Friday, January 31, 2020

Will and Grace

This is chapter 6 of The Inheritance, a serial fiction novel on FITK

Thursday Morning, July 9, 2020, Decorah, Iowa

Mareka and her parents were eating breakfast in the nearly empty dining room of the Hotel Winneshiek. Although it had re-opened for business after the shutdown, there were still social distancing rules in place.

“This is an important day for us, Mareka,” said Sean, “We’re going to Tina’s lawyers for the reading of the will.”

“What does that mean?” asked Mareka.

“Well, all of the stuff that Tina had will be given to people or organizations, things that Tina wanted them to have,” said Mary, “It is a legal procedure called ‘settling the estate.’”

“Do I have to go?”

“Not really, but I think you might find it interesting,” said Sean, “It won’t take very long.”

“Who will be there?”

“There will be Tina’s lawyer, of course, and a clerk—somebody who will take notes. Edwin will be there, and possibly some other people who the lawyers have invited.”

“Here comes Edwin now,” said Mary, “I asked him to meet us here so we can go to the lawyers together.”

As Edwin walked up to the table, Mareka stood up and pulled out a chair for the elderly man.

“You can sit by me, Edwin,” she said, smiling.

“Thank you, Mareka, that is nice of you,” said Edwin, “And it is nice to see all of you again… I suppose that you’ll be heading back to Seattle after today.”

“One more night here, and then down to O’ Hare tomorrow afternoon,” said Sean, “Mary and I have our businesses to attend to in Seattle and Mareka will be starting school in September!”

“That will be a big change, won’t it, Mareka?” said Edwin.

“We’ll see,” said Mareka, quietly.

Mary looked at her daughter wistfully. She thought of her own school days and how much she looked forward to it when she was young. As she grew older she felt a relentless pressure to conform, to become ‘like the other kids’, when she wasn’t like them at all, or so it seemed to her. Her adoptive mother didn’t help things either: with her endless hectoring, her negative reactions to all of Mary’s enthusiasms and, worst of all, her subtle but pointed disapproval of Mary’s appearance.

The restarting of the schools in Seattle was also a big thing after they had been closed due to the Covid-19 virus. All of the details hadn’t been worked out yet, but there would be a definite shift to homeschooling and her social interactions would also be limited. Mary had been looking at buying a house and moving out of downtown Seattle. The apartment had been too confining during the self-quarantine. Things would definitely be different for Mareka, regardless of her ‘powers.’

The lawyer’s office was in an old brick office building, a remnant of the town’s earlier years when it was a center for agricultural businesses. Its marble-lined hallways were a cool respite from the heat outside. People began trickling into the lawyer’s conference room; Sean recognized some people from the assisted living facility where Tina had spent her final days and there was the financial advisor Sean had hired for Tina. At ten o’clock Tina’s lawyer entered the room with a stack of papers and stood at the head of the large table where the interested parties were sitting in every other seat.

“Welcome! As most of you know, I am Arthur Goldman, Tina’s attorney,” said the conservatively dressed man. With a magnificent pair of eyebrows that seemed to have a mind of their own, moving like hairy caterpillars when he spoke. “I see that all of the invited parties are here, with the addition of a young lady to whom I have yet to be introduced.”

“Arthur, this is our daughter, Mareka,” said Sean, “We thought that she might be interested in the proceedings.”

“Pleased to meet you, Mr. Goldman!” said Mareka, cheerfully.

“The pleasure is all mine, how nice of you to grace our presence,” said Arthur, “And it is appropriate that you are here, some of this concerns you.”

The people in the room turned to look at the child. Arthur resumed his speech.

“You are all aware that Christina Carroll had considerable assets, the bulk of it inherited from her late father, John Regelind Senior,” continued Arthur, “The Regelind estate primarily consisted of various securities, the proceeds of the sale of his personal real estate holdings, and artwork and other effects of Emily Carroll, who was Sean’s grandmother. The cash and security assets had been previously divided between Tina and her nephew,” he said, motioning to Sean, “With Sean as manager of his grandmothers’ effects. Tina was very specific in her desires for the distribution of the remainder of her share of the assets—all of you here have been invited because you have been mentioned in her will. This is a Transfer On Death action and, unless otherwise challenged, there will be no probate. I will ask Mr. Leonard Anderson, her financial advisor, to summarize said assets.”

A tall, middle aged man stood up with a piece of paper in his hands.

“The bulk of Christina Carroll’s assets were one hundred Berkshire Hathaway class A shares. The stock price at time of death of a single share was two-hundred and forty-two thousand dollars. She also had cash, held in joint savings and checking accounts with Mr. Edwin Dibble of Decorah, Iowa, in the First Bank of Decorah, Iowa. Under Iowa law, these funds will be automatically assumed by Mr. Dibble.” Leonard put the paper down, “Mr. Goldman, these are all of her assets held under my purview.”

“Thank you, Leonard,” said Arthur, picking up a paper from his stack on the table, “I will now list the beneficiaries and their endowments:
In consideration of their unflagging support of me in my seniority, I bequeath to the Decorah Sunset Community, LLC, four shares of Berkshire Hathaway class A stock (hereafter referred to as BHA.)

To Winneshiek County Sheriff’s department, four shares of BHA, in gratitude for all the assistance they have provided me and my family.

To the Vesterheim Museum, four shares of BHA, to continue their mission of supporting the Scandinavian heritage of the area.

To the Decorah Public Library, four shares of BHA, to continue their cultural efforts.

To Edwin Duddle of Decorah, Iowa, my faithful companion, four shares of BHA, all monies in our joint bank accounts as well as my personal belongings to dispose of as he sees fit.

And, finally, to my great-niece Mareka Carroll Robinson, eighty shares of BHA, to be held in trust until her twenty-first birthday, with her parents named as co-administrators.
All eyes turned toward Mareka.

“Any questions?”

The room was silent. Finally, Mareka spoke:

“Can I get a Whippy Dip, now?”

Next chapter: Tea Time

By Professor Batty

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Honky-Tonk Woman

On a cold winter’s night, thirty miles outside of Minneapolis, in the Waverly Station—a roadhouse on Highway 12—the Everett Smithson band was rocking up a storm and giving the locals a chance to kick up their heels.

And then, for a few glorious hours, my cousin Kathleen is the Queen of the honky-tonk:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, January 27, 2020

January Thaw Redux

Well, if you're travelin' in the north country fair,

after last weeks thaw

Where the winds hit heavy on the borderline,

i remembered the day in the cemetery

Remember me to one who lives there.

when we splashed in the puddles

She once was a true love of mine.

just like little kids

Well, if you go when the snowflakes storm,

and I thought of you again, today

When the rivers freeze and summer ends,

when everything had turned to ice again

Please see if she's wearing a coat so warm,

and of your woolen jacket

To keep her from the howlin' winds.

with the buttons that were always in the way

Please see for me if her hair hangs long,

you'd raise your collar

If it rolls and flows all down her breast.

so you wouldn't need a scarf

Please see for me if her hair hangs long,

you'd shake your head and laugh

That's the way I remember her best.

as the snow fell on your hair

I'm a-wonderin' if she remembers me at all.

when i left you were puzzled

Many times I've often prayed

but you weren't sad

In the darkness of my night,

i never saw you sad

In the brightness of my day.

i never saw you cry

So if you're travelin' in the north country fair,

forty years is a long time

Where the winds hit heavy on the borderline,

but the memory is still remains

Remember me to one who lives there.

of that day i was almost gone

She once was a true love of mine.

that day you brought me back

~"Girl From the North Country" lyrics by Bob Dylan

~reposted from FITK, January 26, 2010

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, January 24, 2020

The Wall

This is chapter 5 of The Inheritance, a serial fiction novel on FITK

Wednesday evening, July 8, 2020, Decorah, Iowa

“I was talking to Villí’s Uncle Hilmar, in Iceland,” said Mary to her daughter, “Are you feeling better?”

“I’m fine. What is going on?” said Mareka, “What’s the matter with Villí?”

“He had a bit of a scare, like you did this afternoon,” said Sean, “He’s all right now. You know how you and Villí think alike sometimes? It was like that. He spoke about the stones and how cold they were.”

“Were are you afraid of the Ice Cave Moh-mah?”

“Not anymore,” said Mary as she smiled at Mareka, “It was a little scary though, don’t you think?”

“Oh, a little bit scary, but it was wonderful. The stones have spoken to me before, too. I like the stones. Could you hear them?”

“Not today, but I have heard the stones speak before, in the Ice Cave, too.”

“Have you heard them, Pops?”

“No, I haven’t,” said Sean, “That is something that most people can’t do. It is one of your ‘powers’, your mother knows all about those.”

“And great-grandma Emily, she knew too? How could she teach you, mother? Didn’t she disappear before you were born?”

There was a long silence before Mary spoke.

“She left some notes, and books, and a map, a map that showed places where I could hear the stones speak, where I could learn about my powers.”

Another long silence. This time Mareka spoke.

“Can I see the book and the map?”

“They are in Seattle, in a safe place, with the rest of Emily’s things,” said Sean, “The book is in code, the map is very fragile.”

“Someday, someday soon, you can see them, I will teach you the codes, and we can look at the maps,” said Mary. “But there is one place, a place that is very near here, that we can go to now if you feel up to it, if you’d like to. It isn’t scary like the Ice Cave.”

“I would! I would!” said Mareka, hopping about excitedly.

“O.K. then!” said Mary, with a little clap. “We will talk to the stones. Give us a couple of minutes to get ready.”

In an office in the Church of the Righteous Word in Phoenix, Arizona, Pastor Andrew Stevenson was surfing the net, doing research for his next sermon on his weekly television show. He had had some good response with an earlier diatribe about the evilness and immorality of modern women. He thought that if he could make an example of someone there could be an even greater response, but it had to be the right woman: exotic, wealthy, feminist and blatantly sinful. Someone notable, but not super-famous with armies of lawyers at her command. He clicked on an article about an ‘New Cult’s High Priestess.’ The article, in a British tabloid, opened with the picture of a black woman under the headline. The caption read ‘Mary Robinson, Head Witch of Icelandic pagan cult.’ Stevens rubbed his hands together and murmured under his breath, “Perfect, tonight’s sermon will write itself.”

The early evening sun was still powerful but its ferocity has diminished considerably by the time Sean, Mary and Mareka left the Winneshiek Hotel in downtown Decorah. It was about a ten minute walk to their destination, The Porter House, where one of the ‘power centers’ that Emily had drawn on her map was located.

“What was Emily like?” said Mareka as they walked down Washington Street. Her curiosity had been piqued by her mother’s mention of the coded book and maps that Sean’s grandmother had left behind in her attic studio.

“There are a few stories about her that were written by her artist friends in New York City. They say that she was a talented artist who liked to dance and go to parties. She knew many interesting characters, some of whom were considered very mysterious,” said Sean. “That may be where she learned how to use the ‘powers.’”

“Where did Emily get her powers in the first place?”

“They have been in the Carroll family for generations—her mother, your great-great-grandmother—had them as well.”

“What happened to her?“

“People were afraid of her and her powers so they put her in an asylum hospital, a place where she could be controlled. It was a different time then. She ultimately died there.”

“Would they put me in a hospital?”

“No, not if you don’t tell them about it,” said Mary, “That is why we have told you not to talk to people about the way the stones speak to you.”

Mareka thought about this for a few seconds. “I know.”

They had arrived at their destination, the Porter House. It was an Italianate-style mansion from the 1860s. It was well-preserved and held a museum of the family artifacts. It was surrounded by a fanciful wall constructed of numerous exotic minerals and sea shells. Mary led Mareka and Sean to a corner of the wall next to a driveway. With an anxious look on her face, Mareka began to tremble as she approached it.

“Can you feel it, Mareka?” asked Mary. “Tell me what you feel.”

“Oh! Oh! Oh! The stones are happy!”

“Mareka, do you see that stone, the one that looks like a broken egg filled with crystals?” Mareka nodded. “Go closer and touch the big crystal on top.”

Mareka stepped up to the wall and touched the geode. Her trembling stopped and she became very still. Her expression changed; from a nervous grimace to a serene smile. After a minute her hand dropped to her side and she turned to her parents.

“I understand the stones now,” she said, “And I am ready to begin my learning. Teach me what you know, mother.”

Next chapter: Will and Grace

By Professor Batty

Wednesday, January 22, 2020


January nights hold their quiet secrets tightly.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, January 20, 2020


In recent years Flippism (aka Flipism) has exploded on the public consciousness. When I started this Sisyphean enterprise sixteen years ago, there were very few references to the term (besides this blog) on the internet.

No longer. Here are a few ways the term has been commercialized:

Flipburger restaurant chain in Indonesia has a Flipism page on their website:

The online fashion site Lulu’s has a Flipism tote:

For a fee you can buy a research paper on Flipism from New York Essays:

Merchandising of Flipism just wouldn’t be complete without this T-Shirt from Teepublic:

And, finally, Lars P. Syll, a real-life economist, uses a Flipist reference to hawk his books:

Be a Flipster!

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Friday, January 17, 2020

Stone Cold

Chapter 4 of The Inheritance, a serial fiction novel on FITK
Wednesday afternoon, July 8, 2020, Decorah, Iowa

In the Ice Cave Mareka and her parents, Sean and Mary, were standing in the dark after Mareka’s flashlight had gone out when it fell to the floor. As their eyes adjusted to the blackness, Sean and Mary could see that Mareka was glowing, with wisps of light emanating from her finger tips and her head.

“Mareka, are you all right?” said Mary, touching the child on her arm.

“The stones, Mom-mah,” Mareka said with a shudder, “I can hear the stones.”

“What do they say?” said Mary, gently.

“They are singing, they are singing,” said the child, who was shaking.

“What do they say?” said Sean.

“Inanna, Inanna,” said the girl.

“Mareka, I am going to turn on my phone, so we can have some light to see by,” said Sean, “Then we can walk out of the cave, is that O.K. honey?”

“It’s so beautiful, so beautiful,” she said through chattering teeth, “I’m so cold.”

Sean turned on his phone and aimed the screen at the ground. Its diffuse glow overwhelmed Mareka’s aura and was reflected in the stones on the path.

Mary grasped Mareka’s hand and turned her toward the exit. Mareka’s body started to relax as they took the first tentative steps toward the cave entrance. Once they could see daylight they picked up the pace and were soon standing outside in the warm sunshine.

Outside the the ice cream shop in Vesturbæjar, Villí and his Uncle Hilmar looked down at the remains of Villí’s cone that was quickly reverting from a semi-solid back into a milky liquid. Villí was obviously upset, and not just about the ice cream.

“What happened, Villí?” said Hilmar.

“The stones. The stones are cold,” Villí replied.

“What stones are these?” said Hilmar.

“Mareka, Mareka is in trouble.”

“I see,” said Hilmar, ”When we get back home I will text her mother and we’ll see what’s up.”

Hilmar saw that Villí was still upset.

“I’ll get you another cone Willí, it will be alright… ”

At the hotel, Mary and Sean had put Mareka to bed—one of the few times she didn’t object to taking a nap. They closed the door of the en suite bedroom and then sat down at the table.

“Well, that was a mistake,” said Sean, “I should have known better.”

“Maybe not,” said Mary, “She’s going to have to come to grip with her ‘talents’ sooner or later, it might be for the best if she experiences some of this while she is still young. I’m not looking forward to her adolescence.”

“Still, a creepy cave isn’t the best environment for an impressionable girl, I remember your first time in the Ice Cave,” said Sean, “By the way, did you feel anything when you were in there today?”

“Only a mother’s concern for her child,” Mary said, “And I didn’t feel anything special at the graveyard either, that was another of Emily’s ‘power spots.’ I think that they only work once. If Mareka is feeling better after her nap I would like to take her to another one, to the Porter House. That wall of minerals that surrounds it would be a good test. I remember it as being very pleasurable, and not at at all scary.”

“In the long term, how are we going to handle this situation?” said Sean, “My great-grandmother had some of the same powers and she ended up in an insane asylum.”

“I would definitely want her to have a pretty complete knowledge, even if it was not a full understanding, of her powers by the time she was ten or eleven.”

Sean pondered this for a moment. “I really don’t know anything about the lives of girls.”

“You’ll find out soon enough… ” said Mary, “You’ll find out, all right.”

Mary’s phone chimed.

“It’s Hilmar, I wonder what he wants?” she said, picking up the phone.


Mary entered her phone app and scrolled to Hilmar’s number on the contact list.

“Já já, hæ, hæ, Mary” said Hilmar, “Thanks for returning my call.”

“What is it, Hilmar, is Villí O.K.?”

“I think so, but we had a fright, “He screamed and started talking, something about ‘Mareka and the stones.’ He said she was in trouble. He was pretty upset, but an ice cream helped to settle him down.”

“The ice cream store is still open?” said Mary, “When was this?”

“Já, it’s not a sit-down restaurant. It happened tonight, around six o’ clock.”

“Hmm,” said Mary, “That would be one p.m. here, about exactly the time Mareka screamed too. She had an incident with the ‘powers’, the powers I learned from Emily.”

“Does this mean what I’m thinking?” said Hilmar, “It’s really starting now, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” said Mary, “I’m afraid it is. Let me have some time to think about what we should do. Are you sure Villí is all right?”

“Já, he’s a tough one, he is.”

“Thanks for calling, I will call you when we get back to Seattle in a couple of days. Bye-bye.”

“Goodbye, Mary, talk to you soon.”

Neither Sean nor Mary saw that Mareka had entered the room.

“Mother, why are you afraid?” said Mareka. “Who were you talking to? What did Emily teach you? How could she have? Didn’t she disappear many years ago? And what are these ‘powers’?”

Next chapter: The Wall

By Professor Batty

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The Seduction

A friend had just returned from Iceland and couldn’t stop raving: “You must go, don’t think about it, just do it. Bring warm clothes and an open mind… ”

It was all so easy, everything I needed to do was just a few clicks away: the flight, lodging, day-trips, even a hiking adventure. The most difficult part was convincing my routine-bound mindset that this would be more than just another mediocre vacation.

After a night spent soaring over the stygian Atlantic we touched down and were greeted by a rising sun. It accompanied the Flybus all the way into Reykjavík—its fiery countenance seemed to be saying “Velkominn heim.” At the hotel I left my luggage and then went to soak my jet-lag away in the warm waters of the neighborhood pool, Vesturbæjarlaug. As I was talking to the regulars in the hot pot I could feel my old routines began to melt away. It felt as if I was ready for anything Iceland had to offer, including the hike scheduled for the following day.

As our tour bus went farther and farther into the countryside, every turn in the road brought a new vista and my rational thinking began drifting away. Arriving at the trailhead, we floated into a new world—a world of unfettered sensation. Each breath of the polar air heightened our awareness even as it stilled our thoughts. By the time we reached the end of the trail even the most talkative of the hikers had fallen silent.

Zeppelin-esque clouds traversed the gradated sky, slowly but relentlessly, on their voyage to oblivion, drifting over beds of moss softer than dreams of lambs and a landscape more delicate than fairy wings. Citron and lavender silks unfurled above the infinite horizon while below this aerial display a vaporous veil poured itself into the sensuous curves of the valley primeval, as if the earth was embracing these overtures from the sky in a gentle caress of an old lover.

The moist breath of Nature whispered: “Now Iceland has become a part of you.”

This was my entry to the 2020 Iceland Writers Retreat contest, a short writing based on the image by Roman Gerasymenko, pictured above.

I didn’t win so, if I am going to go, I'll have to pay my own way.

So I did!

The retreat is April 29-May 3, and I booked some extra time before and after, of course.


By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Monday, January 13, 2020

Up Close and Personal

Barbara Borman, June 3, 1968

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Friday, January 10, 2020

I Scream, You Scream

This is chapter 3 of The Inheritance, a serial fiction novel on FITK

Wednesday Afternoon, July 8, 2020, Decorah, Iowa

After the reception, Sean drove Mary and Mareka into town. It had gotten noticeably warmer since the ceremony, but Mary wanted the windows down.

“I like the air here, it’s different than in Seattle,” said Mary.

“It’s stinky,” said Mareka.

“That’s the manure they spread on the fields,” said Sean.

“What is manure?” asked Mareka.

“Cow poop,” said Sean, “It helps things grow.”

“Gross, Pops.”

There was a minute of silence then Mareka said, “I heard someone talking to Edwin about Tina’s mother Emily. He said he knew her. When was that?”

“In 1944, at the end of World War II. Tina and Edwin were in high school when your great-grandmother Emily came back from New York, to the farm where Tina was living with Emily’s brother Henry and his wife, Alice, remember I told you about them?” explained Sean.

“Why was Emily in New York?”

“She was an artist and was making a living there,” said Sean, “You know about her paintings.”

“Why didn’t she do her paintings at the farm?”

“She had to be in New York, that was the best place for an artist to be then. It still is.”

Mareka was quiet for a few seconds and then asked, “Why did she come back then?”

“She came back because she wanted her baby, your grandmother Marilyn, to grow up with Henry and Alice and Tina. She thought it would be better for her to grow up here than in New York City,” said Sean.

“Oh,” said Mareka, pensively, “Who was my grandmother’s father?”

“It was a man named John Regelind the second. The paintings were in his estate, passed on through his son, John Regelind the third, to me. He was Emily’s patron—he supported her in her artwork,” said Sean, “The paintings were supposed to be shown but then came the depression, and then the War. Nobody had any money to buy art back then.”

“So Edwin knew my great-grandmother when she came home to have a baby. And then what happened?”

Mary gave Sean a glance.

“Emily went back to New York and left her baby with Henry and Alice and Tina. And then she disappeared,” said Sean, “And that’s all we know.”

“Look, Mareka,” said Mary, “There’s the Whippy Dip, and it’s open. Would you like an ice cream cone?”


In their Reykjavík flat Þora Sigmundsdóttir and her nine-year-old son, Vilhjálmur Stefán, were sitting down to dinner with Þora’s uncle Hilmar.

“Ísbúð Vesturbæjar! Ísbúð Vesturbæjar!” said Villí, pounding his fists on the table. His request to go to the ice cream store was met with disapproval by his mother: “Næ, næ,” said Þora.

Young Villí was the son of Þora and Sean Carroll, the result of a fling when Sean was posing undercover as his brother, Billy Clarkson. Þora and Sean had reconciled, their extended ‘family’ consisted of Sean and Mary, Villí’s cousin Mareka, and Þora’s uncle Hilmar. Although Sean made efforts to be involved in his son’s life, Hilmar was the de facto father of Villí. He was also the leader of ‘the New Religion’ that Mary had contributed spells to, the ones discovered when she was helping Sean in his search for his grandmother, Emily. Young Villí was a handful at time, tonight was one of those times. Although he was two years older, Villí and Mareka had been close since early childhood.

“Mareka gets ice cream,” pouted Villí.

“Eat your supper, then we can discuss ice cream,” said Hilmar, “You can’t always get what Mareka gets.”

They ate in silence. Finally Þora said, “Very good Villí, Hilmar, will you escort Villí to the Ísbúð?“

“Koma, Villí,” said Hilmar, “The ice cream is waiting.”

After Mareka ate her ice cream cone, Sean, Mary and Mareka headed back to the car.

“It’s only two o’clock,” said Mary, “We can’t get into our hotel room until three. Any ideas about what we can do till then?”

“We could go to the Ice Cave,” said Sean, “It would be nice to get out of this heat.”

Mary, remembering the last time she was in the Ice Cave, had an involuntary shudder. The last time she was there she had been exposing herself to various ‘power centers’ in her quest to gain enlightenment via the books of Emily’s that she had discovered. It had been a harrowing experience. Still, she reasoned, she had been at one of the other power centers earlier in the day—in the church cemetery—and hadn’t had any exceptional sensations or revelations.

“I would like to see that again,” Mary said, “Mareka, that’s a place where your father went to when he was about your age, isn’t it Sean?” Sean looked at Mary carefully, surmising that she had thought about it and was willing to go there again in spite of what had happened there eight years ago.

“Yes, my Great-uncle Henry took me. It’s neat.”

“Where is it? Is it far?” asked Mareka.

“Do you see that hill, over there, way above the parking lot? It’s up there, not too far,” said Sean.

“We’ll have to get a flashlight,“ said Mary, “They probably sell them in the Cenex,” said Mary.

Hilmar and Villí were walking down Hofsvallagata, on the way to the ice cream store. It had only re-opened a few weeks before.

“So, tell me Villí,” said Hilmar, “How did you know that Mareka is getting ice cream? She lives far away.”

“I just know, she tells me her thoughts some times,” said Villí, “I tell her mine.”

“Is that something special, something that only happens between you and her?“

“Já, And the stones too, sometimes they tell us things.”

“I know about the stones, I know that Mareka hears things from them. You know that those things are secret, those secrets are between you and her and me and Mareka’s mother.”

“I know, but the other kids, they don’t believe me anyway.”

They turned west on Hagamelur, heading towards Ísbúð Vesturbæjar, the ice cream shop.

Sean parked the car and walked with Mary and Mareka to the stairs that led to the entrance of the Ice Cave.

“Is this how it was when you were a little boy?” said Mareka.

“Pretty much, the trees are bigger, but the stones are the same,” said Sean, ”How are you doing, Mary?”

“I’m good,” said Mary, “Mareka, are you ready with the flashlight?” The cave entrance was only a few yards away.

“Ready!” said Mareka, excitedly.

“Remember, it might be slippery… ” said Sean.

The group slowly entered the cave and there was an immediate drop in temperature. The beam from Mareka’s flashlight wandered over the walls and the floor of the cave and, after a few dozen steps, the light from the cave’s entrance was no longer visible.

"Stop!” said Mareka.

Mareka dropped the flashlight and the cave was plunged into darkness.

“Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee,” she screamed.

Villí and Hilmar were just starting to eat their cones when Villí dropped his.

“Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee,” he screamed.

Next chapter: Stone Cold

By Professor Batty

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

October 27, 1914

There is so much beauty in the world. In sorrow, in sordidness, in poverty there is beauty. For example I saw a little girl selling newspapers down on Tenth street. Auburn hair which was trained, not by precise brushing and combing, but which seemed to have curved as it did because it had been brushed back by the child’s hand. Blue eyes with a child light in them, a baby mouth already moulded interestingly by the unsmoothness of life, and an outstretched hand with a paper in it. A little life crying for Life—the outstretched hand and the appealing look and the paper being only its mediums or weapons or tools or whatever you may wish to call it. I mean one did not get the idea that she was trying to sell you a paper but that she wanted to live.

One has to feel beauty as well as see it.

~ Wanda Gág

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Monday, January 06, 2020

Congratulations Hildur!

Hildur Guðnadóttir, Iceland Airwaves, 2006.

Winner of a 2020 Golden Globe for best score for Joker.

Composer for 2020 Golden Globe winner Chernobyl.

I first saw her perform in Iceland with Stórsveit Nix Noltes and Evil Madness in 2006, and  with Múm in Minneapolis in 2009. Hildur stood out even then, especially so with Jóhann Jóhannsson's Evil Madness, an experimental outfit that played “soundtracks for imaginary horror movies”—good training for her current career!

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Friday, January 03, 2020

Warm Reception

This is chapter 2 of The Inheritance, a serial fiction novel on FITK

Wednesday noon—July 8, 2020

The church basement was much cooler than the graveyard, even though it wasn’t air conditioned. The aroma of warm bread and Tater-Tot hotdish quickly smothered any other olfactory sensations. There were lively discussions taking place at several tables. The virus quarantine restrictions of spring seemed to be ignored here—Sean was struck by the sight of so many people in close proximity. He hadn’t been at a gathering like this since before the Covid-19 virus had hit. Things still were far from normal in Seattle but so far Decorah had been free of a large-scale outbreak. Flying to Tina’s funeral was also the first time his family had flown since then. The spread of the virus had slowed considerably but new hot spots of infection were still popping up around the country. Mary and Sean sat down across the table from Sean’s childhood friend Suzie Johnson.

“Suzie, this is Mary Robinson, my wife,” said Sean.

“Pleased to meet you, Sean has told me about you,” said Mary.

“Glad to meet you,” said Suzie, “I hope he didn’t say anything bad.”

“He had only good things to say,” said Mary, smiling.

“When I was staying with Tina when I was young it was the best part of my childhood, and you were the best part of that time,” said Sean.

“Oh my! It’s warm in here,” said Suzie, blushing.

“It is warm in here,” said Mary, laughing. “Sean, behave yourself.”

“Was that your daughter who threw the flowers on the casket?” said Suzie, “Where is she?”

“She’s outside with Edwin Duddle. They’ll be in in a min… Oh! Here they are now,” said Sean.

Edwin and Mareka walked into the recption hall and went over to the table where Mary, Sean and Suzie were sitting.

“Mind if we join you?” asked Edwin.

“Please, do sit down,” said Mary, “Mareka, this is Suzie Johnson. Suzie was a friend of Sean’s when they were your age.”

“Hi,” said Mareka, shyly.

“Hi Mareka,” said Suzie. “I’m glad to meet you. I had so much fun with your dad when we were little. Your great-aunt Tina would take care of us, feed us lunch.”

“I’m hungry,” said Mareka, “Can I get something to eat?”

“Of course,” said Mary, “I’ll go with you.”

When Mareka and Mary left, Suzie spoke to Edwin.

“I’m really sorry for your loss, Edwin. Tina meant a lot to me when I was young and I know what she meant to you.”

“Thank you,” said Edwin, “It is the end of an era.”

“Tina, her folks, Sean’s mother Marilyn, and her mother, Emily, the artist, all the Iowa Carrolls are gone,” said Suzie, “Did you know Emily?”

“Yes, I kn… I remember her,” said Edwin.

“What do think ever happened to her?”

Edwin sat without answering her. He knew exactly what had happened: how Emily had been held under a spell for nearly sixty years, how Mary and Sean and freed her, how she reconciled with Tina and Edwin, and how Emily went to Seattle with Sean and Mary and then disappeared into the mist over Puget Sound with her spirit guide. But he couldn’t tell anyone. Who would believe it?


“Sorry, I lost my train of thought, it’s easy to get derailed at my age,” he said, “I don’t think that we will ever know. We still have her art, though.”

“I can’t believe how famous she is!” said Suzie.

“That’s thanks to Sean here,” said Edwin,“He’s done a great job with the exhibits and books.”

“I feel I owe it to her,” said Sean, “She didn’t get a chance to be exhibited in the thirties, the depression ruined a lot of careers.”

Mary and Mareka came back to the table with their food.

“I’ve got Tater-Tots!” exclaimed Mareka, “I always wanted to try them.”

“When in Decorah, do as the Decorans do, I guess,” said Sean. “Don’t eat too much, Kiddo.”

“I feel like a neglectful parent,” said Mary, “I offered her the three bean salad but it was no competition.”

“Do you want a tater tot, Edwin?” said Mareka, with her mouth full.

“No, thank you anyway,” said Edwin, smiling, “If you’ll excuse me, I need to talk to someone over there… ”

“What do you think, Mareka, about the Tater-Tots?” said Suzie. “My daughter loves them.”

“Mmmph,” said Mareka.

“I guess that means they are all right, then?” said Suzie.

“Slow down, Mareka, save some room for a Whippy-Dip,” said Sean.

Next chapter: I Scream, You Scream

By Professor Batty

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Mareka’s Farewell

This is chapter 1 of The Inheritance, a serial fiction novel on FITK

Wednesday Morning, July 8, 2020, near Decorah, Iowa

“Goodbye Tina,” said Mareka, as she threw a small bouquet of wildflowers onto her great-aunt’s casket as it was being lowered into the grave.

Seven-year-old Mareka and her parents, Sean Carroll and Mary Robinson, were standing with a widely-spaced group of mostly elderly people in a cemetery outside of Decorah, Iowa. Sean’s aunt Tina had died in her sleep at an assisted living facility in town a few days earlier. Edwin Duddle, Tina’s late-life paramour, stood at Sean’s side. The group of mourners stood in silence for several minutes after Mareka’s farewell. The only sound was the wind whispering through the prairie grasses surrounding the cemetery. Finally, when an elderly woman in a wheelchair started making noises to her attendant that she needed to go, the small crowd broke up and headed to the church, where a reception was being held in the basement.

Edwin stayed behind.

“Shouldn’t we go back for Edwin?” said Mareka to her parents when they reached the church. “He looks so sad.”

“He is sad,” said Mary, “Tina was his best friend, he knew her since they were young.”

“Why didn’t they ever get married?”

“Those things happen. Things happen to everybody,” said Sean, “After high school Edwin went into the army and when he returned they didn’t see much of each other. When two people want to get married it is very hard to stop them from doing it, but to make two people want to get married, well, that can be very hard. Sometimes life does get in the way.”

Mareka was quiet for a minute, then said, “Was it hard for you two to get married?”

“No, for us it was easy,” said Mary.

“What made it easy?” said Mareka.

“You made it easy.” said Mary, smiling.

“But I wasn’t even born yet!” protested Mareka.

“We wanted to make a family with you, and so we did,” said Mary.

“But Edwin and Tina were best friends.”

“That happened later, when Mary and I were getting married,” said Sean, “Mary met Edwin in his store and they liked each other, so she asked him to be a witness to our ceremony. Tina was there at the ceremony, too, of course, and then they became best friends.”

“I’m a little concerned about Edwin,” said Mary, “Mareka, why don’t you go up and ask him nicely if he would care to join us. He likes you. If he says no, just let him be, he’ll come eventually.”

“Okay… I’ll be right back.”

After Mareka left to get Edwin, Mary said to Sean “Let’s go in, Mareka can do this on her own without her feeling like we’re watching her.”

Sean nodded and they went into the church.

“Mr. Duddle… ” Mareka spoke softly as she walked up to Edwin.

The old man turned and looked down at the girl. A small smile found its way to his mouth and his eyes brightened.

“Mr. Duddle, will you come and join us?” said Mareka, offering her hand, “You can sit with me.”

Edwin took her hand gently in his. Mareka’s request stirred a memory in him. There was something in her features that reminded him of Tina, and Tina’s mother Emily as well.

“She was your best friend, wasn’t she?” said Mareka.

“Yes, Mareka she was. I won’t find another woman like her. Tina was a fine woman. She was my best friend.” said Edwin.

“I am your friend, Mr. Duddle.”

“I know that dear,” said Edwin with tears forming in his eyes, “and when I look at you I can see a bit of her in your face.”

And I see Tina’s mother in your face as well, he thought.

“Let’s go in, I would be happy to sit with you.”

“I’m not supposed to get close to you,” said Mareka, “But I think it is OK this time.”

They walked back to the church, hand in hand.

Next chapter: Warm Reception

By Professor Batty

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