Wednesday, April 29, 2015


Life in a Fishbowl

A film by Baldvin Zophoníasson

The 2015 MSPIFF featured two Icelandic films this year; I wrote about The Grandad on Monday.

Life in a Fishbowl (Icelandic title Vonarstræti) was one of the latest films to come out of Iceland which uses the 2008 ‘Kreppa’ as a background for its story. A true ensemble piece, it follows three people living in Reykjavík: Eik, () is a preschool worker who augments her inadequate salary by being a call girl, Móri () is a talented but alcoholic writer/poet/artist, and Sölvi () who is an ex-football player turned banker. Their lives, at first unrelated, quickly become entwined in what would, in lesser hands, become a treacly soap opera. Baldvin Zophoníasson's ability in avoiding revealing too much gives the result that nothing we see on screen is unnecessary to the development of the story, and its simple style enhances its realism.

Those familiar with Iceland will find numerous references to the situation of 2008, but is not needed for an appreciation of the film. Either title is appropriate; Vonarstræti is the street at the North end of Tjörnin and figures prominently in the story. Life in a Fishbowl captures the very real social situation that comes with living in a small city (and is also the title of Móri’s comeback novel). The level of acting, dialog and production is on a very high level resulting in a film that left me (and the audience, who applauded at the end) very satisfied.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Grandad

A film by Bjarni Haukur Thórsson

(Icelandic title Afinn)

The first Icelandic offering at the 2015 MSPIFF is a creaky family sit-com about a man entering his advanced years with the usual list of crises: a balky prostate, friends dying, alienation of family members and loss of work status. Sigurður Sigurjonsson is Gudjón, an obtuse sixty-ish patriarch whose life is crumbling around him. A variation on the theme of ‘father knows least’, it is fitfully funny; the actors are not very appealing (with the exception of Tinna Sverrisdóttir as Gudjón's daughter Magga), and the tone wavers uncomfortably between tragedy and farce. This trailer says it all:

The film shows surprisingly little of Iceland, especially in light of the fact that it was shot in widescreen, most scenes are interiors or nondescript areas of Kópavogur. It probably would have played better in a tighter aspect ratio, giving the interaction of the characters more impact.

Adapted from a play by the director.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Rainy Day Woman

This is chapter 47 of The Matriarchy, a serial fiction novel on FITK

The precipitation had begun as mist, somewhere in Eastern Idaho. By the time Mary and Sean reached Washington State it was raining in a steady rhythm, punctuated with sheeting downpours. Mary had been driving all day when they stopped in Spokane for lunch. After they had finished, Sean took the wheel and was about to enter the on-ramp when Mary spoke:

“Pull over Sean, right there—where that hitch-hiker is standing.”

A young woman with a backpack was standing on the shoulder with a soggy, hand-drawn cardboard sign that read ‘Seattle.’

“Hop in, it’s your lucky day.” said Mary as she pointed to the back seat, “There’s a blanket you can use as a towel back there.”

“Thanks. I rilly ‘preciate it,” said the young woman, “However far you’re going, as close as I can get to Seattle, anything would help a lot.”

Sean slipped his ring on.

What's up?” he thought.

I’ve got a feeling about her.” thought Mary. “I can’t quite explain it, but it seems as if I have a window into the near future, like a preview of coming attractions. There’s something going on here.

I’m taking my ring off,” thought Sean, “It makes it hard to drive. If you want me to put it back on again, say ‘Sean, Honey’, O.K.?

Will do." thought Mary. She turned her attention to the woman: “He’s Sean and I’m Mary. What brings you out on a night like this?”

“I’m Jo. I need to get out of Spokane. Bad. Thanks again for picking me up.”

“Do you have someplace to go in Seattle? Not the destination I’d pick if I wanted to get out of the rain,” Mary said.

“I’ll have to get an umbrella,” said Jo, “I have a friend I can crash with. She’s got a line on a job for me too.”

“What’s so bad about Spokane?” said Mary. “No preconceived notions, I’m just curious.”

“Well, it’s complicated,” replied Jo, “A bad scene. A psycho boyfriend. Guns and dope.”

“Definitely not my idea of a fun time,” Mary said, “But those kinds of problems exist in Seattle, too.”

“Sometimes I think it’s me. I seem to attract problems,” said the young woman.

“How so?” asked Mary.

“So, you know, say I’m at a party, right?” said Jo, as she toweled the water from her hair. “And there’s different kinds of guys there. Some are cool, some are ‘hipsters’, some are squares.”

“Squares run the world,” said Mary, “Squares and sociopaths.”

“And I end up with the cool guys, who turn out to be psychopaths,” said Jo, “Aren’t there any regular guys?”

“Sean here, he’s alright,” said Mary, “so far… ”

“Am I ‘cool’, ‘square’, or a ‘hipster’?” said Sean, smiling.

“None of the above. I wouldn’t call you a ‘regular guy’ either,” said Mary, “It took me a while to figure out what you were… a human, I guess.”

“How did you two get together, if you don’t mind me asking?” said Jo.

“Now that really is complicated,” Mary said.

“She was my boss,” said Sean, “Still is, in some aspects of our relationship, at least.”

“I don’t see how that could work,” Jo said, “Maybe that’s where my problem is.”

“This is the way I see it,” began Mary, “A couple, when they first get together, it’s very exciting, it seems as if an infinite future of possibilities presents itself. Later, when their lives start to become intertwined, the differences between them become apparent. If they can ‘fill in the gaps’ in each others makeup, and allow the incompatible areas to exist, it can work out. It isn’t as exciting as it was in the beginning, but nothing is exciting forever. I think when people get involved with drugs they think it is a way to make the excitement last. But some of the best things that make life worthwhile aren’t exciting.”

“I just wish I could live without all the drama,” Jo said, “Jesus, why does everything have to be so hard? Why am I so dumb?”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself.  Jesus had his share of problems, too,” said Mary, “But the best thing he did was to talk to women—really talk—without judging them. He even had them in his group of disciples, which might be the most distinguishing thing about his teachings. Too bad it was corrupted so completely.  It’s the problem of philosophy. Any system of belief turns out wrong, sooner or later, once it becomes dogma. Reality is vastly more complex that any philosophy the human mind can construct."

There was a prolonged silence. Finally, Mary spoke again: “Sorry, I didn’t mean to go all metaphysical on you.”

“It’s alright,” Jo said, “I ‘preciate it.”

The rain continued as they drove through Washington. As Sean listened to the women talk through the afternoon, the pattern of their speech blended into the beating of the rain on the windshield.  He kept out of it, preferring to absorb their conversation directly, without distorting it by butting in. By the time they reached Issaquah it was after dark, and traffic had slowed to a crawl. Flashing warning lights put Sean on edge.

“Something going on up there,” said Sean. He could smell diesel fuel, and as they crept around a curve, he could see that a Semi had jack-knifed and was blocking the right two lanes and the shoulder. “It will be after ten by the time we get into the city.”

“Seattle traffic sucks,” said Mary, “Jo, where can we drop you off?”

“Aloha and 13th, if it isn’t any trouble.” Jo said, “My friend has a lower duplex.”

“By the water tower, sure, I know where it is, no problem,” said Sean, as they drove past the wrecked truck, “No problem, not compared to that poor guy.”

The first responders had already draped a sheet over the driver of the rig.

It was nearly eleven when they dropped Jo off. Sean waited until she got inside. Mary wrote the address down.

“Do you think we’ll be seeing her again?” said Sean. “You two hit it off.”

“We might. She’ll be O.K. one she gets her head turned around,” said Mary, “And I could use a friend.”


By Professor Batty

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Little Paul


Paul was a timid boy.

Polite and small, almost delicate one might say. He had no friends that I knew of. But I did go over to his house once. He lived with his mother and his old grandparents in a house full of old dark overstuffed furniture that smelled of dust and staleness. All my friends had young parents and all their houses were furnished with 50s modern furniture, not things from the 20s. In Paul’s house the shades were drawn and the main source of illumination in the combination living/dining room was from a dim ceiling fixture and an old-style floor lamp. Everything was very quiet. I don’t think Paul was allowed to play outside. But Paul did have a parakeet which was a novelty for me—I didn’t know anyone who kept birds. The bird was allowed to fly around the house, which it did, landing on my head. Paul coaxed it onto his finger and then put him in a cage.

Why he lived with his grandparents, I didn’t know. At the time I didn’t understand the concept of broken families, or single mothers. Even though I was only nine, it struck me that Paul was a very sad child. The picture above is from our third-grade graduation ceremony. Paul moved away the next year, perhaps his mother got married and Paul had started a new life in a different part of town: in a new house, with new things, with a regular mom and a regular dad—like all the other children that I, in my limited existence, knew.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Visions of Shoshanah

Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, April 19, 2015

On our evening walk last Saturday the Weaver noted that I don’t often do impulsive things. The next morning, while reading the paper, I remembered that a certain blog-pal of mine was having a book reading that very afternoon. On impulse, I decided to go. Not a big deal you say? After all, there are book events all the time in Minneapolis.

Except this one was located in the ‘mountains’ of eastern Wisconsin—a four and a half hour drive from Flippist World Headquarters.

I pulled in to the coffeehouse/gallery with a few minutes to spare, surprising the author, Shoshanah Lee Marohn, who ushered us into the basement to begin her reading from her Amazon best seller Avoiding Sex with Frenchmen (A Picture Book for Adults):

She had made a little interactive game for us, WYTTFPA (Would you tap that French Person’s ass?) as she showed slides of various characters pictured in her book. Most amusing. After the reading Shoshanah signed books (notice the vintage slide projector):

The crowd made its way up to the shop and talked art. Shoshanah had numerous pieces of art in the gallery. Afterwards, Shoshanah (that's her pen name, her real name is ‘Jojiba’) and I went to The Grumpy Troll, Mount Horeb's finest brewpub, where we discussed art, blogging, and stories of our grandparents:

A most agreeable way to spend an impulsive Sunday.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 4 

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Morning After

This is chapter 46 of The Matriarchy, a serial fiction novel on FITK

Tina dressed by candlelight and then went outside to look at the man who had been hit by lightning. His body, still on fire, was being consumed; a scent of burning flesh mixed with plastic filled the air. The burning tree cast a strange, flickering orange glow over the yard, further enhancing the bizarre nature of the scene.  He was obviously dead: his head and shoulders had been vaporized by the strike. The barrel of the rifle the man had been carrying was fused at the end. The path the lighting took to the ground was outlined by a vivid red line of seared clothing along the man’s side. His torso, relatively unscathed, was covered by a military vest festooned with various tools and compartments.

Tina returned to the house to call the sheriff. The phone was dead. She became terrified at the thought that there might be other people in the woods around her and reluctantly got the keys to her car. Tina’s driver’s license was restricted to daylight hours but she felt that she had to leave the farm. As she began to drive away, she heard a ‘whoomp.’ When she turned to look, she saw that the body of the man had been engulfed in a fireball. She drove away as fast as she dared.

Sean tried to console Mary as best he could. He was unsure what she meant by her remark but, after a few minutes, Mary had regained her composure enough to tell Sean about her ‘coyote vision’ in the scrub land behind the motel.

The Brotherhood is beginning to catch up to us. I’m afraid that the assassin was looking for you and me,” said Mary, “We should phone Tina and warn her.”

“I’ll give her a call. If The Brotherhood is behind this, they probably won’t stop with one attack,” said Sean. When he phoned his aunt, the call was answered by a recorded message stating: “Service to this area is not possible at this time. Please try again later.

“The storm must have knocked out the phone lines.’ said Sean, “We can try again in the morning.”

“I’m exhausted,” said Mary, “It’s hard work being Thor.”

“Well, now I’m wide awake,” said Sean, “I think I’ll take a warm bath and have a cup of tea.”

When Sean was finished with his bath he crawled back into bed and spooned next to Mary. Her hair still held a faint scent of ozone.

The Leader of The Brotherhood checked his email for the tenth time in an hour. His operative was supposed to confirm the completion of his mission by 0300. It was already near dawn in Virgina. In a few hours, he would have to face the other members. It was becoming apparent that the mission, his mission, had failed. Roger Ramsen had failed before him. The Brotherhood’s members had been skeptical of that plan. Now, with the failure of this one, there would be little to stop them from taking a vote of confidence. The position of The Leader had always been held by a Regelind: Senior was the first, junior the second, and, now, John Regelind III.

With no sons to take on the mantle, the line would be soon over anyway,” he mused. “Perhaps it is better this way, I’ve lost my touch.”

In Decorah, Tina had finally been able to find the sheriff and persuade him to come out to the farm. The sun was just beginning to rise by the time the sheriff and Tina arrived. The tree was still smoldering, but the body was almost completely destroyed. Only the weapons and other metal items remained in a recognizable form. The sheriff looked closely at the charred remains and then radioed his dispatcher, telling her to call the FBI.  As he was talking, Tina heard the telephone in the kitchen ringing.

Sean had woken early, the sky was becoming lighter but it would be nearly an hour before the sun came up. Mary was still asleep. He went out to the balcony and called Tina.  The phone rang several times before Tina picked up.

“Tina, are you alright?” said Sean, “Mary was concerned about your safety; she had a vision of the farm last night.”

“A man was hit by lightning, by the old tree. He had guns. The sheriff is here now, he’s going to have the FBI look at what’s left of him.”

“O.K. Tina, that jibes with what Mary experienced last night,” said Sean. “Don’t tell the sheriff anything about The Brotherhood or Mary’s visits with Emily. We’re in Billings, Montana and should be back in Seattle by nightfall. Is there someplace you can stay?”

“I’ll see if Edwin can put me up. I might be able to get into the assisted living facility if there is an opening… ” said Tina, as the sheriff walked into the kitchen, “… thanks for calling, Sean, I’ll try to call you tomorrow in Seattle.”

“Who was on the phone?” asked the sheriff.

“That was my nephew, Sean,” said Tina, “He’s on his way back to Seattle with his new bride. They got married here last week. He called to let me know where they were.”

“He married that black woman, the one who’d been in the news?”

“Mary Robinson. Yes, I guess they’re both a little famous, from that business in Iceland a while ago. She’s a sweet girl.”

“I remember the story. She’s his boss, isn’t she?” said the sheriff.

Was his boss. She sold her business.” said Tina. “Although she still might be, in some ways. They’re good kids.”

“I’ve put in a call to the FBI,” said the sheriff, “That man wasn’t just an unlucky prowler. His weapons were Russian military issue. You don’t have any enemies from Russia?”

“God! No,” said Tina.

“Do you have someplace you could stay for a few days? I’m sorry but you will have to leave. This area will be under investigation for a while.”

“Yes, I know someone,” said Tina. “Let me get some clothes and things.”

The sheriff’s radio crackled.

“That’s the FBI,” he said, “Go get your things, I’ll take this call in the car.”


By Professor Batty

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Butterick's Practical Typography

At last.

Butterick’s Practical Typography is a concise and readable primer (in the form of a website) for basic typography on a word processor and, more importantly (for me at least), the web.

What the site is good for is giving a sense of how elegant typography can add clarity and a sense of quality to one's writing. He shows how all those pesky commas, dashes and brackets can be properly wrangled, as well as giving formatting, layout and font recommendations.  Mr. Butterick’s primary concern is type for print, some of his ideas about web type might be a little picky; I like to indent and space paragraphs. I find that it really helps ‘the flow’ of a story; he says use only one or the other, which I find a little crowded on a web device. He isn’t into graphics at all (ergo: no illustration with this post), which I happen to think is almost a must for most web sites.

While not 100% in agreement with the author, I am at about 99% (more on that later.) Matthew Butterick is a writer, typographer and lawyer. His first book Typography for Lawyers covered a specific field of typography. The fonts he has created offer elegant alternatives to the usual dismal mess of system fonts installed in modern personal computers.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, April 13, 2015


Today I thought I would share some of the websites I’ve been recently frequenting:

No surprise here, I’ve been following Auður for over eleven years now! Her I Heart Reykjavík site is “By far the best Icelandic website of which I am aware”, even if I do say so myself. She’s turned it into a multipurpose portal with tips on Reykjavík attractions, car rentals, and even offers up the opportunity to personally bask in the glow of her fabulousness on her walking tour of Reykjavík. The tour has been getting rapturous reviews; look it up on TripAdvisor if you need further persuasion.

Another site I've been visiting a lot lately is the Já map site:

Unfortunately it does use the clunky Google Maps style navigation, (the Apple Maps version is much easier to use) but in spite of that drawback I return to it because it is the most detailed Iceland map available; it even includes bike paths. Speaking of bicycles, here's a screenshot of another site I’ve been looking at:

If you need a bike in Reykjavík, Bike Company is the place to get one. The day rates are rather high, but if you email them you can get a pretty good weekly rate in the off season. The last time I was in Reykjavík I used my rental bike every day, finding it to be especially handy when going to the swimming pools:

I’ve been to three of them, although I wouldn't rank them the way the Grapevine did, but  each has its own merits and debits. These mostly outdoor pools are a must-visit, even if you have to shower naked before entering.

If you are starting to detect a trend here this next screen shot will reveal the underlying theme in today's post:


If the third time's a charm, will the sixth time be twice as charming? I intend to absorb as much culture as humanly possible in my seven days there and will definitely make it a point to catch Auður’s walking tour.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 5 

Friday, April 10, 2015

West Acres

This is chapter 45 of The Matriarchy, a serial fiction novel on FITK

Mary drove the stretch from Alexandria to North Dakota. On the west side of Fargo, she stopped at an anonymous local-chain gas station that was attached to a Subway sandwich shop.

“This food is evil,” said Mary, looking at her sandwich.  “When compared to Twinkies and Mountain Dew in the gas station it may be the lesser of two evils but it is evil nonetheless.”

“Fuel. Just raw fuel,” mumbled Sean between bites as he drove west on I-94, “Even the lettuce tastes flat; as flat as the country around here.”

“Any landscape without mountains in the distance seems weird to me,” said Mary, “Or one without an ocean view.”

“A sea of grass,” replied Sean, “We could move out here, into an old farmhouse. Do you think anyone would be able to find us?”

“Hiding in the open, The Purloined Letter approach?” said Mary.

“That might have worked in Poe’s day, but everything’s connected now,” said Sean, “We wouldn’t last a week. Are you making any headway in those books of Emily’s?”

“Yes.  Yesterday, in the churchyard, I received the final revelation of my powers. The Book of Keys gives the precise instructions on how to enable them, when I sleep everything sorts itself out. My ‘superego’, or whatever one may choose to call it, shuts down—enabling my inner mind to work. If you don’t mind driving in silence, I’m going to nap some more.”

“I’m fine, although this road is straight and flat now, we’ll be getting some varied terrain in a few hundred miles. If you are awake by then you can drive.”

“You can handle it? I’ll be out for a while,” said Mary.

“That coffee was bad but strong.”

As Mary slept, Sean thought about what steps they might have to take to ensure their safety in Seattle. He already knew that their apartment in Seattle had been under surveillance. Although moving would be an option, any new place would have the same issues. He had checked into renting another unit in the same building—leaving their existing apartment intact. The situation with the baby would be dealt with later. Sean had felt safe in Decorah, but he knew that the security it offered wouldn’t have lasted long, especially since they would be unable to ‘hide out’ at Tina’s after she sold the farm.  Things would probably change a lot between now and then; he finally figured that it was best not to over-think the whole thing. The time passed uneventfully. Mary was deeply asleep, murmuring from time to time, and didn’t stir until they were well into Montana, approaching Glendive.

“Hmm,” said Mary, yawning, “We’re out of flatland, I see. How long have I been out?”

“Over five hours,” said Sean, “We’re in Montana now. There is a town where we can stop about three miles ahead.”

“My sleep schedule is going to be messed up for a while, I’m afraid,” Mary said, “Hopefully, my old office at ADR hasn’t been renovated yet. It’s perfect for an all-nighter. You can bring in a cot and join me if you want, but I get the sofa.”

“That’s not a bad idea. I’ve been thinking about our security situation. A few days spent in the bowels of ADR would give us a chance to reconnect without exposing ourselves. I’ve come up with some other options as well,” said Sean.

“What are you thinking?” said Mary.

“We should keep our current place as a ‘front’, but see if we can rent a furnished unit in the same building. How’s your relationship with the rental agent?"

“Tight. I’ve saved his ass a couple of times on background checks. He’ll keep his mouth shut,” said Mary, “There’s your exit.”

It was six-thirty by the time they got back on the freeway. Mary begged off driving and as soon as they were on the freeway she resumed her slumber. Sean drove on through the sunset and by ten o’clock had reached the same motel in Billings where they had stayed  on the trip out.  As Sean was checking in, Mary waited outside the car, sniffing the air. She could sense the presence of her ‘friends.’

The assassin was waiting, in the dark, in his truck parked on an overgrown cow-path, well hidden from the road.  He had stopped about a quarter-mile away from his target, which was on the other side of a wooded hill. At 0130, he got out of the vehicle, strapped on his assault vest, and slung a rifle over his shoulder. The vest’s holster contained a high-power handgun. The firearms were backups. His lethal weapon of choice tonight was much smaller: in appearance and size, it was similar to an asthma inhaler. It contained a fast acting poison which would breakdown without a trace under heat. After he had ‘neutralized’ his targets, the plan was to loosen the gas fitting at the stove, letting the house become a bomb. A timed incendiary would ignite the gas and destroy the dwelling. Some carefully placed, untraceable accelerants would make sure that the old timber-frame house would be completely consumed. By that time, he would be out of the state, on his way back to the east coast. He strapped on a pair of night goggles and headed for the woods. A distant thunderstorm covered the sounds of his footsteps in the underbrush.

After Sean and Mary had been sleeping a couple of hours, Mary woke up, hearing the call of the coyotes. In a state of heightened awareness, she put on her clothes and went out to the picnic area behind the motel. She walked past the benches and out about a hundred yards into the brush. Standing still, she was aware of animals surrounding her on the scrubby plain. As she felt the coyotes' fur brush her legs her mind began to form images—images that she knew were coming from the eyes of the animals. The images became clearer. She was able to make out Tina’s house, with its light shining from the kitchen. A thunderstorm was raging in the sky behind it. As the viewpoint of the images kept shifting, Mary now understood that she was seeing through many eyes—the coyotes in Iowa—somehow connected with those who were around her in Montana.

Suddenly, the images merged and focused on a man in military gear, emerging from a wooded area. The coyotes near Mary had become agitated and were whining.

I miss the kids already. And Edwin,” thought Tina. She unsuccessfully tried to sleep.  But there was more to it. There was an underlying sense of dread. Something was not right. That feeling, along with an impending thunderstorm, had roused Tina from bed. She went into the kitchen and put water on to boil for tea. When the tea was ready she took it into the parlor.

“Coolumonlou… coolumonlou… moolumaloo…” Mary intoned, channeling The Book Of Keys, and the animals became quiet. Mary now understood what was happening. The man was an assassin, sent to murder Sean and Mary. He was a day late, but that fact wouldn’t save Tina. She knew that she had to act. She began another chant from Emily’s book, this one much more powerful:

“Acheratte… secherratte… naberettu… acheratte… secherratte… naberettu…” As she kept chanting, the man in Iowa continued to walk towards Tina’s house. Faint wisps of St. Elmo’s Fire formed a crown above his head. Mary continued her chant: “Acheratte… secherratte… naberettu… ”

The man was now in the farmyard and had paused in the shadow of a tree.

“GETAKKA!” Mary shouted, and her vision was obliterated by a flash of lightning.

Tina had only been sitting for a few minutes when a brilliant bolt of lighting, arriving with a simultaneous boom, shook the house and interrupted the electrical service, plunging the parlor into blackness. After the echoes of the thunder had died away, Tina went to the window. The tree in the yard, the one which had been damaged in a previous storm, was burning. On the ground next to it was a body, also on fire.

After the vision faded, the coyotes dispersed into the brush and a dazed Mary wandered back to the motel room. In the darkened room she tripped over a chair and fell onto the bed, waking Sean up.

“Mary, are you all right?” said Sean. “What happened?”

“I think I’ve just killed a man,” said Mary.


By Professor Batty

Monday, April 06, 2015

portal 2 xtacy

portal 2 xtacy is a trans-cultural happening-team consisting of áslaug brún magnúsdóttir, ásthildur ákadóttir and jófríður ákadóttir. they have a substantial background in music as well as visual, verbal and spiritual art. combining pop, new age and electronic influences they allow witnesses to enter the journey through the portal to ecstasy.
~ from their web site.

What ever it is they’re selling, I’m buying.

More from Jófríður (with some help from her friends in Muted):

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Friday, April 03, 2015

Leaving Home

This is chapter 44 of The Matriarchy, a serial fiction novel on FITK

As Sean and Mary drove down the driveway, Sean glimpsed his Aunt Tina in the rear view mirror, walking back toward the house. He was suddenly overcome with emotion.

“I feel as if I’ll never see her again,” said Sean, “That farm is the closest thing to a home as I’ve ever had and it will be gone by the end of summer. And how much time does Tina have left?”

“We’ll always have her, and the farm,” said Mary, “It’s become part of us. When all this settles down—when the baby comes—we’ll get a place of our own–a real house in a nice neighborhood—and Tina can come and stay with us.”

“Will our lives ever settle down? How can they? With the minions of Satan aligned against us?”

“They have always been against me: black, adopted, female—,” said Mary, “—and, worst of all, intelligent. But they’re only people, Sean. People who cherish their hatred, to be sure, but people nonetheless. They nurture their hate because its the only thing they can feel. Hatred is a jealous emotion, it drives out love, hope, compassion. It’s the ultimate self-feeding addiction.”

“When I was younger, I felt that I could do what I wanted, that I was invisible to the powers-that-be,” said Sean, “That’s why I went to work for you. The perfect job for a ‘spook’, spying on others, leaving no trace. Then I realized that I was only working for them. And now I am, to those powers, a liability, an expendable tool. Do you think The Brotherhood will rest before they kill me?”

“Before they kill us,” Mary said with a grim smile, “It is now apparent that eliminating their threat must be our top priority. Or, to be more realistic, our job is to plant the seeds of their self-destruction.”

The Brotherhood had gathered for a special meeting concerning its search for Sean Carroll and Mary Robinson. The members spoke quietly among themselves until The Leader gavelled the meeting to order.

“Brethren. I’ve called this meeting to announce some news in the affairs concerning Emily’s heir. Our sources have discovered that Sean Carroll and Mary Robinson are in rural Northeast Iowa, near the town of Decorah.  They have recently gotten married and have been staying at the farm of Tina Carroll, the oldest daughter of Emily. The remote location of the farm will aid the neutralization of these threats to The Brotherhood. As per our by-laws, any covert action involving termination must be approved by the full assembly. Are there any questions?”

The room was silent.

“Very well. All in favor say ‘aye.’”

A chorus of ayes sounded.

“All opposed say ‘nay.’”


“An operative has already been dispatched. He will arrive at the farmhouse around 0200 hours tomorrow and will terminate its occupants and destroy the structure.”

One of the men at the table spoke up.

“This operative is fully qualified?”

“Is one man enough?” said another.

“He is a master of his craft and completely untraceable. A single operative greatly reduces the risk of exposure,” said The Leader,  “There will be no slip-ups this time. Any further questions? None? This meeting is adjourned.”

Peet’s coffeehouse was bustling, filled with working people getting their morning fix of coffee and pastries.

“Is this seat taken?” said Sally O'Donnell.

“No, sit, please,” Molly Berenson said, without looking up from her phone.

The two women acted as if they were strangers. Sally took out her phone and began to check her email. After a few minutes, without eye contact, she began to quietly speak to Molly.

“The thumb drive is under my napkin. After you upload the data, smash the drive and throw the pieces at varying places in the Sound.” Sally got up to leave. As she put her phone in her purse she whispered:  “Be careful, Molly. We’re dealing with are some really sick fucks. If you need to contact me, we can do coffee again. Don’t open your door to anyone you don’t know.”

“I thought we’d take the Northern route: through Minneapolis, Fargo, and then spend the night in Billings,” Sean said, “It’s a stretch; it will be late when we get there. I don’t think anyone is following us, but it doesn’t hurt to change things up.”

“Billings? I’ve got some friends there,” said Mary, “What time do you think it will be when we pull in?”

“Friends?” It took Sean a few seconds before he remembered Mary’s encounter with the coyotes, “Oh, right. Fourteen-plus hours on the road. We left Tina’s at seven. With pit stops and the time zone change, I would think about ten tonight.”

“And tomorrow morning?”

“If we leave by eight-thirty we should be in Seattle by eight p.m.”

“And then the fun begins,” said Mary, “I wonder what the crisis is that ADR is experiencing?”

“Hopefully, it won’t involve a cabal of murderous sociopaths,” said Sean, “There’s the exit to Highway 52, we should be in Minneapolis before noon.”

“I’ll be napping, wake me if you need a break.”

When Mary woke up, they were already far beyond the Twin Cites.

“Pit stop,” said Mary.


By Professor Batty

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Another Frieda

A while ago I posted a about my mother’s aunt Frieda. She was a painter of miniature landscapes of New Mexico in the 1960s and 70s. I had a small oil painting of hers that came down from my mother. When The Weaver and I were in Santa Fe recently, I scoured the antique shops and galleries, looking for another. No luck, but when I tried the internet, I found a water color for sale on eBay, from a dealer in Colorado. It would be a perfect reminder of our trip. The asking price was pretty steep for a postcard-sized image by an unknown artist, I made an offer, and after a few weeks, the dealer accepted it.

So now I have another work by Frieda Johnson: The Two Friedas, as I like to call them.

By Professor Batty

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