Oct 2 2015

The Scorpion and the Frog

“A scorpion asks a frog to carry it across a river. The frog hesitates, afraid of being stung, but the scorpion argues that if it did so, they would both drown. Considering this, the frog agrees, but midway across the river the scorpion does indeed sting the frog, dooming them both. When the frog asks the scorpion why, the scorpion replies that it was in its nature to do so.”

–from the Wikipedia entry, via Daring Fireball

Feb 8 2014

Krampus comes back from college for Christmas

“Ma, I’m home!”

“I’m in the kitchen, Krampus! Come give your mom a hug.”


“You know the rules, Krampus–no hugs, no dinner.”

Krampus lumbered into the kitchen, dumped his bags on the floor, and limply hugged his mother.

“Hey, ma, I brought a friend home from college. This is Nick. Nick, this is my ma, Hel.”

A young man with a cherubic face, wispy beard and a bright red coat stepped forward.

“How do you do, Mrs. Hel?” he asked sweetly. “I brought you some taffy.”

“Oh, don’t you have nice manners?” she asked, giving a sidelong glance at her son. “Now sit down, you two. I’ve been cooking all day. I hope you like goat, Nicholas.”

“That would be great,” he said with a wink.

Hel soon filled the table with roast goat, potatoes, cabbage,  and lutefisk.

“I suppose you would like some mead, Nicholas?” Hel asked.

“Actually I would love some milk if you have it, Mrs. Hel,” Nick smiled.

Hel looked at him quizzically, then turned to pull a crock of goat milk out of the cooler.

After the drinks were served the two young men tore into dinner like they were starving, much to the matriarch’s approval.

“Surely you’re not done, Nicholas?”

Hel looked sadly at his empty plate, then at him.

“Oh, I couldn’t,” Nick started.

“Young boys need to eat,” Hel stated emphatically.

“If you insist,” Nick said with a twinkle and helped himself to another plate, and then another.

“That was the best dinner ever, Mrs. Hel. Thank you.”

“Oh, you!” she gushed as she swept away the dishes into the kitchen.

Krampus gave him a look that suggested maybe he was laying it on a bit thick, but Nick simply patted his very full belly and smiled his big, rosy-cheeked smile.

Hel re-entered the dining room with a huge pie still warm from the oven.

“Sorry it took me so long, Nicholas. These old dead feet aren’t a quick as they used to be.

Nick thought the idiom was quite humorous, though the mention of feet drew his eyes downward. What do you know–her feet really were dead.

“You’ll be having dessert, of course,” Hel stated, not asking.

Nick started to object out of courtesy, looking at Krampus, but then the slice was quickly dished onto his plate. He smiled sweetly at Hel and then beamed smugly at his friend.

“Maybe just a slice,” he said. “Or two.”

After dessert Hel again hauled away the dishes, except for Nick’s dessert plate, still occupied by quickly diminishing survivors of his pie.

“Ma, we’re gonna go upstairs,”

“Not yet, Krampus, we have something to discuss,” she called from the kitchen.

She said ‘discuss’ in that tone women use with men to let them know who will be doing the talking.

“Have you been naughty?” Nick asked cheerily.

“I can’t think of anything…she would have heard of,” Krampus whispered back.

Krampus began to sweat, wracking his brain for what have gotten back to his mom.

After several eternities Hel returned to the table with a piece of parchment.

” I received this letter from the dean,” Krampus’s mother started.

“Look ma, whatever he says–”

“Shut it, young man. He says that you have been caught scaring children, smacking them in the face with that tongue of yours,”

“Wait, Ma, I can explain–”

“Picking them up by their ears–”


“Furthermore he says that you were observed even beating children–small children–with sticks.”

Here she paused, and looked him straight in the eye.



“Krampus, I am so proud of you!”


“Krampus, I didn’t know if you would ever be ready to take over the family business! I am so proud of you,” she gushed, holding his wooly cheeks in her hands.

Krampus wiped the sweat from his forehead and breathed an audible sigh of relief.

“Well, you really have Nick to thank. He’s the one who got me in on the racket.”

“What?” asked Hel ecstatically, then she reached over and hugged Nick and kissed him on the cheek. Nick blushed happily to the tips of his ears. Krampus looked like he might be sick.

“So what is this ‘racket?’ Tell me all about it!”

“Krampus and I are partners in holiday retail,” Nick began.

“Yeah, ma, it’s like we’re two sides of the same coin. Nick rewards kids for being good, and I punish kids for being bad. The sticks–those were Nick’s idea, but the tongue–that’s all me!”

The smile faded from Hel’s face. She looked at him quizzically.

“So…the point of this is….”

“So children will be good, of course,” said Nick, smiling happily.

“So…you’re not just terrorizing children with sticks…just because? You want them to be….”

“Good,” Krampus started. “Yeah, isn’t it wild?”

Hel’s demeanor became overcast, the storm quickly gathering.

NO, Krampus! What do you think? I’m the freaking queen of the dishonored undead, and you’re trying to get children to be good?!

Krampus could hear the italics in her voice, and that was never good. His eyes darted around wildly, clueless to how things could have turned so bad so quickly.

“Do you realize how embarrassing this is? I was supposed to lead my armies against Odin at Ragnarok last year and then things went to pieces! I thought the stupid Mayans had miscalculated, or that Helheim wasn’t really recession-proof! But it turns out it was you!

“I thought you were happy that I was smacking the little buggers around!”

“It’s your motive, Krampus! How am I to lead an army of the dishonored dead if you keep trying to reform them before they grow up? Your grampa Loki–”

“Aw, ma, not grampa Loki again,” Krampus began, rolling his eyes.

“Your grampa Loki tricked a blind guy into killing everyone’s best friend with a flipping twig! And do you know why he did it?”


“For no other reason than He. Thought. It. Was. Funny!”

Nick started eyeing the door, looking to make a break for it.

Krampus’s  fingers clenched nervously, his lips bunched themselves trying to stay shut, but the words came boiling out anyway.

“Well, I don’t want to end up chained to a rock ’til the end of time!”

Hel got up silently and stalked off into the other room.

For half a minute neither of the freshmen spoke.

“Loki is your grandfather?” Nick asked incredulously.

“Yeah, kind of. Man, I don’t know how that could have gone worse,” sighed Krampus

There was a sudden jangling and before he knew it Hel had come up behind him and clapped his wrists in manacles.

“Come on, Krampus, we’re going to visit your grandparents!”

Nick looked at Krampus, pointed at the exit, and shot through the door like a rocket.

Krampus didn’t need any further encouragement.

“Ma! No! She’s not even my real gramma anyway! I’m out of here!”



Krampus ran out the door to his friend’s sleigh, there was a crack of leather, the jingle of bells, and they headed off into the sky.

Hel screamed into the night sky.


Nov 17 2011

Donegal Danny

There is a folk song called Donegal Danny about a man whose ship was caught in a storm and all of his fellow fishermen perished.

Here are part of the lyrics:

“And often at night when the sea is high
And the rain is tearing at my skin
I hear the cries of drowning men
Floating over on the wind.”

I’ve heard this song several times, but it was only yesterday that I realized that ‘the cries of drowning men’ should sound like:

‘Glub, glub, gluuuububbbb.’

Dec 27 2010

petticoat government

n. A government by women, especially at home.

“…instead of being a subject to his Majesty George the Third, he was now a free citizen of the United States. Rip, in fact, was no politician; the changes of states and empires made but little impression on him; but there was one species of despotism under which he had long groaned, and that was—petticoat government.”

–Washington Irving, Rip Van Winkle

Oct 7 2009

My first float trip

When I was seven and my brother was four we went with my Dad and his friend Roy on a float trip. I don’t remember the river, but I do remember a lot of things about the trip.

One thing was at one point in the river, over to the side, there was this circle where the water was literally blue. My Dad said it went a hundred feet down. I have since found in a book of Missouri Folklore that the spring, called Blue Spring (not to be confused with Blue Springs, Missouri), was created when an Indian maiden jumped into the water and drowned herself.

Some time later someone said, “Hey! Look at that! There’s a skeleton on that branch!” I looked up, anxious to see a human skeleton dangling from a rope in the tree–maybe a pirate or a cowboy that was hanged. I was disappointed to see that it turned out to be a huge frog skeleton in the water. It was intact, despite the lack of any flesh at all, and it appeared to be biting on a submerged branch.

The last event of the trip was when we were in the home stretch of the float, a wide slow-moving section of water, that Dad decided to be funny. He was an excellent swimmer, unafraid of any body of water, no matter how snake-infested. I was never a good swimmer.

Dad starting rocking the boat, acting like he was going to tip it over. My brother and I held on, trying not to be thrown overboard. I was terrified; Dad was highly amused.

Once he had finished having fun trying to drown us, he realized that he had inadvertently knocked his steel-toed boots overboard and they had sunk to the bottom of the river. It was good for him that he was such a good swimmer, as he had to dive down and retrieve them.

And then I was highly amused.