26 July 2010

The Lastoc of the Annumpi: Lemuel's Profession

Chapter 2

It was the last day of Lemuel’s life. For seventeen years, he had wandered about Devers, the small English port, where he’d been born. As soon as he’d left the cute little kid phase behind, which didn’t take long, he’d learned that not being noticed was the safest way. His house was full of the larger, louder children, so Lemuel quickly learned to fade to the edges, to avoid standing out, to fit in without drawing attention. 

Hiding was easy at home. His father was a prosperous businessman whose many ventures occupied most of this attention.  Lemuel was one of ten children, so hiding during meals meant keeping your head down and diving beneath the roar of others. When he turned seven, Lemuel had quietly slipped out of the crowded room shared with his three older brothers. He found a quiet place in the attic, made a nice soft nest of old blankets, and settled in. He prowled amongst the old crates and found the library of an long dead relative that had never been unpacked. It became his school. 

Lemuel was never sure if his brothers hadn’t noticed his departure or hadn’t cared. After the last brother moved away from home when Lemuel was thirteen, he packed up his few things and prepared to move back to his old room only to find that his younger twin sisters had already been moved in. He went back to the attic and part of him was relieved.

Lemuel’s education consisted of watching and listening. He sat on crates at the dock and watched the ships being loaded and unloaded. He came to understand the patterns in the mad jumble of dockside activity - the order of loading ships, the side deals for misplaced goods, the arrangements made to speed up the jobs, the insurance payments required to prevent damage while unloading. At night, the boy would lie in the thick grass that lined the shore and watch the sleek, dark ships anchored off the shore being swiftly unloaded into small boats that would silently disappear up the river.

And now that he was seventeen, Lemuel was wondering what he would do with his life. It was more difficult to hide now that he had grown. He was nearly six feet tall and people were beginning to notice him. During the day, he carried a broom around with him. Whenever anyone began paying him too much attention, Lemuel would begin to sweep with a steady, unenthusiastic motion. The person’s attention would quickly fade. Who notices sweepers?

At night, however, it was different story. After attracting the attention of the men in the small boats and being chased away with dire threats, Lemuel avoided the shoreline at night. He thought he recognized one of the voices, but he didn’t stay to see if he was right. 

At dinner the next day, his father looked up from his plum pudding and peered at the faces around the table. He seemed to be counting under his breath. After counting the girls, he put down his knife and continued counting. When he finished, he looked at his extended fingers and counted again. Then he cleared his throat. Everyone stopped eating and turned to their father. Everyone except Lemuel. He never looked at anyone. It might invite a conversation. His father cleared his throat theatrically causing even the family cat to look up. Lemuel knew he must meet his father’s gaze.  

“Um, son, come to my study after pudding,” his father said and he resumed his meal.

“Yes, Father,” mumbled Lemuel, and he too returned to his meal.

About a half-hour later, Lemuel sat down across the large mahogany desk from his father. His father looked up from the papers scattered across the desk and a fleeting smile flickered across his face.

“Well, uh, son, ...”

“Lemuel, Father.”

“Yes, of  course, Lemuel. I believe your mother’s great-Uncle was a Lemuel, or something of that nature. I know he never married, but who can tell. Um, anyway, you see, we, your mother and we always did the best we could for you.”

“I know, Father.”

“It hasn’t been easy with, um,” he glanced below the desktop at his extended fingers, “with five daughters and four sons.”

“Six daughters, Father.”

His father quickly glanced at his fingers again, moving his lips as he recounted his digits. “Yes, of 
course, six  daughters.” He paused and then muttered, “Good Lord, six, really?”

“Yes, Father. There’s Angelica, Babella, Cynthnia, ....”

“Alright, alright, six it is. I’m sure they’re all around here somewhere, but now’s not the time.” His father fell silent, drumming his fingers and avoiding Lemuel’s eyes. Lemuel nervously waited to discover what time it was. 

“You mother tells me you are eighteen ...”

“Seventeen, father.”

“Nearly eighteen,” he continued. “And so it is long past time that we placed you in  a profession.”

“Yes, father,” replied Lemuel, a cold wave of dread sweeping over him.

“Well, um, we, your mother and I, are very traditional people. We’ve always stayed true to the traditions that have made us what we are.”

“And what is that, Father?”

“None of your lip, um, boy.”

“Lemuel, Father.”

“Yes, well,” he cleared his throat noisily, “your profession. As you know, you are our, your mother and my,” he glanced again at his fingers, “fourth, yes, that’s right, our fourth son.”

Lemuel nodded.

“My eldest son, Oliver, will inherit the family lands and property, and so he has been trained to take up those responsibilities as is right and proper.”

“But Oliver is out until all hours and sleeps past noon every day, Father.”

Lemuel’s father lost the vague look that had possessed them and an unexpected steeliness came over them. “We don’t speak of Oliver’s comings and goings to anyone. Do you understand, Lemuel?”

Lemuel was startled by the sudden change in his usually befuddled father. “Of course, sir,” he answered swiftly.

His father relaxed and returned to the topic at hand. ”And then there is Daniel, my second son. He entered Holy Orders and has advanced rapidly in Rome. I purchased Julius, my third son, a commission with the 36th Royal Lancers. He is currently slaughtering infidels far from home.”

“But Father, we are not at war.”

“Julius doesn’t need a war to slaughter heathens. He doesn’t even need heathens.”

“Why is he serving so far from home, Father?”

“That was the agreement when I purchased the commission.”

“But Father, I don’t understand.”

“What is it you don’t understand, um, son.”

“Lemuel, Father. Father, I know how traditional you and mother are. But I thought that, traditionally, that is, the second son joined the army, and the third joined the Church.”

After a pause, Lemuel’s father stammered, “Well, um, you see, sometimes things don’t work out the way’d like.”

Seeing that Lemuel looked confused and was about to ask another question, his father headed him off. “Well, Lenny,...”

“Lemuel, Father.”

“Lemmy, when you brothers approached the age of entering their professions, well, certain, uh, things became apparent. We met with various religious orders about taking Julius, and they agreed to talk with him. They were never clear about why, but they all refused him. Several recommended the Jesuits, but they rejected Julius as well and recommended we try the Inquisition. It was the Grand Inquisitioner who recommended the Army and the foreign posting.

As it turns out, it was for the best, for Daniel was a gentle boy, who showed no interest in military training. He is not a healthy boy, you know, your brother isn’t. Your mother kept arranging for her friends’ daughters to come and visit and, well, Daniel was always be ill and stay locked in his room. And Julius, well, your mother had to be sure that none of the girls wandered off alone when Julius was around.

Balls were worse. Daniel had to go. We, your mother and I, insisted. We were determined that he would meet a fine girl girl from a good family. Offspring, you know. Have to keep the family line alive and all that.

He would go, would Daniel, but I don’t believe I ever saw him dance. No, no, that’s not quite true. There was that costume ball, but his partner was, well, frankly, very pretty, but rather, um, stout. Muscular even. When I asked him who his partner was he, your brother, Daniel, that is, just laughed. The last time I saw the young, um, lady, she was wandering in the gardens and Julius was following her. That may have been when Julius tripped in the garden, breaking his nose and blacking both eyes, I don’t remember exactly.

Anyway, we, your mother and I, were getting quite worried about the boys. So when all Daniel’s friends began to enter the seminary, and Julius had that little incident, um, misunderstanding really, with Mr. Feven’s parlor maid, switching the boy’s professions seemed like the only answer.”

“I see, Father. You, you and mother, that is, were very wise. But what about me?”

“Well, Lenny, a fourth son, well, that’s a tough one. It’s rather like a sixth toe. Something that draws attention at beach, but basically useless. I mean we, your mother and I, love you like a son.”

“A fourth son,” said Lemuel a touch of petulance.

“Hmm? What?,” answered his father, who had drifted off and now attempted to  rally. “Well, today your mother took some time out from the work of marrying off all those daughters and reminded me that we needed to do something with you. It was nearly noon, Oliver was still asleep I remember, and I was feeling a bit hungry, and she insisted, so well, the thought just popped into my head, Leven.”

“Lemuel, Father. Lemuel.”

“Right, of course, Lemuel. What shall Lemuel do with his life? And there it was. Lemuel shall become an Annumpi.”

His father looked at Lemuel expectantly. Lemuel returned a blank stare. He shook himself. “Father, “ Lemuel asked. “Why must I be an Annumpi? Why must I spend my life wandering the Pampas herding spoltal?”

“What? Herding what? No, no, no, you’re to be an Annumpi. You know, up before dawn, making cakes and breads, afternoons and evenings off. An Annumpi, like Mr. Jenkins who makes those lovely cakes for us. It’s a respectable life.”

“No, Father, you mean a baker. Annumpi are spoltal herders. I read about them in Great-Uncle Cyril’s book. They live a lonely life in the tall grass with only their spoltal for company. And there aren’t any more of them. They’ll only be me.”

“Well, there you are then. Dead men’s shoes. The field’s wide open.” 

“The field’s completely empty. It’ll just be the grass and me.”

“Not bakers? Are you certain?”

“Yes, Father. I’ve read The Lastoc of the Annumpi. They’re all gone.”

“So, I guess you’re a spoltal herder now,” said Lemuel’s father, having made his decision his mind was wandering away from his son.

“Yes, Father,” said Lemuel resignedly.

“Right. Well that’s tidied up then,” said his father, his hands nervously searching for a paper in the piles on his desk. “By the way, what is a spoltal?”

“Not sure, Father. The book wasn’t clear on that.”

His father located the paper he was seeking and tapped it thoughtfully. “Look here, son. “The Barnacle” leaves tonight for South America. You’ve got about a half-an-hour to gather a few things and pack them in one of the old chests in the attic. The ship leaves on the tide. Come by here on your way out and I’ll give you letter for Captain DeVilliers and some money to help you get settled. You better get going. “

“My son, the Annumpi,” said Lemuel’s father softly.

Lemuel looked at his father, hoping that it all had been a bad joke.

“Make me proud, son,” his father said. “Be the best Annumpi ever.”

No, it was all too real. Lemuel rose and went to gather his few things. The first thing he packed was his Great-Uncle’s copy of The Lastoc of the Annumpi.  As he looked around his attic nest, Lemuel thought sadly, “I’m seventeen and my life is over.” 

The Lastoc of the Annumpi: Don Cupido's Desire

[The Annumpi Chronicles are based on the rediscovery of the Annumpi in The Captcha Chronicles.]

Chapter 1

On the night of the new moon, in January, 1810,  the huge, heavy limbs of an ancient plane tree cast a protective shadow that embraced the family home of  Don Hernando. He was poor man now, but he was fiercely  proud, proud as only a hidalgo could be. When he thought about how the royal gift to his grandfather, a gift of a huge estate in the New World, had nearly broken his family, he could only muster a slight, world-weary smile. Such is the gratitude of kings. The New World had ruined him, taken his wife, his health, and his fortune. All he had left was his pride, this old house, some worthless land, and his daughter, Donna Maria.

Don Cupido stood motionless in the deeper darkness cast by the massive trunk of an ancient plane tree. He watched as a candle lit the windows on the stairs one by one, its glimmering light escaping weakly through the closed shutters. The light halted on the upper floor. Donna Maria placed the candle on a small table by the open window and drew the heavy curtains. Don Cupido blinked in the sudden darkness. He still seethed over Don Hernando’s refusal to give his daughter to him.  “I’ll have her,” he swore, pounding his gloved fist into his open palm. “And soon.”

Don Cupido turned away from the house and walked soundlessly to the clearing in the  thicket where he had hobbled his horse. The usually placid mare was pawing the turf and tossing her head anxiously. Don Cupido stepped back into the thicket and drew his sword. He stopped and listened for any sound out of place, for any explanation of his horse’s nerves. Nothing, not a sound. The moonless night revealed nothing but darkness and darker shadows. Don Cupido swiftly removed the hobbles and mounted his horse. As he swung his leg over the mare’s broad back, he brushed against something protruding from the saddle. He reached down and removed a diodart that was lodged in the saddle.

Holding the tiny but deadly dart in his gloved hand, Don Cupido carefully drew a pistol. He snapped the diodart in two and tossed it into into the darkness. Then he slowly turned the horse toward the trail and, one hand holding the reins the other holding the primed pistol, he rode out of the thicket. A few minutes after Don Cupido left, a crouching figure arose from shadows and flicked the hood of his gesconat over his shoulders. “I am very close, Eugusto,” the figure murmured, “I am very close. First I’ll save you and then we will save Donna Maria.”


For three generations, the Cupido family had ruthlessly sliced away at Don Hernando’s family. Hernando had opposed slavery while the Cupido family had grown rich on slave labor. Hernado family lands in the Pampas separated vast holdings by the Cupido family and when the Hernando family tried to fence their land to prevent being overrun buy the Cupido herds, the Cupido’s hired thugs to tear the fences down. Most of society were on Hernando’s side, but the wealth and power of the Cupido family were too strong to contest.  And then Don Hernando committed an unforgivable crime, a crime that drove him out of society forever.  The grandson of the hidalgo who fought by the King’s side and saved his life, married Lois Spoltal, a beautiful and fierce Annumpi. 

The Annumpi were were a strange, reticent race who pulled deeper and deeper into the Pampas in the face of the Spanish conquest of South America. Some were captured and enslaved by the Spanish, but the Annumpi were useless as slaves. They simply refused to act under duress and no amount to threats or violence could move them. Also they also would not convert to Catholicism, no matter what the the priests did to convince them. The Spanish finally renounced their attempts to enslave them or convert them and got down to the business of eradicating the Annumpi. 

To the Spaniards, the Annumpi were as useless and curious as the spoltal, the small, squat, rough-furred mammals that were the constant companions of the Annumpi. The Spaniards assumed that Annumpi were herdsman and that the spoltal were their flock, but they did not understand. The relationship between the Annumpi and the spoltal started at the gaullie and lasted a lifetime. Spoltals were known to live as long as eighty years, therefore most spoltal and Annumpi lived their entire lives together. The Annumpi word of family includes humans and spoltals.  The Spaniards could never understand the profound link between the Annumpi and the spoltals. The soldiers made crude jokes and priests sniffed a definite odor of paganism. They were both wrong. Well, the soldiers certainly were. 

23 July 2010

The Rev. Reverend David Murray, Detroit School Board Member

I haven't written much lately about the life in Detroit schools because, well, it's summer. I avoid summer school like the plague. Meanwhile 2,000 teachers, including me, are just waiting around to see if we will be called back to work before our lay-offs begin.

But, summer or not, you can always count on the school board to provide some humor. Here are some links to the incredible story of Detroit's candidate for the stupidest officeholder in America. That's right, we're number 1.

Let's start with a clip from hotfudgedetroit.com
Murray is with a group holding signs saying "No."
I saw this picture from a post on dyspathy.com
The discussion of Murray continued in depth two days later on dyspathy.com.

Now maybe you can understand why the Foundations who are making a play to take over the schools in Detroit want the mayor to take over the schools and the school board to be dissolved once and for all. Perhaps people who elect an idiot like Murray twice deserve to lose their vote.