, would have seen fewer changes than her.

She was wrong. Barnard was considerably changed. It had grown into a small town – a squalid, filthy town that was mostly filled with strangers who seemed more at home in Maus. Barnard was now called Frogtown, named after the new temple constructed in town – the Temple of the Frog.

It was the 19th day of Dewsnap, and Jade had woken in the Village of Nengone on Mare Island . It was the last stop on her way back to Rocking, the village on Rock Island that she once called home. She had a strange dream last night. She dreamt that a shooting star fell out of the sky and landed in Rocking. She dreamt that the people of Rocking had gathered around the fallen star and celebrated it. Jade felt compelled to approach the fallen star. She embraced it, tried to lift it, and tried to move it, but could not lift or move the star.

It was a strange dream, but since Jade’s dreams had rarely been prophetic before, she did not reflect on it long. She did have, after all, a rather momentous homecoming ahead of her. She had been away from Rock Island , near the south shore of Loch Glomen , for 16 long years. For a long time she had dreaded returning home, but now she was anxious to see it again. She thanked the people who had let her stay with them for the night, paid them generously with a silver piece for their trouble, and went to the dock.

The first sign that something was wrong on Rock Island came from the ferryman. “You mean Frog Island , don’t you?” the old man asked. Jade assured him that she meant the next island over to the east, to which the old ferryman gave a curious shrug. “You seem too proper a lady to be heading for Frogtown,” he said, but left it at that.

It was a cold, breezy day. She was wearing her college gown under her robes to help keep warm. There was a light fog that refused to blow off the lake. Because of this low visibility, she did not see Frogtown until they were almost upon it. It had to be Frogtown, because the little village of Rocking that she remembered was one-fourth this size. The ferry was pulling up to a fishing dock at the edge of some slums – squalid little huts and shacks, with a mixture of wood and thatch buildings that were businesses of some sort or another and, beyond that, long warehouses. About a hundred yards east of this dock was a curtain wall with towers that extended from the shore north. The ferryman demanded a silver piece for his troubles.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Wimpy Tales - pt. 1

[My first successful (though not my first) superhero role-playing campaign was "Wimpy Tales", using the Marvel Super Heroes role-playing game ( The following is a record of our sessions, based on notes taken at the time.]

#1. "Green Heroes." April 9, 1991. Starring: Captain Jew, Bob, Variable, Shrinky-Dink Man, and the Disciplinarian. Guest stars: Teen Hulk (, Armand Martel (, various teachers and students from Streamwood High School. Setting: Streamwood High School. Synopsis: Five would-be superheroes between the ages of 13 and 20 gather when Teen Hulk transfers to a high school in the Chicago suburbs and goes on a rampage. Armand Martel, one of the last of the Hulkbusters, shows up to take Teen Hulk into custody, but the school refuses to press charges and lets Teen Hulk continue to take classes.

#2. "If Dentistry Be My Destiny..." April 17, 1991. Antagonist: Molar Man and CADH (Citizens Against Dental Hygiene) Starring: Bob, Variable, Dream Wave, Annoying Man, Leprechaun, Disciplinarian. Guest stars: Annoying Man’s mother, CADH members Terry Anizuko, Raoul Fatim, and Lesly Carter, Hernando Elias Cardona Fernandez. Setting: "Dr." Fernandez's office, Adult & Children Orthodontics (in Schaumburg). Synopsis: A wave of debilitating dental accidents is sweeping Cook County so the Wimpy Heroes recruit some new members to investigate. “Dr.” Fernandez, a gangster posing as a dentist in order to distribute drugs, is stumbled across by accident, and rats out the location for CADH’s newest office. The Wimpy Heroes beard the Molar Man in his lair and capture him.

#3. "The Hand of Swarm!" April 27, 1991. Antagonist: Dr. Bernard Hertzsprung. Starring: Variable, Shrinky-Dink Man, Dream Wave, Annoying Man, and the Leprechaun. Guest Stars: Dr. Henry Pym (, Dr. Alfred Dunivan (Fermilab scientist), Rob McDonal & Hal O'Crant (garbage men), Cliff Raymond (Bartlett Village sanitation director), Shrinky-Dink Man and Annoying Man’s mothers, Swarm (partially,, Red Head (rejected Wimpy Hero). Setting: Mallard Lake Landfill, Hanover Park Village Hall, Fermi-Lab. Synopsis: Dr. Henry Pym cameos at Fermi-Lab, there to study the skeletal hand of the villain Swarm, which is accidentally thrown in the garbage. The Wimpy Heroes discover the hand by accident, lose it again, and find that it wound up at the nearby Village Hall and is generating a dangerous bee swarm. Dr. Bernard Hertzsprung (who has a wooden hand and a horrible German accent) had botched stealing the hand from Fermi-Lab and tries to recover it now, but he is captured, the hand is recovered, and the hand is returned safely to Fermi-Lab for study.

#4. "It Came from the Stars -- C.O.D.!" May 1, 1991.
Antagonist: M'maelmaan. Starring: Variable, Bob, Shrinky-Dink Man, Disciplinarian, and the Leprachaun. Guest Stars: Torgo (, Matthew Blazer (postman), Mayor Daley, Cook County Postmaster General (name not given), a friend of Bob and the Disciplinarian named Joe. Setting: Bensenville, Chicago (Daley Building). Synospsis: M’maelmaan, a big robot that looks kind of like a mailman lands in Bensenville and announces its intention to destroy and take over, in no particular order. The Wimpy Heroes head into Bensenville in the Leprachaun’s car, only to lose that car when they crash it ineffectually into M’maelmaan. M’maelmaan realizes he had not landed in a very large city and flies to Chicago instead, with the Wimpy Heroes following suite. They through everything they’ve got at the robot outside the Daley Building, but since they haven’t got very much they only slow him down. And then Torgo shows up.

#5. "P.O. Box Infinity!" May 2, 1991.
Anatagonist: M'maelmaan. Starring: Captain Jew, Variable, Shrinky-Dink Man, Disciplinarian, Annoying Man, Leprachaun, and Shruiken. Guest Stars: Same as last issue, plus another would-be hero named John. Setting: Chicago. Synopsis: Torgo is on the good guy’s side, claims M’maelmaan is a renegade from their home planet, Mekka, and has come to arrest him and bring him back. Torgo and M’maelmaan battle, but find themselves stalemated. More wimpy heroes show up to join the fight. Capt. Jew, sensing that the evil robot’s mailman motif is its weakness, brings dogs to bark at it. Basically, M’maelmaan gets so annoyed by the Wimpy Heroes that he eventually just decides to leave. Torgo pursues him into space.

#6. "We, the Few..." May 11, 1991.
Antagonist: Sgt. Omar Amir and His Iraqi Commandoes. Starring: Variable, Shrinky-Dink Man, Annoying Man, Jock, Disciplinarian. Guest Stars: Variable and Shrinky-Dink Man’s parents, Teen Hulk. Setting: Tefft Middle School (Streamwood). Synopsis: Streamwood is starting to see some of the cosmos-wide effects of the Infinity Gauntlet Saga ( Worse, Saddam Hussein had a band of “elite” terrorists infiltrate the U.S. for the purpose of taking over the White House, but they had got lost and wound up at Tefft Middle School in Streamwood, Illinois. Making due, they take the middle school hostage, but are stomped by the Wimpy Heroes with Teen Hulk’s help.

#7. "The 24-Hour Nightmare!" May 11, 1991.
Antagonist: Thanos ( Starring: Bob, Variable, Shrinky-Dink Man, Disciplinarian, Annoying Man, and the Leprachaun. Guest Stars: Death (in dream sequence), Dan Quayle (on the phone), various Streamwood teenagers, George Bush and Captain America (on TV). Setting: Streamwood. Synopsis: Thanos has erased half the people on Earth (and everywhere else) and more disasters keep happening that overwhelm the Wimpy Heroes. The Variable calls the White House, gets the Vice-President on the phone, and almost talks Quayle into handing him emergency executive authority before someone else takes the phone away from him. Later, the Wimpy Heroes suddenly appear before Thanos who can’t believe these are the last heroes left in the universe to oppose him. So it won’t be so insulting, Thanos boosts all their powers and they tussle. Some of the buffed Wimpy Heroes go down, but the Variable manages to get Thanos in a hold and give him a swirlie. Then everyone wakes up, and it was all a dream.

#8. "The Search for Clark!" May ?, 1991.
Antagonist: Dr. Bernard Hertzsprung and Jose Fernandez. Starring: Variable, Shrinky-Dink Man, Disciplinarian, Annoying Man, and Dream-Wave. Guest Stars: Red Head. Setting: Elgin. Synopsis: Annoying Man calls the Wimpy Heroes together to inform them that his friend Clark (the rejected hero Red Head) is missing. Their search leads them to the city of Elgin, where their old foe Dr. Hertzsprung has teamed up with the cousin of Hernando Fernandez, another gangster. Hertzsprung has some surplus weapons from A.I.M. ( that he is trying to sell to Fernandez for his gang. Red Head got in the middle of this and was captured, but the Wimpy Heroes show up and defeat everybody.