Fighting The Beast

May 23, 2011

- See all 164 of my articles

1 Comment

The following is a work of fiction.

Jerome crawled over the edge of the hill to peer into the valley below. He did not want to be spotted. He was sure that he was down wind, he could smell the beast. As long as he was very quiet, and stayed hidden, the beast would not know he was there.

There! There it was. It was awake, stalking before the white tent. Jerome could not even describe the foul creature. At times it walked on all fours, and at others on his two hind limbs. It grunted, it stank, it ate refuge. It was an animal, a dangerous animal that had to be destroyed. Jerome knew not how many people it had killed, and eaten. What he did know as that the Princess was in that tent. He alone of all the knights had stood forward to save her. He hoped he was not too late.

Jerome hated to just lay there and wait, but he knew that he had to know what the obstacles were. The tent, once bright and made for royalty, was now filthy, poorly set up, and yes, even bloody. The Princess had been with a guard of twenty four men and two ladies in waiting. The men had all died courageously, their bodies torn and scattered across the field of battle. The beast appeared injured. It seemed that at least one of the King’s men had scored a hit.

There were the remains of a fire in front of the tent, and what appeared to be the remains of a meal. Was the beast civilized? Was it aware of the importance of its captive? It had taken her alive, which was odd. How could it distinguish royal from common blood? Maybe it just captured women, killing all of the men because they were dangerous. Even animals could tell the difference between men and women.

There was a noise behind him. “Damn”, he thought. “I should have left the horse further away.” The beast had not heard, or appeared to not have heard. Jerome crept slowly around, away from the direction the noise had come from, but still down wind. It was early morning. He would eat cold biscuits and watch before trying to attack. He had to be careful. This was not just a fight, he had to ensure the safety of the Princess.

It was late in the morning before Jerome saw anyone else. The beast had gone down to the stream to bath, splashing a wallowing, making a great deal of noise. One of the Ladies in Waiting came out with a bucket. She went to the stream to get some water, careful to stay as far away from the beast as possible, going up stream to get clear water. The beast watched her until she was back in the tent. She was frightened, but appeared unhurt.

At mid-day, the beast kindled the fire and grunted to the tent. Both Ladies in Waiting came out. They cooked a meal. It smelled so good. Jerome had not eaten a hot meal in days. He crept nearer. He watched the food preparation and watched the beast. The animal had habits. It patrolled the area in a set pattern. It used the same tree to relieve itself. It spent the rest of its time watching the women and caring for its weapons.

When all was ready, the tent flap opened. The Princess came forth, still clean and radiant in her summer dress of white. Jerome stared. He had seen her at court, yet now she seemed even more beautiful. He crept even nearer. He told himself that it was to prepare for battle, but really he was drawn to the Princess.

The Princess ate with her ladies, then with a dignity that was overwhelming for Jerome, she arose and offered food to the beast. Jerome cursed under his breath. The princess was serving that animal. It was terrible. It had to be stopped. But Jerome waited.

The women cleaned up after the meal and retired to the tent. The beast patrolled again. Jerome feared that he had crept too close, but he was not detected. The beast curled up by the remains of the fire, blocking the exit of the tent, and went to sleep.

Now was the time. There would be no better opportunity. He crept silently through the brush. As he neared the sleeping beast, he rose up, and with more stealth than he thought he had, he approached. He stood over the beast, considering if he should slit its throat or drive his sward through it chest. Up close the beast almost appeared human. Its mane seemed a thick beard and unruly shock of hair. It did wear cloths, with a heraldic sign of a dragon sinking its talons into a lion. It slept secure in its own strength, not knowing that death was hovering over it.

One of the ladies stepped out of the tent, and seeing Jerome made a yelp of surprise. The beast awoke and seeing Jerome attacked. It swept with its great paw and threw Jerome to the ground. It took a second swipe as it rose, but Jerome rolled out of the way. It drew its sward as Jerome got back on his feet. The beast roared, charging Jerome, but its great weight was a hindrance against the agile young man. Jerome side stepped and brought his sward against the back of the beast. The beast whirled with remarkable speed and cut Jerome on the shoulder.

The women had all gathered at the entrance to the tent and watched. The battle continued, Jerome dancing out of the way of the beast, but the beast always getting some small strike back. Slowly, the combination of the injures from the fight with the guards and the strikes that Jerome was landing, the beast wore down. Finally, the beast lunged at Jerome to get him in a bear hug. Instead of jumping away, Jerome gripped his sward with both hands allowing the beast to impale itself. It stopped its forward rush an inch from Jerome’s face. Jerome could feel and smell its breath. As it sagged on Jerome’s sward, Jerome was dragged down to the ground. They both laid there for a moment, the women were sure that both of them were dead.

Jerome got up on his knees, and with all his strength, drew his sward free of the body of the beast. The ladies rushed forward, the Princess foremost. “You are hurt, valiant knight” she said and she brushed his hair from his forehead. She ordered the Ladies in Waiting to fetch water as she used the sleeve of her dress to wipe the sweat and blood from his face. Jerome could not believe it. The Princess was touching him, Jerome, the lowest of knight. He dropped to one knee, “Your Highness, it is my privilege to serve.”

Suddenly, Jerome had a new pain. Something had struck his left thigh. “Get up you lazy git! My horse was supposed to be saddled at sunrise. If I am late, I will add ten more stripes to what you deserve for sleeping in.” Prince Hugo stomped off. Jerome limped off to saddle the horse. He carefully spread the silk ceremonial blanket before hoisting the saddle and gear into place. He had to rearrange it several times to get it right, but he had to or there would be even more stripes. He bushed down the sides to make sure that Prince Hugo’s pageant was showing. After all, he was riding to his wedding. All the kingdom would be watching as he rode in. The pageant had to be perfect, a dragon slaying a lion.

Millionaires on food stamps (and other random topics)

May 21, 2011

- See all 763 of my articles


I’m going to ramble on a lot of topics today, so bear with me.  Or stop reading.  The choice is yours.

If I Had Two Million Dollars, I’d Be Poor …

Leroy Fick on Michigan won $2 million on a television show affiliated with the Michigan lottery in 2010.  A year later, he’s on food stamps.  Has he fallen on hard times?  Well, lottery winnings are considered assets, but not income, are aren’t used to determine eligibility for assistance.  Federal guidelines DO use assets to determine eligibility, but Michigan (and at least 40 other states) have a waiver that allows them to ignore assets.  I’m sure that the thought process behind the waiver was well-intentioned (perhaps so that you wouldn’t have to sell your house to buy bread if you were laid off?), but I suspect that nobody ever dreamed that a lottery winner would apply for assistance.  The state is not aware of any other lottery winners receiving food stamps, and is quickly moving to close the loophole.

I think (hope) many of us would feel very blessed if we won the lottery, and use some of that money to help others – instead of taking money out of public coffers (although I guess that’s one way to reover what you’ve paid in taxes).

How does a lottery winner have no investment income, you ask? Easy. Put to money into investment funds that don’t pay dividends. You don’t have any income until you sell.


The general manager of the Washington Nationals has indicated that 18 year old prospect Bryce Harper will not play in the Major Leagues this year, not even as a “September call-up” when rosters are expanded to 40 players on September 1.  This seems like a smart move.  Unless the Nationals are in contention late in the year, there’s no reason to rush Harper’s development.  He’s demolishing low-A pitching right now, and would expect him to be promoted to high-A soon, and probably to AA before the end of the year.  However, he still needs to polish some of his skills, and a 2012 debut makes a lot of sense.

On the topic of talented youngsters, I’m pegging Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro as a lock for 3000 hits.  Castro has a lot of things going for him – not only is he young (21), but he hits in the early part of the order and doesn’t walk much (both of which boost his at bats).  As long as he doesn’t develop much power, he could be in the 1 or 2 hole in the order for many years to come, and if he doesn’t walk much he might make a push for 700 at bats some years.  You only need a .286 batting average to get 200 hits in 700 at bats.  If he stays healthy at consistently hits above 300, you might even see Castro make a run at 4000 hits.

Giants fan Bryan Stow remains in the hospital after he was beaten severely by two men at Dodger Stadium on March 31.  Despite a $200,000 reward and composite drawings of the two attackers, they have not been apprehended.  I find it unlikely that nobody knows who the attackers are, and I hope someone comes forward.  How can you sleep at night if you know who is responsible for this terrible crime?  I have as much hatred for the Giants as anyone, but it’s absolutely crazy to carry things this far.  We can have healthy rivalries without violence.  Best wishes, Bryan.

Jim Tressel

Ohio State will not be paying the legal expenses football coach Jim Tressel incurs as part of an ongoing NCAA investigation.  This seems perfectly fair, since Tressel kept the university in the dark, rather that taking the correct steps of informing his athletic director and compliance director when he learned of potential violations.  I’m hoping to see the NCAA drop the hammer hardon Tressel … but I’m not overly confident in the NCAA, given their spotty decision-making history.

Fiction status

I’m going to cut back on my short stories for a while. I’ll still try to write 2 stories per month for the site. I’ll likely shift those stories to Saturday and have a different type of article on Fridays.

The first class of my fiction school wrapped up. There were several delays, most of them caused by me. However, it was a very rewarding experience. My job ended up being a lot more difficult than I imagined, simple because of the relatively high level of polish the writers exhibited. I was expected to have to point out more flaws in technique, but the three writers in the class put forward some very fine work. Maybe you’ll see some of their work on this site in the future.

I’m working to get some traction on my novel (which is why I’m cutting back on stories a bit). I recently wrote a new beginning for the book – a prologue that shows the villain planning for the evil that will come. The prologue had gotten rave reviews … now I just need to write 90,000+ more words to finish the book.

New Logo

The parent organization for The Soap Boxers, Hyrax Publications LLC, has a new logo.  Scroll to the bottom to see it.  It’s a bit minimalist, but I like it.

Kosmo’s Favorite Fiction Stories

July 10, 2010

- See all 763 of my articles

No Comments

Today is the 600th article in the history of The Soap Boxers.  Recently, in preparation for the launch of The Victimless Crime and Other Stories, I’ve been looking back at some of my older stories.  I’ve featured 70 fiction stories on The Soap Boxers.   Today, I look back at some of my favorites.

The one that started it all – Although Tina was technically written earlier (years ago), Release Point was the first story written specifically for you, the audience of The Soap Boxers.  It features Jerome Franklin, a baseball prospect who is on the last of his nine lives in baseball and needs to have a breakthrough year.

The one that made a social statement – Most of my stories are simply pieces of fiction with no attempt to make any sort of statement.  The characters may advance their own agendas, but the author is not attempting to make a statement.  Warm Feet is the exception, as it puts a positive spin on the topic of gay marriage.  In spite of the fact that I have no openly gay friends, this issue has become a hot topic for me in recent years.  I expected this to be somewhat controversial, but nobody really had any comments for or against the story.

The freakiest one – A lot of people were freaked out by Tale of the Wolf, but I don’t consider it the freakiest story I’ve written.  That honor goes to Friends for Thanksgiving.  Oh, and I apologize for the second part of Tale of the Wolf – it’s quite weak.

Perseverance against the oddsHeidi and the Shark features a woman battling against a fearsome beast to save her life.  I hammered this out in about 20 minutes after an offhand comment someone made about looking for sharks on their next trip to the beach,

Favorite animal stories – This was a real toss-up.  I’ve written a few stories about animals.  Perhaps my favorite is What Really Killed the Dinosaurs, which puts that silly meteorite theory to rest.  I had a lot of fun with this story.  You’ll note that there is a base at Tulowitz.  The name is derived from that of Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.  Toronso is a twist of Toronto.  Look closely at other names and you might see where they came from.  I also had a lot of fun with The Attack, which tells the tale of a family of wolves launching an attack on a henhouse.

Favorite sports story– I’ve written quite a few stories about sports.  I’ve covered basketball, football, bull riding, track, and auto racing.  Most of the sports stories are written about baseball.  Additionally, baseball pops up in the background of many stories where it is not the primary focus.  This is, of course, due to the fact that I’m a huge fan.  My favorite baseball story?  The Rookie.

O. Henry – In recent months, I’ve been working on the technique of putting a surprising twist at the end of stories, in the manner of the great author O. Henry.  My favorite of these stories is the dramatic Second Chances and the humorous The Champion.

Of course, you can peruse all of the stories and pick your favorites.  Or you can purchase PDF versions at the Hyrax Publications store.  Not only do the PDFs provide a more user-friendly interface to the stories, but they’ve been given a second round of proofreading.  Quite a few items are on sale right now.

Long time readers – which of the stories was your favorite?