I Hope They Serve Tacos in Heaven

Inspired in part by Terry Pratchett, and his wee free men–though just a small part of their legend.

Image from WikiMedia by T.Tseng

“Isn’t the afterlife wonderful?” Sam asked, craning her head around to peer up at the sky, the scraggly trees wilting in the parking lot, and the pollen-dusted buildings hemming them in.

Tyson blinked. “Huh?”

Sam had seemed normal enough a minute ago. They had a ceramics class together, and had bonded over how finicky the clay extruder was, and sat side-by-side at pottery wheels for weeks. Normal enough that when class had gotten out tonight, and Tyson was hungry, he’d invited her to his favorite taco truck, which was parked down the street.

“I said, isn’t the afterlife wonderful?” Sam repeated, proving that he hadn’t, as he’d hoped, misheard her. “I’ve been dead almost a year now, so it’s been on my mind as the anniversary approaches, you know?”

“You’re dead?” Tyson floundered, still thrown by the conversation’s sudden jerk of the wheel off the road and fast approaching a cliff.

“Of course. Aren’t you? You seemed like an–” she said a word that twisted through his brain, refusing to process. A painful dagger of static in his eardrums.

He winced.

Sam noticed his pained expression. ” Oh, sorry. I see that I was mistaken. You’re from here.” She shrugged, and took another bite of her taco.

Tyson watched her devour two more bites, then returned to his own food. The barbacoa, avocado, and queso fresco confection deserved to be consumed before the taco grew cold.

As soon as he’d tucked the last piece into his happy stomach, he picked up the conversation again, unable to help himself.

“How can you be dead, and living here? With me? And everyone else?”

“Afterlives are complicated,” Sam said with the air of someone who’d explained this many times before. “For space conservation, some people’s lives are someone else’s afterlife. Like your world is mine.”

“But… you’re alive?” Tyson protested. “You’re eating food, and everything.”

“Well, of course. What kind of heaven would it be if you couldn’t eat? Smell all these wonderful scents, and never be able to taste? I wasn’t a bad person, I’m not in hell.” Sam laughed.

“Uh. Right.” Tyson crumpled up the cardboard boat, and threw it at a nearby trash can. 

It skittered down the metal side of the can, and bounced on the asphalt, coming to rest a good foot and a half from its target.

Ears burning with embarrassment, he strode over to the can, scooped up his trash, and deposited it directly in. He glowered down at the black bag-lined cylinder, which was mostly of crumpled napkins and paper containers and, sacreligiously, half-eaten tacos.

He glanced up to see Sam dropping her boat, uncrumpled but properly empty, into the can next to him. 

She smiled. “Don’t worry, I think whoever’s in charge isn’t all that strict, really. I’m sure your afterlife will be a nice one, too.”

“Nicer than here?”

“Maybe,” she shrugged. “This world isn’t too different from mine, really. Except it doesn’t have the–” another painful static word, cut off midsyllable as she remembered. 

Tyson winced anyway. That whatever-it-was hurt.

“Doesn’t have… these dangerous aerial predators,” she corrected. “It’s nice to be outside during the day.”

She drew in a deep breath, and beamed.

Curious, Tyson took a breath, too. The humid air teemed with the scent of delicious tacos and spices, fumes from the truck’s generator, and the traffic from the road bordering the parking lot. 

He coughed. “What do they look like? These flying things?”

“Mmm,” Sam considered, and for a moment, he thought she’d run out of ideas for her strange story. “You don’t have anything like them here. My life… our planet’s atmosphere is thicker, and the air currents are really strong. So lots of animals are fliers–you can travel a good distance, over land or sea. Have to be small and fast, or big and tough, if you want to survive. People used to be small and fast, but we developed a lot like you did–bigger brains means better tools and higher survival rates.”

“Uh huh.” Tyson was impressed at how far Sam was taking this tall tale.

“Just like your bigger brains have some downsides, ours made us too slow. And gradually our wings were more vestigial, like your tails. We could glide, but not really fly distances. And we were slower. Too slow for the–” she caught herself before she said the word again.

“For the… deadly wings. We live underground, mostly. Build into the sides of hills. Travel in subways and tunnels. And luckily, the deadly wings have terrible night vision, so we can go out at night. But carefully, of course.”

“Of course,” Tyson prompted.

“Do you know how many predatory animals you have in your world that eat humans?” Sam asked.

“Um… one?” Tyson suggested.

“Tyson!” Sam’s eyes widened in genuine shock. “You should spend  your time on your phone on sites that are more educational than Grindr. There’s several–big cats, bears, sharks, and alligators, to name a few.”

“Oh, yeah, right.” Tyson scratched his head.

“Don’t worry,” Sam brushed her hands off against her pants. “Like I said, the afterlife is wonderful. I’m stuffed. Do you want to go for a walk?”

Tyson nodded weakly, planning his escape. He’d sit somewhere else in ceramics class next week. Or maybe skip it entirely.

Sam glanced to her left, then strode directly  into the road, and bounced off a car speeding down it. Thrown clear by the impact, she landed in a tangle on the sidewalk.

The car kept driving without pause.

“Ohmigod!” Tyson bolted toward her, just in time to see her stand up, unhurt.

“Whoops! I keep forgetting you drive on the right. So weird.” She shook her head.

“Yeah, weird.” Tyson goggled. “You have a little–” he pointed, hand shaking, at the smudge of oil on her jeans.

“Oh, dear. I hope that comes out.” Sam scrubbed at the smear, spreading it further.

“I’m–I’m sure it will.”

“There’s the spirit,” Sam winked.

Top Ten Tues: Fave Bookmarks

Top Ten Tuesdays, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, feature lists related to all things bookish–characters, authors, titles, and favorites. They’re an excellent way to find new interesting books on a variety of topics, and to find bloggers that love the books you do.

Check out their blog for their top ten and lists by other bloggers!

November 12: Favorite Bookmarks 

I have an impressive bookmark collection, so this is a tough one, but here goes!

Handmade cloth leaf bookmark gives me fall feels year round.
I have several wood inlay bookmarks. So pretty!
Finding neat bookmarks at art fairs is my jam.
I love how this one clips into place, and you can reposition the ribbon. Never lose your bookmark!
Fair trade upcycled sari fabric.
Dang cute.
Another handmade art fair find. Sequins!
Tiny sprout that folds into the book when you close it.
Zipmark. So fun.

Upcycled book spine with pretty bead tassel.

Top Ten Tues: Halloween

Top Ten Tuesdays, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, feature lists related to all things bookish–characters, authors, titles, and favorites. They’re an excellent way to find new interesting books on a variety of topics, and to find bloggers that love the books you do.

Check out their blog for their top ten and lists by other bloggers!

October 29: Halloween Freebie

Top Ten Spooky Elements in Books.

1.Black Cats. Though I’d argue against cats of any color being more or less spooky, this is a common Halloween theme. And black cats are awesome.

Image from WikiMedia by Misko3

2. Cemeteries. Fun things can happen in cemeteries–fights, revelations, magic–you name it.

3. Ghosts. I like ghosts in stories that aren’t necessarily ghost stories. Just casual ghosting about.

Image from WikiMedia by Tuvalkin.

4. Murder. The ultimate spooky event. Plenty of stories start off with a corpse.

5. Resurrection. It can be overdone, but in the right way at the right time, a character coming back from the dead is a great twist.

6. Monsters. There’s so much variety to the things that go bump in the night.

7. Unexplained Happenings. I enjoy a good mysterious noise, or objects moving, or strange sight. I think they’re best if they’re never explained at all.

Top Ten Tues: Traits with Character

Top Ten Tuesdays, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, feature lists related to all things bookish–characters, authors, titles, and favorites. They’re an excellent way to find new interesting books on a variety of topics, and to find bloggers that love the books you do.

Check out their blog for their top ten and lists by other bloggers!

October 8: Character Traits I Love/Personality Traits I Love to See In Book Characters/Things That Make Me Love a Character/etc. (submitted by Hannah @ Books Life and Other Oddities)

  1. Cleverness. Sharp wit makes for a fun read.

2. Determination. If the going gets tough, dig in and refuse to give up.

3. Humor. If you can’t laugh at yourself, somebody else will.

4. Improvisation. A character who can think on their feet can derail or add to the plan–either is fun.

5. Loyalty. Not ever good character has to have this, but any of them that travel in a group need to, if it’s going to work.

6. Puns. There’s such a thing as too much, but every now and then a really bad pun just makes a character.

7. Sarcasm. What can I say, I love the snark.

Top Ten Tues: Fall TBR

Top Ten Tuesdays, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, feature lists related to all things bookish–characters, authors, titles, and favorites. They’re an excellent way to find new interesting books on a variety of topics, and to find bloggers that love the books you do.

Check out their blog for their top ten and lists by other bloggers!

September 24: Books On My Fall 2019 TBR

Here’s the books I’m most excited to get to between now and the start of winter on December 21st! They’re all on hold at the library, so it’ll happen. Alphabetical as always.

1.The Testament;: Margaret Atwood. Lots of people are excited about this book. How can you not be?

2. Ninth House; Leigh Bardugo. I’ll read pretty much anything this woman writes.

3. The Girl with no Face; M.H. Boroson. The Girl with Ghost Eyes was amazing, so I can’t wait to read its sequel.

4. The True Bastards; Jonathan French. This world, where half-orcs have to deal with orc and human enemies alike, was gripping. And this book has a female protagonist. Represent!

5. Ash Kickers; Sean Grigsby. More firefighter dragon slayers!

6. Darkdawn; Jay Kristoff. I’m not ready for it to be over, but I really need to read the end!

7. Gideon the Ninth; Tamsyn Muir. Did someone say ‘space necromancers?’

8. Wayward Son; Rainbow Rowell. The first book was adorable. And how can you not support fictional fanfic that becomes a real book?

9. The Art of Theft; Sherry Thomson. Lady Sherlock? Absolutely.

10. Rosewater Redemption; Tade Thomson. The first books set up so much conflict. Will it be resolved? I sure hope so!

Top Ten Tues: Snacks

Top Ten Tuesdays, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, feature lists related to all things bookish–characters, authors, titles, and favorites. They’re an excellent way to find new interesting books on a variety of topics, and to find bloggers that love the books you do.

Check out their blog for their top ten and lists by other bloggers!

September 17: Favorite Things to Eat/Drink While Reading (submitted by Jana’s mom)

I don’t have many favorite book snacks, though I do read and eat often, it’s just anything I’m using utensils for. Don’t worry, I put the book to my left or behind the plate so I don’t drop food on it!

Image from WikiMedia by Silar.

Chips. I have mastered the art of turning pages one handed.

Image from WikiMedia by Pudding4brains.

Cookies. All kinds of cookies are a happy food.

Image from WikiMedia by Mindmatrix.

Hot Chocolate. I’m not a hot chocolate snob, but I do enjoy the real stuff when I have time, made with melted chocolate and milk, with a sprinkle of cinnamon. Mini marshmallows are a must.

Image from WikiMedia by Takkk.

Hot Tea. Especially when it’s cold or rainy out, a book and a cup of tea is perfection.

Image from WikiMedia by Melissa Doroquez.

Iced Tea. I live in the southwest US. I am 60% iced tea in the summer.

Mirror, Mirror: A Twisted Fairy Tale

Image from WikiMedia, by Martheau.

Thousands of shards littered the floor, shattered pieces of silver light, marred by a splatter of red.

She shouldn’t have hit the mirror. Her aching knuckles dripped on the floor, and when she examined the damage, yes, she did have a sliver embedded in the skin. With a sigh, she went to the window for the best light. Several painful moments later, she had three slivers extracted, stopped the bleeding, and properly wrapped her hand.

A glass of wine fortified her enough to deal with the mess. The broom chased glass, skittering across her solar floor. She swept and swept and swept, and each time she paused to check her work, glass glinted from a crevice in the wood.

Eventually, she surrendered. The damn mirror had won, again.

Large shards clung to the ornate frame, a spiderweb of lines radiating from that single, satisfying, ill-planned punch. She draped the dark purple shawl she habitually employed between uses over it, to hide the evidence of her temper.

With the glass mostly swept up, and the remains covered, no one would notice what she’d done. That was for the best, because she didn’t want to explain. Didn’t want to describe how the enchanted mirror had showed her the future–her deepening wrinkles, graying hair, and sagging breasts. And her stepdaughter, currently a skinny girl of seven, blooming into a beauty with creamy skin, lustrous jet hair, and limpid blue eyes.

Everyone aged. Even her pretty stepdaughter someday would be a crone someday. If she lived that long, unlike her mother, carried off on a child bed fever trying to bear a son.

The king had proved too old and infirm to sire another child, for which she was grateful. She’d seen cousins and friends swept away in silence, replaced without a second thought. Just as the former queen had been.

Glaring at the hidden, formerly mouthy, looking glass, she sat at her vanity, with its blessedly unenchanted glass, and set to repairing the damage her exertions had done. When she was as perfect as she could be, she pulled her long sleeves over her hands, and went in search of the princess.

Top Ten Tues: Avoidance

Top Ten Tuesdays, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, feature lists related to all things bookish–characters, authors, titles, and favorites. They’re an excellent way to find new interesting books on a variety of topics, and to find bloggers that love the books you do.

Check out their blog for their top ten and lists by other bloggers!

September 10: Books On My TBR I’m Avoiding Reading and Why (maybe you’re scared of it, worried it won’t live up to the hype, etc.) (submitted by Caitlin @ Caitlin Althea)

Most books I haven’t read on my TBR is because I can’t stop adding new books to it, but there’s a few I’ve skipped over. Alphabetical as always.

1.The Black Jewels Trilogy; Anne Bishop. I picked this up used, started to read it, wasn’t feeling it, and haven’t started again.

2. World After; Susan Ee. The first book traumatized me, and I haven’t been brave enough for the second.

3. The Beautiful Ashes; Jeanine Frost. At first I was waiting for the next book to come out, so I didn’t have to worry about cliffhangers, then I just… haven’t picked it up.

4. The Wicked + The Divine; v. 1; Kieron Gillen. Another series I was waiting for a few to be out, and now it’s been years.

5. The Tribulations of Tompa Lee; Edward Hoornaert. I feel anxious about not liking an indie author’s work, because I have to be honest in my review, but I don’t want to tank someone’s ratings.

6. Shield of Kings; Christina Ochs. Purchased this from a blogger whose snippets I read, and haven’t even touched it, because if I don’t like it, I have no idea how to review it.

7. The Mime Order; Samantha Shannon. I loved the first book, but reviews warned this might not be as good. It needs to be good, though!

8. The Window and the Mirror; Henry Thomas. I picked this up at a book fair because I liked the author’s interview, but now I’m worrying I’ll feel bad if I don’t like the book.

Top Ten Tues: Ride into the Danger Zone

Top Ten Tuesdays, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, feature lists related to all things bookish–characters, authors, titles, and favorites. They’re an excellent way to find new interesting books on a variety of topics, and to find bloggers that love the books you do.

Check out their blog for their top ten and lists by other bloggers!

September 3: Books I Enjoyed That Are Outside of My Comfort Zone (i.e., a genre you don’t typically read or subject matter you’re not usually drawn to)

I read any genre, but there are some subjects I often avoid. I participate in the Read Harder Challenge just to get out of the norm books. You should check it out if you haven’t before. 🙂 List is alphabetical as always!

1.Half of A Yellow Sun; Chimamanda Adichie. Any book that has words like ‘haunting’ and ‘chilling violence’ in its description is a risk. Just enough hope in this, though.

2. Smaller and Smaller Circles; F.H. Batacan. The Thriller/Suspense end of the mystery pool isn’t always my thing, but this one had interesting characters.

3. We Are Arrested; Can Dundar. I was worried this would be depressing, but though it was grim, it had some light to it.

4. One Child; Mei Fong. History can be rough. This was thought-provoking, without being too dry.

5. Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths; Shigeru Mizuki. A grim true war story, but wonderfully done.

6. Where We Are Now; Carolyn Osborn. Any small press book is a gamble. Is it good? One way to find out!

7. Chess Story; Stefan Zweig. I’ve read too many dark books that involve Nazis, so I’m leary of them now. This one was complex, sad, and wistful.

Sign Chameleon: A story about Birthdays

Astronomical clock. St. Marks, Venice.
Image from WikiMedia by Marcelo Teson.

When she was in her late teens–as soon as she started college and could reinvent herself as she’d planned–Natalie went by Lee, and claimed her birthday was June fifth. That made her a Gemini. She admired the positive traits of the sign–affectionate, gregarious, and arty. An air sign felt light and free. Just like her.

The fact that her actual April twenty-sixth birthday made her an earth sign–Taurus–was, she figured, a error of fate she might as well correct.

One problem troubled her, though. The June birthstone–pearl–was either a cheap, dull white imitation, or out of her price range. Then when she was flaunting the authentic pearl necklace she’d exhausted herself flirting for, someone told her how pearls were made. From grit. From trash!

A June birthday wasn’t suited to her.

May was emerald, which was much better. She had to settle for a birthday on the twenty-third instead of her lucky number five, but some sacrifices have to be made.

In her late twenties, Natalie went by Natalia, and discovered the Chinese zodiac. The Western zodiac had palled over time. She went through a menagerie of animals as she shaved years off her age, postponing the dreaded mid-thirties.

She regretted that no one would believe she was a dragon, but perhaps with some plastic surgery she could get there. If not, her emerald jewelry would console her.

Though lately, she’d been considering the sparkle of colored diamonds–a rainbow of colors, to match every outfit. Being an Aries wouldn’t be so bad.