The Ballad of Parsaei

The Ballad of Parsaei


 
I have a friend by the name of Nader Parsaei. He is perhaps the largest fan of the Oscars on the face of this planet. He is from Iran. He is in the United States because of the political persecution that he faced in Iran. There is a fascinating story about how Nader made it to the United States.

The story begins in Iran before the Islamic Revolution and the fall of the Shah. Under the rule of the Shah all Iranian men were required to serve 2 years in the military. When the Shah fell, Nader was serving in the Air Force in a radar tower.

The new leaders of Iran wished to curry favor with members of the military and their plan for doing this was to shorten the military requirement from 2 years to 1 year. Nader had served 15 months and was sent home.

Nader was not home for very long though. Less than a month after being released from the Air Force a friend of Nader’s invited him to come down the a local university where there was a protest going on.

Nader is not a political person, but he decided to go to the protest. It was a decision that changed Nader’s life forever.

At the protest Nader got into a disagreement with a supporter of the Islamic Revolution. The supporter asserted that Khomeni spoke for God.

Nader disagreed with this statement and said that Khomeni could not speak for God because Khomeni endorsed murder and the killing of innocents and God would not condone such things.

Nader thought little about the altercation, but as he hung around the protest for a little longer he was grabbed by 2 agents of the new government. They put a bag over Nader’s head and shoved him in to the backseat of a car. He was driven to a prison and he was immediately incarcerated. There was no trial. There were no charges. This is where Nader would spend the next 6 ½ years of his life.

In prison Nader was tortured. He was beaten. He was burned.

In his part of the prison the guards had a spy. Any time any prisoner badmouthed Khomeni or the Islamic Revolution they were singled out for extra violence. When Nader figured out whom the spy was he attacked him. The guards pulled him off the spy and beat him some more. He spent the next 6 months in solitary confinement.

During Nader’s time in prison there was a moment of joy. Nader overheard 2 guards discussing the winner of an Oscar. He overheard them say that Henry Fonda had won an Oscar for “On Golden Pond”. Henry Fonda was one of Nader’s all time favorites dating back to the first time Nader had seen his second favorite movie “The Grapes of Wrath”.
After 6 ½ years of prison Nader was granted one weekend of freedom. The cost of this weekend was his grandpa’s house. He gave his house to the government in exchange for 1 weekend of freedom for his grandson.

His grandpa had brokered a deal to have Nader smuggled out of the country. He told Nader not to worry about him because he was an old man and the government would leave him alone, but if Nader ever came back to Iran he would shoot him, himself.

He was loaded up into a large cigarette carton and he and his smuggler set off for the Turkish border. If they would have been caught he would not have been returned to prison. Nader and the smuggler would have been executed on the spot.

As fate would have it they made it out of Iran safely. When they had made it into Turkey the smuggler tried to get Nader to get out of the carton, but Nader refused. The smuggler pointed out Mt. Ararat, but Nader still refused. Finally the smuggler pointed out some pretty girls on the side of the road. This convinced Nader that he was in Turkey because they didn’t have girls that looked like that back in Iran.

The plan was to make it to a Scandinavian country and live there. However fate intervened in Austria. Nader was arrested as an illegal immigrant and placed in a refugee camp. This wasn’t all terrible because while he was there he got to visit the hills that Julie Andrews sang and danced upon in “The Sound of Music”.

Once in the camp Nader was asked to prove that he would be executed or tortured or imprisoned if he was sent back to Iran. He pointed out that he could ask the Iranian government for documentation of his false imprisonment. They would not provide documentation indicating their human rights violations, so Nader instead showed them the scars his body posessed from his years of torture. The broken nose and his burned side proved to be adequate enough to prevent him from being sent back to Iran.

While in the refugee camp Nader thought about coming to the United States because it was his dream to come to Hollywood where the movies he loved so much were produced. It had always been the plan to end up in Scandinavia, but why not try to get to the U.S.?

He was told my other middle easterners that this was a waste of his time. There was a little old lady by the name of “Germand” that decided whether or not a person even received an interview to be considered for admission to the U.S. Germand had a long standing reputation for disliking middle easterners. She wouldn’t even smile at middle easterners, let alone put them on the interview list. They warned him not to bother and to angle for his second choice. Nader listened to their advice but didn’t pay it any mind.

When he saw Germand he approached her and said: “Germand, you are looking so beautiful today.”

At first Germand looked at him. Then she cracked a little smile. Then she burst out into a full laughter. Then she put Nader on the list.

When the day of the interview came Nader called back to Iran to talk to his Mom to tell her that he might be going to America, but he didn’t get to speak to her on that day. The police had thrown her into prison to try to bait him into coming back to Iran.

Nader was put in a very tough position. His Mom was in prison because of him, but he was powerless to do anything about it. He went to the interview, but his heart wasn’t in it.

The Americans began asking him questions through an interpreter, but he didn’t answer. They just stared at him. Finally he told them: “I don’t feel like doing this today. I just called home and they’ve thrown my Mom into prison to try to get to come back.”

The Americans looked around at each other and then finally one of them stood up and extended their handed and said: “Welcome to America!”

Nader’s joy was short lived though. When he came back to the camp he found out that a family had been rejected by the Americans. This bothered Nader so he made an appointment with Germand.

He told her that he was just one man. This was a family. They needed and desrved to go to America much more than he did. He requested that his name be taken off the list and that this family be put on the list in his place.

Germand denied his request. She told him that no matter what else happened, he was going to America. However, she promised to look into this family’s case for him. 3 days later this family was approved and they were allowed to come to America.

MF Day

By the time this blog gets posted it may very well be January 16, 2007. However MF Day is definitely January 15.

Ahhh . . . You don’t know what MF Day celebrates. In fact, you are probably looking at your calendar right now and noticing that today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It is also that. That is the reason that you didn’t see many government employees out and about today. I do not wish to steal any of the thunder from Martin Luther King Jr., so before I delve into the dirty details of MF Day let me share the Martin Luther King Jr. quote that I think best illustrates the threat to our nation today.

“A nation or civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on an installment plan.”

But what about this enigmatic MF Day? MF Day is the anniversary of the last day that I had to throw on some crest pants and dig for a uniform shirt from Aramark. MF Day is the anniversary of the last day I entered a Dasher Mismanagement store as an employee. MF Day is McDonald’s Freedom Day.

So on this the occasion of the 1 year anniversary I would just like to take a few quick jabs at the village idiot that owns Dasher Mismanagement and his clueless son-in-law that runs things.

I will take these shots via the medium of quotes. I will not share any of the pearls of wisdoms these fellows dropped on me in my days chained to the oar in the basement of their wage slave ship. If I shared them with you it is most likely that you would think I was making them up any way.

No, the quotes I am going to use are from the McMessiah – Ray Kroc. You probably don’t understand what I mean by that, but towards the end of my tenure with Dasher Mismanagement I was becoming deeply frustrated with the fact that McDonald’s was a religion to many of the upper management people in the organization and the co-op. They even would quote Ray Kroc as if what he said was the gospel and therefore was beyond contestation.

I don’t blame Ray Kroc for what his organization had become. He most likely didn’t realize how evil his corporation would become in the future. He probably would have never believed that his hamburger business had turned into a real estate business with a “restaurant” front.

So I will use a Ray Kroc quote and show how Dasher Mismanagement reflected the vision of their messiah.

It’s easy to have principles when you’re rich. The important thing is to have principles when you’re poor.

The Dasher Mismanagement view would be that you are a better person when you are rich. Therefore whatever a rich person does is the principled thing. It is the job of the poor people to take such things in stride and turn the other cheek. That is how poor people show their principles by submitting to the will of the wealthy. It is important that they do that because that is how they show that they are good people.

You’re only as good as the people you hire.

At Dasher Mismanagement we hire tons of good people. Then we treat them like crap so that they quit and we can hire more good people. I believe that Dasher Mismanagement has set a record for hiring good people therefore they think that they are very good. Ray Kroc never said anything about retaining good people.

The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves.

Of course at Dasher Mismanagement the Village Idiot and his son-in-law can’t be expected to live up to the standards that they set for themselves. Hell, they can’t even be expected to live up to the bare minimum standards for decent human beings. But they sure can set the standards for other people. So what if they don’t live up to the minimum standards that they have set for themselves in their handbooks?

When you’re green, you’re growing. When you’re ripe, you rot.

As soon as you understand what you are doing, then we can no longer lowball you on salary. So we will have to start treating you like crap so that you quit.

“Luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get.”
Dasher Mismanagement takes this one quite literally. That is why they strive to make sure that the air condition units work in next to none of their stores. So what if the temperature in the grill area can sometimes reach 110 degrees, think of all of the luck that those wage slaves are generating.

“None of Us is as Good as All of Us.”

This means that nobody is as good as the heads of Dasher Mismanagement. If you have an idea, it is not any good. Unless the heads of Dasher Mismanagement regurgitate that idea as their own 2 months later.

I have just one last bit of commentary about what I really feel about the demons at Dasher Mismanagement. It is visual commentary and the idea is stolen from a no talent hack by the name of Andres Serrano.


Piss Kroc

This picture is entirely symbolic. I didn’t really fill a jar with urine. I don’t have the time or the inclination to do such a thing. The yellow liquid is actually Mountain Dew and water. It is symbolic of urine. The whole piece is symbolic of how I feel about that company I used work too damn hard for. I call it “Piss Kroc”. Again the name is stolen from the afore mentioned no talent hack.

Thank you for indulging me in this narcissistic episode.

Niece

My niece Elainie wrote this poem and it won a prize:

MASK
 
She was just there.
Not knowing what was going on.
She walked into the room and everyone was smiling.
Or so it looked like it.
Everyone looked like they were having a good time.
The smiles, laughter, drinks.
But deep down inside, she knew everyone was sad.
They were sad because they were saying this isn’t me.
This isn’t who I wanted to be.
I wouldn’t do this.
But yet they still do what they do.
Just ignoring that weird feeling, being someone they don’t know or don’t want to be.
But why?
What’s the point?
It doesn’t help you with choosing a good future, it helps you go down the wrong path.
Farther and farther from your goals, dreams, and destinies.
So why bother trying to be something you’re not?
Just take off that mask and be who you are for whom you
are and don’t care what anyone else says because in the end you win.
And they lose.

A First Endorsement

I wish to begin with a quote by Henry Ward Beecher:

The overweening self respect of conceited men relieves others from the duty of respecting them at all.

Perhaps you don’t understand why now, but you will understand soon enough. You see my first endorsement is of myself. Well not exactly myself, but of the Photography 139 Calendar. I even have photographic evidence to back up my claim that I think very highly of my own calendar.
 




 

What can I say? It is a good product. Let me just tell you a little bit about its production. I started by taking a gander at the thousands of images that I have made in the past year. Then I eliminate all the fluff and filler and distill the essence of my photographic vision down to 13 images. 1 picture for the front cover and 12 for the monthly images.

Then I adjust and crop the images so that they will print with the proper dimensions and spatial relationships. I also combine 12 of the images into 1 image for the back cover.

Once the images are ready to be printed, I begin creating the actual monthly pages. The useful part of the calendar. Generating the calendars is easy enough, but then I check various websites, astronomical charts, and other calendars to get all of the most important days on their proper dates. Thankfully “Squirrel Appreciation Day” is always the same day every year.

After all the files are ready to go, it is time for the printing. This year we used two separate printers, although they both are HP printers that use their Vivera print cartridges. This year the images were printed on Staples brand premium matte photo paper and the calendar pages were printed on stock card.

Once everything is printed, the pages are sorted so that they are placed back to back with its mate in the proper orientation. I usually accomplish this task, but sometimes a small Italian man helps me.

Then the calendars are off to the 2nd part of this 2 man operation. Jesse is that second man. He fires up the Royal Sovereign laminator and all of the pages are laminated. This process can take up to 10 runs through the Royal Sovereign to guarantee the best seal.

After the lamination, the calendar pages are taken to the comb binding machine to have holes punch in the top and then bound with a comb binder. This year the comb binders were white. In the future I think we will branch out in a more colorful direction. It is the promoter in me.

Now that the Photography 139 calendar is bound, it comes back to me where I man a modified 3 hole puncher that places a hole in darn near the exact middle of the top of the calendar so that it can be hung up on the wall and is ready for display.

Then I either hand deliver the calendar to your home, place of employment, or talk you into coming to see me at work.

How good is this calendar? I know that it is hanging up on walls as far north as Mendota Heights, Minnesota and as far south as Fairview, Kansas. It is proudly displayed in the work areas of employees at the Younkers Salon, Principal Financial, Ortho Computer Systems, and Atlas Media Group.

This calendar is so good that people have asked for the mistake pages. Begging for my scraps. This calendar is so good that a very mild acqaintance got in my face about how “I could be making money off of this!!”

I hope you got one because I have some sad news. When I walked into the Photography 139 Print Shop in the calendar wing, I found the following sign posted next to the water cooler:


2007 Photography 139 Calendar - Sold Out

Security

Thank you for meeting me here. I will make this brief.

Some of you may know that I work for a company that is one of the industry leaders in “practice management software”. You may also know that the “mission statement” of our company is to create “solutions for success”, meaning that if you are having a problem being successful, we can solve that problem quick, fast, and in a hurry. We’ll make that success disappear in a heartbeat. But I didn’t bring you here to make fun of mission statements. I came to ask for your assistance. I also came to tell you that I most likely don’t need your assistance, but I do need you to be aware of a situation.

I host my website on a server of a salesman that works for “the company”. Not the CIA, but the company with the poorly worded mission statement that employs me. I do this because it is free and I am careful about in what directions I throw my cash.

Why does this concern you? There has been a recent development with this server with which I might, but most likely will not need your help. The VP in charge of Product Development with the company has written a new security program and is testing it on the salesman’s computer.

This might affect you because in your daily rummagings through the Photography 139 website you might get the boot for being a security risk. Although this scenario is highly unlikely if it does happen I need you to inform me so that I can inform my Server Administrator (the salesman) so he can inform the security programmer (the VP) and then he can tweak his program.

I reiterate that this is a highly unlikely scenario, but let me know. You know where to find me.

One last quick point. I am not mocking the company that employs me. I love it here. They gave me an iPod and Smart Putty. I just really don’t like the “mission statement” concept and in particular don’t like poorly worded sentences unless they are flowing from my keyboard.

Score!

Some times it pays to show up for work. Usually whatever your hourly wage happens to be, unless you are on salary then you are consistently being robbed. There are times when it REALLY pays to show up for work. I’m talking about when you have a high quality converstaion with a co-worker or just out of the blue you get something dropped on you that just happens to be exactly what you need. You could even call it a miracle.

There is a beautiful sequence in the movie “Signs” where Mel Gibson is sitting on couch with Joaquin Phoenix discussing the concept of miracles. Mel Gibson’s characters says the following tidbit:

People break down into two groups when they experience something lucky. Group number one sees it as more than luck, more than coincidence. They see it as a sign, evidence, that there is someone up there, watching out for them. Group number two sees it as just pure luck. Just a happy turn of chance. I’m sure the people in Group number two are looking at those fourteen lights in a very suspicious way. For them, the situation isn’t fifty-fifty. Could be bad, could be good. But deep down, they feel that whatever happens, they’re on their own. And that fills them with fear. Yeah, there are those people. But there’s a whole lot of people in the Group number one. When they see those fourteen lights, they’re looking at a miracle. And deep down, they feel that whatever’s going to happen, there will be someone there to help them. And that fills them with hope. See what you have to ask yourself is what kind of person are you? Are you the kind that sees signs, sees miracles? Or do you believe that people just get lucky? Or, look at the question this way: Is it possible that there are no coincidences?

I’m a miracle man. I back this up with the following image:





My one man staff (Jesse Howard) and I have been diligently working on the handcrafted goodness that is the Photography 139 calendar. We have printers. We have a laminating machine. We have hole punchers. The one thing we are missing is our own comb binding machine. Not any more!!! The company that employs me was throwing this bad boy out. We swooped in on it like it was our job. I mean the jobs we get paid to do. So that picture you are peering at with most likely a small amount of envy is the brand new (20 years old) Photography 139 Calendar Comb Binder. The only thing left to make it “official” will be the slapping of the “Property of Photography 139” sticker on the side and christening it with a bottle of ice cold Original Black Raspberry Faygo Soda.

Warning !!!!!!

The following small story is going to contain juvenile and explicit reference to the female genitalia. If you are not comfortable with such subject matter I suggest you turn back now. Otherwise continue and discover the importance of good communication.

Last night at Supper Club a couple members had the following communication breakdown. I will leave their names out to spare them.

Setting: Es Tas

Member #1: (points to shirt that says “I love Pink Tacos”) Hey would you wear a shirt like that?

Member #2: I don’t know I haven’t had one before.

Member #1: What?

Member#2: I can’t wear a shirt if I don’t know whether or not I like it.

Member #1: What do you mean you don’t know whether or not you like “the product”?

Member #2: I haven’t had one before. I can’t wear a shirt for a product I don’t know.

Member#1: What?

Member#3: I think our friend is trying to say that he prefers a big, beefy burrito.

Finally it was learned that Member #2, thought the shirt said “Big Tacos”. Communication breakdowns, perhaps they aren’t always the same.

Failed Beginning

So I thought quite some time about beginning a new segment on this blog. I was going to do some endorsements. You know, endorsing products, ideas, people. I was all set to endorse my first product: Heartland Creamery Milk. In fact, I even went so far as to have the following image made:


Chocolate Milk Endorsement

 

You can see that I was serious. Definitely in the mood to do some hardcore endorsing. It wasn’t without any particular reason. In fact there were a few reasons for my strong passion for Heartland Creamery Milk. Let’s start with the obvious. It comes in a glass bottle. How cool is that? It keeps the milk quite a bit colder than the plastic jugs that most milk comes in. Secondly those glass bottles bring back pleasant childhood memories of taking milk back to Boyd’s Dairy.

Another reason for my passion for this milk is that it is quite tasty. I am not willing to place it on an even pedestal with the holy grail of milk: Anderson Erickson. However it is certainly quite a bit better than Roberts. Of course almost everything is better than Roberts

I also enjoy the fact that Heartland Creamery owns all of their own cows. Therefore they have complete control over the product that they are putting on the shelf. Plus, they can control the cow’s diet and any “antibiotics” that the cows might get.

One last thing that “rings my bell” about this milk is that the company is unabashedly Christian. All of the profits from this product go to support a Christian Academy for violent children and an Adult recovery center.

Sounds great doesn’t it? The problem is that I can’t bring my self to give Heartland Creamery my complete and utter endorsement because People Magazine wrote an article about this school in their October issue. This article asserts that the students are abused physically while they attend this school.

Now normally I wouldn’t care about what a rag like People Magazine has to say about anything. This is a magazine that is only suited for beauty salons and keeping houseless people warm during a cold winter night. I have a suspiscion that even houseless people would rather endure the cold than having People magazine come into contact with their skin. I know that if I was given the choice of lining my clothing with People, Entertainment Weekly, any Left Behind novel, or a Nicholas Sparks tome OR just being cold . . . I wouldn’t even think twice. Bring it on Old Man Winter!

Although I do confess that I would burn all of those failed writing attempts to keep warm. As long as I got to wear gloves. I wouldn’t want my skin to come into contact with that trash.

But this is off the point. The point is that on the Heartland Creamery website there is a response to the attack by People. Their response isn’t overwhelming in reassuring me that this is just another attempt at trashing religion by the mainstream media. You know, like how the 700 Club is a clever parody by the liberal media designed to make Christians look stupid . . . oh, that’s not a parody?!?

The response basically is quite up front with its use of what they call “tough love”. They admit to being raided by the government in 2001, but that none of the charges stuck. So I’m not sure where I come down on this whole milk controversey. (I hope somebody out there caught that rip snorting pun. I’m talking to you Nate! Twin Cities, huh! huh!) I do know that I can not endorse this product at this time, but there glass bottles are extremely cool.

I also think that Heartland Creamery should make an energy drink called “Tough Love”. I’d buy it and I don’t even drink energy drinks.

While I’m on the subject of my beliefs and God, I would just like to point something out. I don’t know if it says this on my main MySpace page, but I do have one core belief about God and athletics. It goes a little something like this:

I do not believe that God takes an active role in deciding the outcome of sporting events. No matter how much people in the stands or in the game pray, ask, or plead for God’s intervention. I do believe that God takes time out from rooting against Notre Dame to root for the Iowa State Cyclones.

I bring this up because anybody that watched the Sugar Bowl last night witnessed history. Notre Dame lost its 9th straight bowl game. This is a new NCAA record. Furthermore, 85 teams have won a bowl game since the last time Notre Dame won a bowl game. 85!! There are only 119 teams in Division I football.

Here is a little story from work today. Tell me that somebody else gets the exquisite irony in the statement one of my co-workers made today. I’m going to slightly paraphrase, but the essence of what was said is still there:

“I’m a genius. I have proof. I took a test on the internet.”

I assure you that this statement was not said in a facetious manner. It was said straight faced. It was meant to be a statement of fact. It almost makes me want to go off on a rant about how the term “genius” is overused and how “genius” in actuality has next to nothing to do with intelligence and it certainly has nothing to do with how people score on standardized tests. It also make me want to do a rant on the various forms of intelligences, but I won’t at this time. I’ll just let that sweet phrase sink in a little bit longer.

How about another picture:


Thinker Recreation

Why this picture?

Because next week at the Brunnier Art Gallery an exhibition of Rodin’s sculptures is opening. True it is only about 30 sculptures, but how many opportunities do you have to see the work of a man who is widely considered to be the greatest sculptor since Michaelangelo in virtually your own backyard. I say virtually because these sculptures will not physically be in your backyard. However, if anybody is looking for a late Christmas gift idea for me, a Rodin sculpture would look great in my backyard. I’ll even let you borrow my window breaking rock. Although I will need it back soon. The 1 year anniversary of my first day at my current place of employment is rapidly approaching and I’ll need that rock to “buy” some cake.

The rock thing aside, I’m pretty freaking jazzed about going to see the work of Rodin. If anybody else wants to go, let me know. But if you roll with me, you have to display the proper amount of snootiness. It is a metric ton of snootiness.

Speaking of art, I’m going to start working on a new photo project now that the calendar is virtually done. Anybody out there with a burning desire to press their face into a piece of plexiglass for a picture let me know. I’m not making that up.

A Short Story

I hope to really start working on some substantial writing in the near future. This is just a quick note to let you know that there is a new short story in the fan club.

Not a member? Request becoming a member. It is as easy as sending me an e-mail.

2007 Calendar

So most of the 2007 Calendars have been printed, laminated and bound. There are just a few left that need to be distributed. If you still want a calendar and didn’t get your order in, better let me know. Because 2007 begins in 13 hours and every day that a calendar comes late, it depreciates in value.

Below is a little bit of a look at what you would get by “purchasing” a calendar.


2007 Back Page

I would just like to impart a small bit of information about why each month was selected.

January Image – Ledges Daily Denouement

I selected this image because it was the most wintery of the images that I have selected. It definitely leaves you with a cold feeling.

February Image – Unnamed Butterfly Image

I made this image exclusively for distribution with this calendar and I don’t like it, so it will remain an Unnamed Butterfly Image.

March Image – Flower in a Ditch

March begins the Northern Hemispheres return to life. Therefore, this is the first of many traditional nature images.

April Image – Oversaturated Dragonfly

April is a month traditionally oversaturated with rain. I went a little crazy with the exposure compensation on this image. Make it a bit oversaturated by traditional photographic estimations.

May Image – Kentucky Appetizer

Traditionally I put my favorite image in May irregardless of whether or not I think anybody else will enjoy it in the slightest bit.

June Image – Yellow Swallow Tail

The end of the traditional nature images.

July Image – Outburst of the Soul

A random selection here.

August Image – Wildflower

August is a great month for wildflowers.

September – Portrait of the Artist as a Middle Aged Man

A random selection here.

October – Wheat Grass

The only fall looking image of the bunch so it went in a fall month.

November – Four Flowers

Olivia’s birth month. My auction image from Songs for Olivia.

December – Building 429

A Christian image for the month of Christmas.

Not much info there, but enough for the intellectually curious.

An Old Story

So I’ve been going through some old files lately and I stumbled upon a short story that I never finished. I don’t know if I hate it or love it, but I am tempted to complete it. Here it is:

Ercamus the Warrior King Turns 30

Ercamus had traveled long on this journey. The going was arduous and he had slain many foes. He had dispatched orcs, zombies, ghouls, giants, ogres, werewolves, vampires, goblins, trolls, spiders, wraiths, skeletons, spiders, and basilisks to name only a few. His adventure was coming to an end. There were only a couple of tasks undone. It had been a year since the Dark Minotaur Mage Hermonius had enchanted his kingdom, but the dark reign would soon end. Ercamus needed only to defeat the Magenta Dragon and retrieve the Minotaur’s key. Once he was in possession of the key he could enter Hermonius’ lair and defeat him. Then he could return to his kingdom and to Decorah the woman he loved. Then he could rule his kingdom in peace and tranquility for all his remaining days.

But, first things first, Ercamus needed to defeat the Magenta Dragon. He believed this to be an easy task because he had the Blue Sword of Zanbia. It was this sword that his ancestors had used to slay dragons in the time before time. This sword was known to cause damage to dragons that lesser blades wouldn’t even scratch. To further augment his confidence, Ercamus also stocked up on wyvern’s wing at the last village. If he was nearing the end of his life force, Ercamus could use the potion to heal his wounds and continue his fight.

Ercamus entered the Magenta Dragon’s chamber and set down his torch. He reached for the hilt of the Blue Sword of Zanbia and approached his foe.

The dragon spoke, “It is you, Ercamus of Rousselot, descendant of Balzine. You should flee now. Or I shall dine on your charred remains.”

Ercamus returned in kind. “It is I Ercamus of Rousselot, descendant of Balzine. I will defeat you. I will have the Minotaur’s key.”

“Then it is time,” responded the dragon.

Ercamus chose to attack at this time. He spun and slashed at the dragon’s flank. There was a spray of blood as “Old Bluey” cut into the dragon. The Magenta Dragon swiped at Ercamus. The dragon’s claws stuck with tremendous force, but Ercamus’ titanium armor withstood the blow. Ercamus struck back. It was only a glancing blow. The dragon sustained a mere 15 hit points of damage. The dragon pulled back and belted out an intense stream of fire that caused 35 hit points of damage to Ercamus.

It was Ercamus’ turn. He decided to use a spell, as he was fully loaded with magic points. He thought that an ice spell that he had learned in the village of Ferox would do the trick. In his experience it had been quite destructive to green and goldenrod dragons. Often killing them with only one incantation. He hoped that all dragons would be susceptible to the spell regardless of their place on the color spectrum.

Ercamus bowed down and began chanting the spell, but before its conclusion all the light in his world went out. In an instant he feared that he was dead. In the next instant there was no fear. His world no longer existed.

“Shit!” Ray screamed at the television. He was angry. He contemplated flipping off the television, but as that thought crossed his mind another one darted from the other side and his anger was replaced with fear. What if he had to start back from the village of Skoa? He hadn’t saved the game since he visited the Inn of Skoa well over an hour ago. He had lost a full hour of Minotaurquest VII! Sure he could play the game over, but this was his chance to defeat the game before his friend Black Knight had. Last time he chatted with Black Knight his warrior was only to the 25th level and just found the emerald armor. If he could complete the game first it would be the first time he had beat Black Knight since Minotaurquest III. He would be the warrior king of the chat room again.

It was then that it occurred to Ray that he had lost power. Perhaps, it was only that a circuit breaker had been blown. He knew he was running quite a few electronics on one breaker, but to really enjoy Minotaurquest you need to have the stereo running so you could slice and dice wraiths in surround sound. Perhaps, the stereo sending power to his sub was just too much for the house’s electrical system.

Ray pulled himself up out of his gaming chair and walked across the family room towards the utility room where the circuit box was housed. Ray muttered his way across the two rooms, grabbing a flashlight off a shelf in mid stride. A move that wouldn’t have impressed most people, but Ray took a second from his frustration to admire his hand eye coordination.

It was really wishful thinking on Ray’s part. It was mid-February in the Midwest and an ice storm had been soaking Ray’s town for a couple hours. A downed power line half a mile a way had disabled power for the south side of town. Ray didn’t know that, but he did know that none of the circuits were broken as he slammed the door shut.

Ray was near a panic now. Black Knight lived in California. He surely had power. He could be slaying the Magenta Dragon right now. Ray knew that this was bullshit. Exquisite bullshit! It was his dad’s fault. Ray knew this one fact. If the old man had bought a power generator then he could make his way to the garage this instant and fire it up. This was the exact reason why people had power generators. What was he going to do now?

At this exact moment it struck Ray. What was he going to do now? He couldn’t play Minotaurquest. He couldn’t watch television. He couldn’t watch a DVD. He couldn’t watch a video. He couldn’t listen to music. He couldn’t surf the Internet. There didn’t seem to be many options. He didn’t want to read by flashlight. That might hurt his eyes. He could light candles, but if he spilt wax on one of his novels, then their value would be down the toilet. He could go upstairs and try to talk to somebody in his family, but his younger sister was at college and he couldn’t stomach talking to his dad. It was his idea to move where the weather was so bad. That old man didn’t even consider getting a generator.

Truth be known, Ray never considered getting a backup generator before his quest was ended so abruptly. However, he made a mental note that when he got his own place, there would be a backup power supply. This would not happen to him again.

Ray slouched back into his gaming chair. He noticed there was a tear on the bottom side of the cup holder. He made another note. Buy new camping chair. Ray shut off the flashlight and sat in the darkness with a smile on his face. Camping chair? Why would anybody go camping? Nothing to do out there. Then he realized he was in the same predicament as campers. He had nothing to do. The smug look disappeared in the darkness.

Ray decided to light candles. His mother had decorated the family room with scented candles in seemingly every nook and cranny. It took only moments and the room was illuminated a small bit. Ray sat back down.

Now what? Boredom. It was his nemesis again. He thought briefly about masturbating. It was something he enjoyed and it would fill up some time. Maybe the power would come back on while he was finishing up. However, he didn’t seem to be in the mood even though it had been a couple days since he had given himself a tug. If he wasn’t in the mood he just couldn’t make himself be in the mood. Besides all his best pornography was locked up inside his computer. Access denied. His thoughts glanced to the lingerie catalog, but then he remembered that his sister had taken it to college with her. It occurred to him that once when he was in a bind like this he had used a Wal-Mart ad. Julie, associate; had done the trick for him on that night. It didn’t matter. Julie wouldn’t help him tonight. He wasn’t in the mood.

He looked down at himself. “Sorry love, I got a headache tonight,” he said to nobody in particular. Then he chuckled at his cleverness.

Then his thoughts escaped his control. He thought about his girlfriend. She wasn’t his current girlfriend. She was the only girlfriend he had ever had. So he was still correct to think of her as his girlfriend, damn the tenses.

Her name was Samantha. He wished she were with him tonight. Strangely enough, not just because of the sex stuff. He just kind of wished she were hanging around. He had realized awhile back that he had probably been to blame for things going wrong.

There relationship had been going well. They were having sex regularly, so it was going well in Ray’s eyes. Then one night she asked him about sexual fantasies. He said that he had always wanted to “make it” with a nurse.

The next night his parents were out of town she came over. She let herself into the guest bathroom. Ray continued watching some anime program. When she came out of the bathroom, she tried to get Ray’s attention. His gaze was glued to the television. She strutted back and forth behind the couch. Ray never moved. Finally she smacked the back of his head.

Ray was instantly annoyed by this gesture. His sisters had done this to him several times during their childhood. He turned in anger and then his jaw dropped open.

“Do you like?” Samantha asked.

“What are you doing?” was the answer.

“You said you always wanted to make it with a nurse.”

“I said I wanted to fuck a nurse, not fuck you dressed like a nurse.”

Where did she get such a crazy idea? It was beyond him. He turned back to his program. She walked back into the bathroom, gathered her belongings and left. She never returned. Ray didn’t follow her. The television was too good.

His mom wanted her back. She was privately concerned that Ray would never marry. She also knew that most 27 year olds living in their parents’ basement didn’t attract to many girls. She advised Ray to try to make amends for whatever he had done wrong. Ray assured her that he had done nothing wrong.

Ray did consider doing the flowers, apology, and groveling bit, but that weekend there was a sci-fi convention in town. Then on that Monday he had to reorganize his comics. On Tuesday new movies and music came out. By Wednesday he lost his steam. It was the curse of living such a full life.

THAT IS ALL THAT EXISTS TO DATE. MOST LIKELY IT IS ALL THAT WILL EVER EXIST.