Sunday, December 25, 2011

What I Really Wanted to Get You for Christmas

  • a bright blue sky over a seamless field of snow
  • that drop jaw feeling that comes when a piece of music or art is too wonderful to wrap your mind around
  • a chance like Emily's in Our Town to visit one day from the past
  • a permanent vacation from arthritis, allergies, aches and pains

  • a leaf-crunching, wood-smoke scented Indian summer that lingers till Thanksgiving
  • a who-needs-fireworks meteor shower when shooting stars whistle and flash, whistle and flash all night
  • a refreshing swim in the ocean and a long nap on a warm beach

  • a sudden burst of inspiration / confidence / courage / laughter / peace
  • a magic wardrobe that opens to another world
  • a real-life get out of jail card that gets you out of writing a paper or doing the dishes or getting up early to go to work one yucky winter morning
  • a time-travel trip to the first nativity scene, where we could kneel before a cattle trough and worship the King of Everything.

But if there is a mega-mall or dot com that sells such things, I couldn't find it on Google. And let's face it — I probably couldn't afford to shop there anyway.

So I just got you this scarf / fruitcake / puzzle / potato peeler / stupid card (please circle all that apply...).

I hope you like it, but even more,
I hope you understand 
that what I really wanted to get you for Christmas
can only come from God.

                              --Patty Kyrlach

Sunday, December 18, 2011


A Russian Folktale -- retold by Patty Kyrlach

In Russia, at Christmastime, the little boys and girls don’t wait for fat-bellied, twinkle-eyed St. Nick. Instead they hope to catch a glimpse of a rather cranky, wrinkled old woman. Her name?


Russian Peasant Woman
 by L. Bakst
Throughout the winter months, she tip-toes into the bedrooms of children and leaves behind little gifts—a piece of candy or a wooden toy or a shiny ball. She loves to find babies sleeping in their cribs. She will bend down, look closely at their tiny curled fingers, listen to their soft little sighs, and sometimes on the baby's pillow, she will drop a single tear.

Some people say she is searching, always searching. But what is Babouscka looking for?

Many long years ago, Babouscka lived at a crossroads, in one of the loneliest places on earth. In summer, when the fields were full of flowers, she would venture outside and stare this way and that, down the roads facing north, south, east, and west—wondering where they might lead. In winter, she sat by the fire, while the wind howled liked hungry wolves, and the icy branches of trees chattered like shivering teeth.

On such a winter’s night, Babouscka was sweeping her house. Sweeping, sweeping—for she had no husband and she had no children. All she had was her little house, and she liked to keep it tidy—sweeping, sweeping with her broom.

Suddenly she heard the sound of a trumpet. Then voices of men and beasts. She must have thought she was losing her mind, for this was a clamor like a traveling circus.

She ran to the window and pulled back the curtain, and then she was certain she was losing her mind. For there before her small house was an entourage of foreign dignitaries--riding camels! She saw the men dismount.

They knocked loud and long on Babouscka’s door before she summoned the courage to answer.

Then she watched in amazement as one…two…no, three great kings entered her humble home. In the firelight, they glittered with jewels and silk, and a delicious scent of spices and incense filled her house.

The kings said they were following a bright star, searching for a child. Since they were strangers in this land, they asked Babouscka to come with them and help them find the right path.

Through the window Babouscka saw the gleam of the star, beckoning her to a great adventure. But she could still hear the cold wind howling in the deep black of night.

“I’m sorry,” she said, “but the wind is cold and the night is dark. And besides, I need to finish sweeping my little house. Why don’t you stay here by my warm fire tonight?”

But the travelers were anxious to be on their way.

The next morning, Babouscka awoke with an ache in her heart.

Why, oh why, had she stayed in her house at the crossroads, when she might have journeyed with kings? They had spoken of a child, born to be a king of all kings. They were going to worship him and to lay their gifts and their crowns at his feet. 

If only she could see this child! If only she too could bring him a gift.

With a thud, Babouscka shut the door of her little house behind her and set out to find the child for herself. And she is searching still.

In every child’s room, in every infant’s cradle, she looks for the Holy Child. She searches each child’s face with hope, but always turns away, disappointed once again.

Whenever the wind wolves howl, whenever icy branches chatter like teeth, look carefully and you may catch a glimpse of Babouscka quietly leaving your bedroom. Or you may find one of the gifts she leaves behind, for the sake of the Child she seeks.

Dearest Christ Child, may we not be so busy sweeping (or shopping, wrapping, entertaining) that we neglect to seek for you--for if we seek you, we will surely find you. Indeed, you came to seek for us.

Stark Raving Mythopath pieced this story of Babouscka from several different versions.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Ghost of Dickens' Past

So what exactly was Charles Dickens doing in a Scottish cemetery at the twilight hour? 

He had gone for a walk, after giving a public reading of his work—a nineteenth century version of a book tour. As shadows deepened, he came upon a cemetery called the Canongate Kirkyard, and he went in to look around. The wind in the trees whispered like ghosts, and an owl gave a mournful cry.

Suddenly one peculiar epitaph caught his eye:

Here Lies Ebenezer Lennox Scroggie: 
A Mean Man

What in the world had this man done in life that he would be so vilified in death?  How awful to lie for eternity beneath such a condemning stone. Could a man like this ever change?

Canongate Kirkyard, Edinburgh, Scotland

As it turned out, Dickens had misread the stone, perhaps due to the dying light of day and his own slight dyslexia. The headstone actually referred to Scroggie as a “meal man,” a popular name for a corn merchant. Scroggie, a relative of the famous economist Adam Smith, has been described as “a jovial and kindly man”—although a bit of a philanderer.

But no matter. Dickens’ imagination had already been sparked by musings about this “mean man,” and he would go on to immortalize Mr. Scroggie as Ebenezer Scrooge in his most famous tale, A Christmas Carol.  It’s unclear in the original story exactly what Mr. Scrooge’s profession is, but we do get the sense that he is a hard-headed—and hard-hearted—business man. In fact, Dickens describes him as "...a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner!"

Marley's ghost visits Scrooge

During the story, Scrooge is visited first by the ghost of his former business partner, Marley—and then by the three Ghosts of Christmas—Past, Present, and Yet to Come. Scrooge looks back on his selfish life and feels remorse for failing to help the poor and needy. He vows to change if only he can somehow be given a second chance.

In fact, Dickens was well-acquainted with the poor and needy. At twelve years of age, he was forced to sell his books and drop out of school to take a job in a blacking factory—because his father had been put in prison. It was a grim time for young Charles, and he saw men, women, and children suffering the debilitating effects of poverty. Those images would haunt him throughout his life, and they certainly influenced his writing, and especially the story of Ebenezer Scrooge.

A Christmas Carol was published on December 17, 1843, with a red cloth cover and gilt edge pages. It was an instant critical success, and shortly thereafter, it began to be adapted for the theater. In his lifetime, Dickens gave over 100 public readings of the tale. 

Sadly, one publisher stole the book and published it without permission. Dickens sued and won, but the culprit simply declared bankruptcy, leaving Dickens to pay the considerable legal fees. Ironically, the story that has sold a gazillion copies worldwide and has been produced countless times on stage and screen was not a financial success for the author. Bah, humbug!

Scrooge and Bob Cratchett

But as Scrooge learned, it’s not always about the money. Charles Dickens gave the world an amazing Christmas present when he wrote A Christmas Carol, a story that has touched the hearts of readers and audiences for more than 150 years with its simple but powerful message. We can start again. It’s not too late to change. There is still hope. It's more blessed to give than to receive. Good news for everyone who needs a second chance.

Sounds a lot like the Gospel to me.

Stark Raving Mythopath would like to thank Donna Patton. Her article on Scrooge in the Times-Gazette of Hillsboro, Ohio, introduced me to the origins of A Christmas Carol.

Dickens pictured with his characters

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sekko and the Dragon

A Japanese Folktale, retold by Patty Kyrlach

Once long ago, in the island country of Japan, there lived an artist named Sekko.

Sekko was famous for his paintings of dragons. He painted colorful dragons on plates and pottery, on fabric and tapestries, on canvases of all sizes, and even on the wall of the great hall of the emperor's palace.

Everyone oohed and ahhed when they saw the flashing eyes, the smoking nostrils, the curled claws, and the fearsome faces of Sekko's dragons. Sekko drew angry dragons, laughing dragons, dancing dragons, sorrowful dragons, and sleeping dragons. He even made a painting of the world's most famous artist reflected in the eye of a dragon.

Soon all the ladies at court were wearing dragon jewelry and braiding their hair with dragon claw combs. The men wore robes made from cloth that imitated dragon scales. Children built cages in hopes of finding a dragon egg and raising a dragon as a pet. But only the emperor was permitted to wear a  robe with a big dragon symbol -- hand painted, of course -- by Sekko.

It came as no surprise when Sekko was asked to lead the Dragon Symposium, an annual seminar dedicated to dragon studies -- their likes and dislikes, their lore and learning, their diet and mating rituals, and the fundamentals of dragon psychology. He drew diagrams of dragon anatomy. 

And he spoke at length on everyone's favorite subject, the fabled treasures of dragons. He painted maps that promised to lead sincere seekers to riches-beyond-reckoning. (No one seemed to notice that the only one getting rich was Sekko.)

Sekko's painting and treasure map business was thriving, until one day, when the earth shook.

In the artist's studio, pots and plates and paintings and tapestries went flying as the floor rocked like a ship in a storm. A burst of flame erupted just before the walls cracked and the roof came caving in. The artist barely escaped with his life.

Was it an earthquake, wondered Sekko? A volcano? The end of the world? 

Lying in a heap by the road, he looked up just in time to see a dragon -- a humongous, rainbow-colored, fire-breathing dragon -- sailing into the clouds.

Everyone came running to find Sekko. "Help us!" they cried. "What do we do now? You know everything about dragons. How can we save our village?"

But Sekko hung his head in shame.

"I don't know," he said. "I've never seen a real dragon before."

- - - - -

Many people are just like Sekko. They think they've got God all figured out. They know his likes and dislikes. They know the kind of people he associates with -- which, what a coincidence! -- is people just like them. They figure that God's political philosophy or theological views must surely match up with their own. Many Americans think that God is a Republican or a Democrat or a Presbyterian or an Episcopalian.

But they've never met God.  Not the humongous, rainbow-colored, fire-breathing God of the Bible.  After Job had an encounter with God, he said, "My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you."  (Job 42:5)  Before he met God, Job had a lot of good suggestions about how God could run the universe; but after his encounter, he could only say, "I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes." (Job 42:6)

The world doesn't need any more experts on God. What the world needs desperately are people who know God personally, people who can show God's love and kindness to everyone.

Stark Raving Mythopath thanks Inez Schneider, who first introduced her to this Japanese story.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Happy Birthday, C. S. Lewis!

A man is walking through the English countryside at sunset. It’s six more miles to the next town, and the sky ahead is slate gray.  Bound by a rash promise he made to a woman he just met, he wrangles through the thick hedge of a foreboding farmhouse. He musters his courage and rings the bell. 

No answer. He rings again. Hearing the sounds of a struggle, he runs around to the back and finds a young man trying to get free from two older chaps. After dubious explanations, the traveler is invited inside. 

Then the real story begins. The man—named Elwin Ransom—is drugged and abducted. What began as a journey of a few miles becomes a journey of millions—yes, millions—of miles. What began as a trip to a neighboring town becomes a trip through the vastness of space to new worlds. Ransom will meet life forms both alien and supernatural. He will meet himself and discover his true destiny.

So begins Out of the Silent Planet, by C. S. Lewis—volume one in his acclaimed “Space Trilogy.” Ramson, a Cambridge don and a philologist who happens to love long walks in the country, is a lot like Lewis himself. Professor Lewis also loved walking tours, covering 20 miles a day in good weather, and he knew what it was like to be in the predicament of not being able to find a place to stay for the night. Perhaps such an experience sparked the creation of this story.

C. S. Lewis

And like Ransom, Lewis visited other worlds—if only in his fertile imagination. One day an image popped into his head--a faun wrestling with packages in the snow. Sound familiar? That was the beginning of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche  was the inspiration for Till We Have Faces, set in the mythical kingdom of Glome. Lewis even ventured to Heaven and Hell--in The Great Divorce and The Screwtape Letters.

As a young man, Lewis was an atheist, but through the influence of J. R. R. Tolkien and other friends, he became first a theist and then a Christian. In Surprised by Joy, he describes himself coming to faith-- "kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance to escape." Yet, despite this shaky beginning, he became one of the greatest Christian apologists of the twentieth century. 

November 29th is C. S. Lewis’s birthday. I celebrate all the things he was—a broadcaster, an apologist, a scholar, an original thinker. But most of all, I celebrate the legacy of fantasy works he left behind--including Out of the Silent Planet, a book I can happily reread every few years and always find something new. 

Happy birthday, C. S. Lewis!

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Boy Who Loved Puppets

Stark Raving Mythopath salutes master storyteller and puppeteer, Jim Hensen.

When Jim was a boy in Greenville, Mississippi, his family didn’t have a tv. Or a computer. No iPod. No Game Boy. No Wii. But after all, it was the early 1940’s, and nobody had those things.

So how did Jim and his brother Paul entertain themselves? By splashing in the creek. Or climbing trees. By watching fireflies and catching frogs. By telling stories. Jim wrote poems and drew pictures. He played ping pong and board games with his best friend, Kermit. With so many fun things to do on a summer’s day, who needs tv?

Jim loved to entertain his family by putting on shows in the back yard. He also worked in school plays—both on the stage and behind the scenes.

Jim and Paul built a crystal radio set. After school, they listened to radio shows like The Green Hornet. They loved to hear Edgar Bergen talking to his dummy, Charlie McCarthy. On Saturday afternoons, they went to the movies. The first movie Jim saw was The Wizard of Oz, and that story always remained his favorite.

Jim’s dad worked for the Department of Agriculture,  and he wanted Jim to study science. But Jim was more interested in puppets. He took books out of the library to learn how to make them. By this time, his family had moved to Maryland. At sixteen years of age, Jim and his friend got a job doing puppets on a local tv station.

Jim thought that puppets should be able to smile. So instead of making them from wood, he made them from cloth. Instead of moving their arms with strings, he used rods. One day he cut up his mother’s old green cloth coat to make a frog character. He cut a ping pong ball in half to make the eyes. And so was born one of the most famous puppets of all time—Kermit the Frog! Jim and his friend called their creations “Muppets,” a combination of marionettes and puppets.

At the University of Maryland, College Park, Jim got his college degree in—of all things—home economics! That way he could study crafts and fabrics to help him make puppets. After college, he went to Europe to learn from famous puppeteers. When he returned to America, he used his Muppets to make  tv commercials.

One day, when he was 33 years old, Jim got a phone call from a tv producer with public television. They were piloting a new children’s show called Sesame Street. They wanted to hire Jim—and his puppets!  Jim wasn’t sure what to say. He didn’t want people to think that puppets were just for children. But in the end, he decided to give it a try.

The Muppet Display at the Museum of American History

That was a very good decision! Sesame Street was launched on November 10, 1969. The show became the longest running children’s program in history and won many awards. Not bad for a kid who grew up without tv! Jim Henson went on to produce other shows and movies with Kermit, Miss Piggy, Oscar the Grouch, and the Muppets. He worked on puppets for other projects as well—like the Jedi Master Yoda in Star Wars.

Jim showed the world that puppets aren’t just for children. When he passed away in 1990, at the age of 53, a jazz band played at the memorial service. Everyone waved butterfly puppets as a fitting tribute to the boy who loved puppets.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Ivan Tsarevich and the Firebird

Ivan plucks a feather from the Firebird.

We should all live in a Russian folk tale. Why? Read on.

Once upon a time, in a kingdom far away, there lived a man who had three sons.

Now in a European fairy tale, that would be enough, but this is a Russian tale—and so the three sons have names: Peter Tsarevich, Vasily Tsarevich, and Ivan Tsarevich.

The man was Tsar Demyan, and he had a garden with many trees. But the most beautiful was an apple tree that bore golden apples.

Alas, Tsar Demyan had a problem. Someone was stealing the golden apples. Every morning, Tsar Demyan would count his apples and find another apple was missing. "...Nine...Ten...Eleven...Dang!"

The sons took turns guarding the tree, but only Ivan stayed awake and discovered that the thief was the Firebird, although he could grasp but one golden feather.

Brave Ivan on his quest
Peter and Vasily set out to find the bird and reclaim the apples. But it was Ivan who—with the help of Grey Wolf—completed the long and perilous quest and returned with the Firebird and his diamond-studded cage, a horse and his golden bridle—and, oh yes, a girl, Elyena the Beautiful.

Ivan and Elyena were nearly home, when Peter and Vasily found them sleeping. (And then I'm afraid it gets sort of yucky.) The older brothers cut off Ivan’s head and took the booty and the bride for themselves. Poor Elyena had to buck up and adjust to a change in plans.

Sad story. Boo-hoo. The End.

No, not quite. Thank God, this is a Russian tale. The Grey Wolf gave Ivan the water of life, and Ivan returned home just as Peter was about to wed Elyena. Tsar Demyan banished the two bad boys, and Ivan and Elyena lived happily for many years. And that’s how the story really ends.

You see, in Russian folk tales, the dead have trouble staying that way! Stories like this challenge our ideas about life and death. Is death really the end? Can it be undone? Is there a force stronger than death?

The Grey Wolf

Absurd, says Entropy.  

Ridiculous, says Experience.

But something deep inside me knows that death is a fake, a masquerade. Death is not the end of my personality, my memory, my quirky sense of humor. 

Jesus spoke these words at the graveside of a friend: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies." And then he spoke some other death-defying words: "Lazarus, come forth."

Ivan's story doesn't end at the grave, and neither does mine. There's something more.

With faith, life trumps death. And that's no fairy tale.

EPILOGUE: The Stark Raving Mythopath recommends Russian folk tales to my readers--especially if you can find a collection illustrated by the artist Ivan I. Bilibin. Wonderful stories. Luscious art. A lovely way to spend a winter's afternoon by the fireplace. Note to self: get a fireplace.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Mythocabulary

J. R. R. Tolkien, the man who gave us the greatest mythic tale since medieval times, also gave us some useful words for talking about stories—a mythocabulary, if you will.

J. R. R. Tolkien, 1916
“If God is mythopoeic,” said a young Tolkien to a young C. S. Lewis, “man must become mythopathic.”

Tolkien coined the word mythopoeic to describe the art of myth-making—the kind of myth-making he did in creating The Lord of the Rings trilogy. You know--the kind where you create a complete world with languages and literature and cultures--aka high fantasy. Tolkien felt that human myth-makers are sub-creators, under the master storyteller—God.  

In this worldview, God is telling an epic story through the history of man. If you happen to be a story-maker, then you already know that your characters need to have free will. They must act and speak from their own personalities and POV, and not be puppets jerked around by an author omniscient. And yet you, as author, have a say in how-it-all-turns-out. Our story-making is an imperfect parable of God’s great story, now in progress and starring you as a main character.

The Misty Mountains, by J. R. R. Tolkien

Let’s face it. Not everyone is mythopoeic—especially not at the genius level like Mr. Tolkien. But we can all be mythopathic—receptive to myth, receiving nourishment and understanding from stories. For the most part, it isn’t even a conscious process. We hear/read/watch a story, and the story imparts  a hidden wisdom. 

One of the annoying “rules” of fiction writing today is that a story shouldn’t be didactic. It shouldn't try to make a point or teach you something. (Apparently we already know everything.) But in fact, stories by their very nature are teachers. The best stories will teach us without beating us over the head, often when we are not even aware. Sneaky, huh?

Tolkien, the quadraped--not the author
Thank you, Professor Tolkien, for giving us some really cool-sounding words for talking about stories.  However, I fear you may have missed one.

Mythopathological–-so myth-crazed that you feel compelled to blog about it—perhaps even to name your cat Tolkien. Such a hapless individual may at last become a Stark Raving Mythopath.

Welcome to my world.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

All Is Forgiven -- Part II

Herein and forthwith--the blood-curdling conclusion of our tale of a zombie cockatoo, an English teacher, and some really creepy music. If you missed Part I, scroll down to last week's blog entry--or Click here. Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha.

It should have come as no surprise when later that night there was an eerie scraping at the window and a scratching, scratching on the sill.  As if in a dream, Jeremiah went to the window and pulled back the curtain.  What he saw there made his blood run cold.  For on the window ledge, only inches away from his hand, perched a gruesome zombie‑like cockatoo.  He was beginning to show signs of decay, and his eyes shone like burning sulphur.

Jeremiah stood transfixed for he knew not how long.  He came to the next morning on the floor.  He did not remember falling.

Throughout the spring, the bird returned more and more frequently.  Jeremiah moved the cage back out of the garage and set it by the window.   He left the window open all the time and put fresh seeds on the sill every day.   He no longer got up to look at the bird when it came or took much notice of it.  But there was some strange cold comfort in its night visits.  Especially since he no longer had dinner with Philip and Bess or tea with any of their old friends.

One morning in June Jeremiah looked at himself in the mirror.  There were deep circles under his eyes.  He hadn't shaved in a week.  His nose was running and he had a cough--probably from leaving the window open, even on cold nights.  His skin was sallow, and his eyes red.  He had a nervous twitch, and he had trouble looking himself in the eyes.  He knew he needed help.

+ + + + +

And so it was that he found himself sitting in a dark, smoke‑filled tent across a folding card‑table from Madama Belusha, a black‑toothed gypsy with eyebrows so bushy she must have moussed them--and makeup so thick that he wondered what horrible secret it was hiding.

She looked strangely past him as he poured out his long tale of terror.  When he had finished, he hung his head and began to cry.  The smell of the dead bird hung all about him.

She clapped her hands together and shouted "Bl‑lyuck!  That's the most pathetic story I've ever heard--and I thought I'd heard 'em all."  

"Madama Belusha. . .you're my last hope.  Can you help me?"

"I think so."  Then to his amazement, she raised her wizened hand with the long black nails and peeled off one of her eyebrows.  "To start with, I'm not Madama Belusha."

"You're . . .  not?"

She peeled off the other eyebrow and pulled the black gum off her front teeth.

"I want my money back," demanded Jeremiah, rising from his chair.

"Sit down.  Do you want help, or don't you?"

"Well. . .I guess so."  He sat down and watched an amazing transformation.  Madama Belusha, by pulling off things that were glued here and there and by wiping off the thick makeup, was changed from a hideous hag into a rather attractive middle‑aged woman.  Her short blonde hair turned under at the neck.  Even her voice was different.  She no longer cackled when she talked.

"My name is Doris Murdock."

"I teach English at the community college."

"You're. . .a teacher?"

"Yes.  But in the warmer months, I supplement my income with this gig."

"Couldn't you just teach summer school?"

"Oh, sure.  You've never had to grade student themes.  Run‑ons, double negatives, misplaced modifiers--it's horrible.  Horrible!"

"Okay, okay," said a confused Jeremiah.  "Uh, did you say you could help me?"

"Oh yeah, sorry.  Let me ask you this.  Why did you put birdseed on the windowsill?"  Her new voice, though pleasant, had a hint of accusation.

"The birds are hungry.  Have you no compassion for helpless little creatures?"

"Mr. Grosbeck--may I call you Jerry?--let's be honest, Jerry.  Why did you put birdseed on the window?  Why did you bring the cage back into the house?  Why tell your friend that you forgive him and then go digging up the dead bird every chance you get?"

"I dig up the bird?  It just comes.  I have absolutely nothing to do with it."

"Sometimes when I'm angry at someone, it helps me to remind myself that I'm not perfect either.  Haven't you ever done anything wrong--perhaps to Philip?"

"What kind of question is that?"  

She looked at him impatiently.  "I have another appointment soon.  Can we hurry?"

"Well, once I borrowed his hunting dog, and--look, this was a really long time ago--it's not important."

"Just tell me," said Madama Belusha, aka Doris Murdock.

"Well, the dog got caught in a trap, and we had to shoot him.  I guess it was sort of my fault, I mean if you want to get nit‑picky about it, but that's been years ago."

"No matter.  Just remember that we all need forgiveness sometimes.  Uh, now if you'll excuse me, my next client is here."

"But you're not dressed."

She shrugged. "Theme conference."   

"Oh. . ."

A gangly young man swinging a nylon back‑pack entered through the beaded curtain.  "Hi, Mrs. Murdock."

When Jeremiah stepped out into the night, he felt better for some reason.  "We all need forgiveness sometimes," Madama, uh--Doris--had said.  He started walking toward Philip's house. 

Philip didn't mean to let Bogart die.  Of course, he was never that fond of the bird. . .but, best not to think of that now.  He used to joke about making cockatoo stew.  And what was the one about "Ring‑necked?  I'll wring his neck for you."  Always joking, that Philip.  I've missed his sense of humor. . . .Not as much, of course, as I've missed Humphrey Bogart.  He stopped in his tracks.  I wonder if Philip could have given him. . .bad liquor? 

Jeremiah almost didn't notice when the hideous creature fluttered down and landed on his shoulder.  Except for the smell.  The smell was stronger than ever. 

He walked to Philip's house and went around to the back porch where the light was on.  I was coming here to apologize, thought Jeremiah, but I may just give him a piece of my mind instead. 

He stopped again, just short of the porch.  That's odd.  When did Philip get a dog?  There's a dog dish on the porch.  And fresh meat in it!  He heard a strange sniffing and scratching but saw nothing.  Then suddenly, before him stood the ghastly apparition of the dead hunting dog.  When the dog saw Jeremiah, he began to bark, and the barking brought a haggard‑looking Philip to the door.

"What do you want?" growled Philip.

"Friend," called Jeremiah desperately, "may I come in?"  

"What for?"

"We've got to talk."
+ + + + +

A sorrowful wind moaned across the moor.  In the old church yard, dead leaves rattled among the tombstones.  And the creaking organ continued to wheeze under the assault of Toccata in D

Outside the church, the parson eventually erected a simple hand‑painted sign:  "If you've come here to bury the past, we recommend cremation."