Great. Again.

Nothing wakes you up from a dead sleep more effectively than the sound of a pet quietly retching on your new carpet at five in the morning.

“SON of a -” I stumbled toward the kitchen while my wife rolled out of her side of the bed and led the dog to the backyard. She was already dropping back onto her pillow by the time I’d got back with paper towels in hand.

“Ugh…” I wiped at the viscous puddle, giving thanks for the stain resistant carpet coating. Extra cost – SO worth it. “And what a surprise – a big clump of cloth.”

“Wha…” my wife’s voice crawled muzzily out of the comforter. “Where’s he getting that stuff?”

“I’ll give you one clue,” I said, plucking the wad off the carpet. “Red felt.”

She groaned. “Gnomes? Again?!”

“Looks like it.” I peered at the fuzzy, soggy glob. “Maybe two or three.”

“And just the hats?”

“Just the hats.” I pushed myself to my feet. Maybe their clothes are some other … thing. Substance. Whatever.”

“Digestible?”

“Maybe it’s just… skin.” I shrugged. “Explains why there’s never any belt buckles.”

No reply from the bed while I shuffled into the bathroom and dropped the wad of sogginess into the trash. She sat up as I turned around.

“Well, I’m not going back to sleep with that image in my head.”

“Sorry.”

Skin? Really?”

“Yeah. Sorry.”

She stood, and we headed back toward the kitchen, breakfast, and an apologetic dog by the back door.

“Maybe he’s making a political statement,” I said.

“… what?”

“The red caps. Maybe…” I trailed off, staring down at the dog through the screen, trying to turn MAGA into Munch A Gnome… Something.

I shook my head and opened the door. “Nevermind. I need coffee.”

Hobsmythe

“Officer Hobsmythe, in your report, you state you subdued the… irate hobgoblin with a binding spell.”

“Yessir.”

“… You reported your service wand damaged beyond use after the incident last weekend.”

“… Yessir.”

“So, if you don’t mind my asking…”

“I improvised. Sir.”

“You improvised. A wand.”

“Yessir.”

“And that… Worked.”

“Yessir. Fairly well, actually.”

“Did the… Improvised device… Survive?”

“Yessir. I have it right…”

“Officer Hobsmythe.”

“Yessir.”

“That’s a pink, plastic…”

“Chopstick, sir.”

“Chopstick. With some kind of toy -”

“Shopkin, sir. A cabbage, I think.”

“- shopkin. Stuck to the end.”

“Yessir.”

“For pity’s sake WHY?”

“Needed a way to make the wand ‘notable and unique’, sir, per crafting guidelines, and it’s what I had to hand.”

“How -”

“My niece, sir. She’s mad for the things. I still had one in my pocket from babysitting last week.”

seven league

As they walked, the grass border along the pavement grew shaggy, then positively neglected. He commented on it, just to have something to say, but she only scowled harder at the ground in front of them.

It felt to him as if Wilderness and Times Before crept in wherever he wasn’t looking, trying to act casual and “always been here” when he gave them a straight on glare.

It got worse.

Worse? Probably unfair. Say it progressed.

They’d lose sight of the path ahead, because of a curve or a rise or a particularly aggressive shrub, and as it came into view, there was both less and more to see.

Less path. More wild.

Pavement became paver stones, became gravel, became groomed dirt, became a thin line of flattened grass in a sea of whispers.

Mountains rose in the not-so-distance, which he felt sure he would have noticed earlier, had they BEEN there earlier. “Where are we going?” he asked, too late for it to matter very much.

She kept walking, leading the way along a single file barely-trail, her gaze still on the ground ahead of her, calling to the next change, just around the next turn.

“Away,” she murmured. “You’ll see.”

I am a Nerd (final-ish, with Audio)

I’ve posted two previous iterations of this, but neither felt completely done.

Last night, I had the chance to recite the piece for an audience. I say “recite” because I’d memorized it while driving out from Denver, and that process led to me editing it a bit (changing some of the clumsier lines, removing a couple stanzas, and fiddling with the ending about a hundred times).

The recitation went pretty well, so I think it’s just about there, and in any case I have a ton of other stuff I want to work on this week that is not this, so let’s put a bow on it and call it done.

I was simply going to post it, but one of my friends asked for audio of me reading it, as well – you will find a very basic recording at bottom of this post; enjoy.

Anywhere, here it is.


High School reunion
not exactly fun
until the third rum
and Coke.
Then one school chum
interrupts the hum
and buzz
and half-drunken fuzz
for a joke.
His Genuine Draft thunks down
(emblematic drink of this small midwestern town)
and he says
“So… Doyce
“… are you still a nerd?”

(Before I proceed, a disclaimer
about this guy, not me,
he’s
a bit of a skeeze
he might say he hasn’t let the years change him
I might say he hasn’t changed his denim
Wranglers. Might be the same pair
he wore down there
under his gown, where
he stood up with the rest of us
mortarboard on like the rest of us
but all the way down at the end of the line
fiftieth out of forty-nine
diploma-receiving graduates.
No real friend of mine
and, certainly, it would feel sickly sublime
to simply dismiss him this time,
ask how his wife likes the wine
or how it feels standing in line
for unemployment.

But there would be no enjoyment.)

We’re all together here
Feeling the booze and beer
and good cheer
sitting at folding tables
telling each other fables.
about the last twenty five years.

So rather than rage,
I decide to engage
and say:
“A nerd? Me?
Let’s see.”

I’m not going to waste time talking
about roleplaying games, walking
to school every day hauling
three bulging gym bags full of rule books.
And all the funny looks.

I mean, you know that already, you were there
And at the time, it’s not like I cared
What anyone thought
What kind of stares I got.
No one was going to kick my ass
Not when there were only fifty kids in our class
And the biggest nerds in school at the time
Were five of the varsity football front line.
No: let’s move forward in time.

Am I a nerd?

The person who convinced me to write my first book
I met in college when she came over to look
at photocopied posters for a local gaming convention
(my personal invention)
which I and my friends were hanging… on every wall in campus.
And she wanted to ask us
if we’d ever played
Vampire: the Masquerade.
(We’re still close today.
I introduced her to her husband at one of those college game days.
Their daughter’s name is Ray.)

Am I a nerd?

My wife and I met Online,
the story of our times
but a dating site? Tame.
We met playing video games
Saving the world with ice and flame
Or bows and blades
Looting digital upgrades.
From twenty-player raids.
Our date nights
Were orc fights.
Dorks, right?
Sure, we became friends because we’re clever and witty
And had things in common, like saving Paragon City.
But you know what charmed her
What floated her
boat?
I kept up with her Buffy the Vampire Slayer quotes.

Am I nerd?

My kids would say yes
if I had to guess.
My daughter, nine, at recess
plays the part of a zombie princess
scary, but cool, in a ragged black dress.
Leading her armies onto the field
with a magic sword only she can wield.
(The other kid gets an unbreakable shield.)
Does she get teased?
Not that I’ve seen
And if so, she’d handle it better than me.
“You know who’s a nerd?!?” She calls out at school.
I am… but all of you are, too.”
A nerd, she explains,
is just a name
For someone who gets excited about video games
Or Science, or Music, going to space,
reading four inch thick books with a smile on your face.
the local sports teams, shooting some pictures
or baking soufflés with just the right lift. Nerds
are just people
who care
so much
about something
it scares
you.

So you asked me this question to… what?
Make me blush?
See if my spirit is easily crushed?
I can’t even guess
so let me address
your query
with something far less
than indignant fury:

“A nerd? Me?
“Yes.
“Absolutely.”

What does he say?
WOW. Okay.
“I was just wanted to see
“what you thought of those new Hobbit movies.”

And my wife,
thus far silent throughout the exchange
cries out in pain
“OH GOD, now you’re just trolling.
“Both of you go get drinks
“… before he really gets going.”

I am a Nerd (take two)

Class reunion
not exactly fun
until the third rum
and Coke.
Then one school chum
interrupts the hum
and buzz
and half-drunken fuzz
for a joke.
His Genuine Draft thunks down
(the emblematic drink of this small midwestern town)
and he says
“So… Doyce
“… are you still a nerd?”

(Before I proceed, a disclaimer
about this guy, not me,
he’s
a bit of a skeeze
he might say he hasn’t let the years change him
I might say he hasn’t changed his denim
Wranglers. Might be the same pair
he wore down there
under his gown, where
he stood up with the rest of us
mortarboard on like the rest of us
all the way down at the end of the line
fiftieth out of forty-nine
diploma-receiving graduates.

See,
he’s
not so much ‘chum like a friend you meet’
as ‘chum like that stuff sharks eat’
no real friend of mine
and, certainly, it would feel sickly sublime
to simply dismiss him this time,
ask how his wife likes the wine
or how it feels standing in line
for unemployment.

But there would be no enjoyment.)

We’re all together here
Feeling the booze and beer
and good cheer
sitting at folding tables
telling each other fables.
about the last twenty-five years.

So rather than rage,
I decide to engage
and say:
“A nerd? Me?
Let’s see.”

I’m not going to waste time talking
about roleplaying games, walking
to school every day hauling
three bursting gym bags full of rule books.
And all the funny looks.

I mean, you know that already, you were there
And at the time, it’s not like I cared
What anyone thought
What kind of stares I got.
No one was going to kick my ass
Not when there were only fifty kids in our class
And the biggest nerds in school at the time
Were five of the varsity football front line.

No: let’s move forward in time.

Am I a nerd?

The person who convinced me to write my first book
I met in college when she came over to look
at photocopied posters for a local gaming convention
(my personal invention)
which me and my friends were hanging… on every wall in campus.
And she wanted to ask us
if we’d ever played
Vampire: the Masquerade.
(We’re still close today.
I introduced her to her husband at one of those college game days.
Their daughter’s name is Ray.)

Am I a nerd?

My first job after graduation:
A friend said “Hey, this guy’s the one
We should pay to come
to Denver.
He’s literate, savvy, never
backs down from learning something new.
Just the guy for the tech support crew.”
What he didn’t mention when they made their choice
Was he’d never met me, or heard my voice.
The only handshakes we’d ever exchanged
Were via modem, connecting in the 2400 baud range.
For him, my qualifying certificate
Was building a text-only, multi-user dungeon
on the internet.

Am I a nerd?

My wife and I met Online,
the story of our times
but a dating site? Tame.
We met playing video games
Saving the world with ice and flame
Or bows and blades
Looting digital upgrades.
From twenty-player raids.
Dorks, right?
Our date nights
Were orc fights.
Sure, we became friends because we’re clever and witty
And had things in common, like saving Paragon City.
But you know what charmed her
What floated her
boat?
I kept up with her Buffy the Vampire Slayer quotes.

Am I nerd?

My kids would say yes
if I had to guess.
My daughter, nine, at recess
plays the part of a zombie princess
scary, but cool, in a ragged black dress.
Leading her armies onto the field
with a magic sword only she can wield.
(The other kid gets an unbreakable shield.)
Does she get teased?
Not that I’ve seen
And if so, she’d handle it better than me.
“You know who’s a nerd?!?” She shouts to the school.
I am… but all of you are, too.”
A nerd, she explains,
is just a name
For someone who gets excited about video games
Or Science, or Music, going to space,
reading a book with a grin on your face.
The local sports teams, shooting some pics,
or baking soufflés with just the right lift.
Nerds just care
about something
so much
they scare
you.

So you ask me this question to… what?
Make me blush?
See if my spirit is easily crushed?
I can’t even guess
so let me address
the query
with something far less
than indignant fury.
“A nerd? Me?
“Yes.
“Absolutely.”

He says:
“Wow. Okay.
“I just wanted to see
“If you liked what they did with the new Hobbit movies.”

And my wife,
thus far silent throughout the exchange
cries out in pain
“OH GOD!

“… now he’s really going to get going.”

I am a Nerd (section 1)

Class reunion
not exactly fun
until the third rum
and Coke.
Then one school chum
interrupts the hum
and buzz
and half-drunken fuzz
for a joke.
His Genuine Draft thunks down
(the emblematic drink of this small midwestern town)
and he says
“So… Doyce
“… are you still a nerd?”

(Before I proceed, a disclaimer
about this guy, not me,
he’s
a bit of a skeeze
he might quip he didn’t let fame or
fortune change him
I might say he hasn’t changed his denim
Wranglers. Might be the same pair
he wore down there
under his gown, where
he stood up with the rest of us
mortarboard on like the rest of us
all the way down at the end of the line
fiftieth out of forty-nine
diploma-receiving graduates.

See,
he’s
not so much ‘chum like a friend you meet’
as ‘chum like the shit sharks eat’
no real friend of mine
and, certainly, it would feel sickly sublime
to simply dismiss him this time,
ask how his wife likes the wine
or how it feels standing in line
for unemployment.

But there would be no enjoyment.)

We’re all together here
Feeling the booze and beer
and good cheer
sitting at folding tables
telling each other fables.
about the last twenty five years.

So rather than rage,
I decide to engage
and say:
“A nerd? Me?
“Yes.
“Absolutely.”

Hidden Things, Episode 23, "Hunting Dragons", brought to you by +

Hidden Things, Episode 23, "Hunting Dragons", brought to you by +Chris Weeda.

Hidden Things Audiobook – Podcast – Episode 23 |
Welcome back to the Hidden Things audiobook podcast, made available DRM-free thanks to the support our amazing Kickstarter backers. HTAudio-cover draft Q. New episodes every Monday and Wednesday. You can subscribe to the podcast with your preferred podcast app right here.

Hidden Things Audiobook – Podcast – Episode 2

Welcome back to the Hidden Things audiobook podcast, made available DRM-free thanks to the support our amazing Kickstarter backers.

HTAudio-cover draft Q
New episodes every Monday and Wednesday. “The Hidden Things in HIDDEN THINGS” every Friday.

You can subscribe to the podcast with your preferred podcast app right here. The whole story will be available as a complete audiobook in mid-August.

HiddenThings pb c
Can’t wait that long? You can pick up the book on Amazon! 

Now, on to the story!

This is Episode 2, brought to you by Kickstarter backer Brennan Taylor.