My books

Her Story of Ballooning

An excerpt from the WIP “Sigmund, Falling Up!”

Man has always dreamt of flight, free through the air. A dream attained. Through effort and persistence.

But for the longest time it was attainable only in dreams. And what did that mean, they thought. Why want something which cannot be had? Madness. 

But that is the way of dreams. They persist. Timeless. In repetition.

The first dream was to fly like a bird. To rise, soar, and dive. To flutter about, careless. 

But this requires a fragility of bone structure. A hollowing out. And wings.

At first this is the desire. The simple answer, to attain wings. And man, initiative, looks to the construction of tools. To build wings, themselves tools, to attain lift off. To rise up. In emulation of birds.

Wings have feathers. These could be borrowed. These could be assembled. Blended in to the apparatus. They might even be faked. To make a man look like a bird, or a facsimile, a fake bird. 

Thus assembled comes the test. But there is no lift. There is no take off. No flight. To start from on high, to glide, is to have dreams deferred. No jumping, no flapping, no gliding to speak of. Just dreams dashed on the rocks of higher expectation. Even some birds cannot fly and they all have feathers. Feathers are more a mark of a bird than flight. Still, if a man were to wear feathers, it would not make him a bird. Hope dashed.

The same goes for women, though they are more grounded in thought. Though just as ready to rise up.

But a balloon. An artificial construct filled with air confined. Was discovered to be able to sail through the outer air. The air inside the construct being different than the air outside. An anomaly. Rises to the occasion. As long as it is mastered.

Ballooning is a rather safe way to fly. Do not let the thought make you a basket case. The balloon may be mastered. Our Lady Madeline Sophie Blanchard is a master of the balloon. She knows the way of the air. She keeps current. She has risen up more than anyone on earth, and let her passengers, and herself, down gently. Every time. You could do worse.

Further, to prove a point, she throws fireworks from the air. People come from all over to see the spectacle of lights popping in the air and a woman sailing away. Free. Like a bird. But not at all like a bird. 

Sigmund met her in the morning. In the field. In the commune of Avignon. By the left bank of the Rhone river. Once the home of seven successive popes. You can still see the ramparts.

He is an old man, a man obsessed. A father figure. She a vibrant woman of the air. Together they are classic figures of modernity, but a miss-match.

They size each other up and are impressed, each with the other.

“Shall we fly?” said Madame  Sophie Blanchard.

“Yes,” said Sigmund. “I have often dreamt of such.”

He held his hat in one hand, to his chest, and bowed slightly. His cane was hooked on his other arm. A cigar hung from his mouth.

She took him to the basket case. Swung open the door. They climbed in. There were seats inside, and under them a stockpile of explosives. Fireworks. 

“Is this safe,” Siggy asked.

“But of course, you silly man,” said Madame Blanchard. “Ballooning is the safest way to fly.”

“That is what they say,” Sigmund said. “But is it not, if we are to be clear, the only real way to fly?”

“Do not be pedantic,” Sophie said. “Fill yourself with the wonders of the modern age. This will do until something else comes along. If you will do the honor, Doctor Freud, please light the gas flame with your silly cigar.”

Sigmund did, and Sophie pulled in the grounding line. And soon they lifted off the field of Avignon. 

Up, up drifted the adventurers. Sigmund fell back into one of the seats. “Silly Sigmund!” Sophie said. “Falling Up!” He noted that the seats were simple. Not more than three legged stools attached to the basket, the walls of which made up the back. Certainly not first class seating. Or second. 

From the air they rose over the city walls, the ramparts. Obsoleting them. Though they looked nice from above. 

“This is what it is like to be free!” shouted Sophie Blanchard into the sky. “As a bird!”

Sigmund was well on the way to prove his point to the other gentlemen of the Psychoanalytic Club, those upstart whippersnappers. He would show them all. Again. Also, there was a matter of a gentleman’s bet.

Madame Sophie Blanchard needed to prove nothing to no-one. Different motivations. Altogether.

Tragic Stories (disguised as jokes)

Tragic Stories (disguised as jokes) is a collection of tales told by a monster to a demanding little girl.

Monsters are unlucky in love. Cupid explains. Some monsters are closer than others. There is a monster who only dines on one half of any available loving couple, A specialty. You can judge a person by their hat. If you want to protect your children (and see them less) you send them back in time. Hungry lions. The suicide machine built with love. Hate mail. Oscar Wilde judges the beauty pageant.

A bouquet of thorns. Falsely called the black book.

Tragic Stories (disguised as jokes).

“It is better, in every scenario,

to steal someone’s heart rather than break it.

That is my official stance on theft.

Trust me, I looked at all the scenarios.”

David Raffin

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Two Views of the FreakShow

It was a dusty, blow away town. The crowds here were larger than otherwise, since people here had nowhere else to be. Nowhere they wanted to be otherwise. Surely this was encouraged by the entrance fee, reduced to a scant two bits, cheaper, brother, than the run down movie “palace” on what passed as small town Main Street.

Come and See


The movie house had worn carpets where the tents at the freak show were bare earth. It had dim lights where here there were full views. Couples would kiss there, in the balcony, if they were not interrupted by an usher serious about a morals policy. Here there was freedom. Still, there was less often kissing among the visitors, as the atmosphere was not as encouraging to amorousness amongst the patrons.
And they were patrons. They made all this possible.


The barker intoned as much when he spieled, “Friends, you make all this possible. Were it not for you these unfortunates would languish in poverty and obscurity. Shame, my friends. Shame. We expose the wonders of the natural world. A view of humanity and decency. We thank you for your kind patronage. And please, no screaming in the tents. This way to the attractions.”
Hard times. These small towns were the only thing keeping the show afloat. For now.


“Mr. Mayor,” said the barker as he tipped his hat to a little old man at the head of the line. He knew this man from his years in the trade. And he wasn’t the Mayor, just the oldest man in town. And a grump, as well. But everyone treated him as if he were the mayor, as an act of street magic. A psychic pay-off.
“Hmph,” answered the mayor, as he flitted his hand in the air, shooing the barker away. But the barker stood where he was and smiled as the mayor passed by and in. It is a service industry.


The old man came as a tradition. He had experienced a good night here, at a traveling carnival, so many years ago it was the last century. And he relived it, just a taste. A tantalizing remembrance faded through the years. When he was here it was as close, and as far, to or from the fact as he got. It was happiness and sorrow. Punishment and reward.
But it was best not to speak of it, for it was, at its heart, at that time, forbidden.


Inside a tent, people gathered before the stage. They were muted. There was an eagerness to proceed. The crowd stood hungry. Alert.
The curtains billowed.
“Ladies. Gentlemen. Fear-st your eyes at the sight. Incomparable. Are we not all in our heart alone? Do we not stand by ourselves in the wilderness looking for a trail? A clearing? A safe shelter? This girl was kept down in the cellar at the estate of her family and spoken of only in hushed tones. But here, at last, now…”


And the curtain parted. And she sat overlooking the crowd.
And there was an instinctual gasp, collective. As all viewed her in silence thereafter. It was even as if the mayor was impressed.
They looked at her. And she at them.


It was what they did. The onlookers looked on. But what would the spectacle do? It was the spirit of reciprocity. If they could look in, we could look out. For what is one to do when they are reduced to spectacle but to become a spectator? To look out from oneself. To assimilate.
They look at us. We look at them.
And we wonder.


The faces, the bodies. The hidden truths unspoken. Passions. Dreams. Lusts. Hope. Illusions. Disillusionment. Despair. Apathy. Silence. Depression.
Look out at them and read it in their faces and bodies. Worn in. Weared out. Lost. Each, in their way, lonely. Abandoned somewhere, sometime.
Time passed and no one said nothin’.
Then the curtains closed.


“Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, I am always impressed by the maturity of our patrons. And we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. And if you will proceed to the next attraction I’m sure you will find something quite different, though who can say what one sees rather than another? A matter of perspective.”


The old man was bitter. All he saw! He saw! The mayor he was resolute. “Weren’t nothin’ wrong with that girl ‘ceptin’ the…”
But he got pushed aside by the crowd as they made for the exit, and on to the next social distraction, talking about how shocking it was. A release valve for the strain of the mainstream. There but for grace…


When he was a boy he saw a theatrical extravagance, or so it was billed. Two men presenting selections from the bard, but they were just making it up, talking gibberish. And while it got good word of mouth in the beginning, by the end the town came to tar and feather the charlatans, who escaped before the last show, leaving all the people in town alone in the hall with rotten produce, tar, and feathers. And no one would talk about what happened next. But the old man remembered. And he laughed.
But people today ain’t got the sense of yesterday.

Cupidity

It’s time for a tale of love. A love story, if you will.

As old as the fingers of fate that surround.

Heartwarming! Hearts on fire.

“Someone Else’s Memories” and “Line of Flight” from the album The Politics of Desire by Revolution Void licensed under Creative Commons Attribution License 3.0.

“Winner Winner!” “Divertissement,” Schmetterling” and “Off to Osaka” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

Genie, Genie, Genie

A sparkling new podcast episode which dares tell the truth about wishes and the human heart.

“Winner Winner!” “Divertissement,” “P.I. Tchaikovsky Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” “Ghost Dance,” “I Knew a Guy,” “Camille Saint-Sans Danse Macabre” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

“Someone Else’s Memories” from the album The Politics of Desire by Revolution Void licensed under Creative Commons Attribution License 3.0.