To Hel in a Handbasket (Jack and the Genre-nauts, Act 21)

W.A.I.T. Button, 78 percent

“Welcome, one and all,” says Will Scarlet, with a broad smile and a bow, “to Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre!”

“Every second Friday,” says Allyn-a-Dale, “Will and I and our friends from the story world of ‘The Outlaws of Avalon ’ trilogy—”

“Coming one of these days to a book retailer near you!”

“—Will take at random two of the suggestions gleaned from you, our gentle audience, and incorporate them into… well, the sort of tomfoolery Will calls entertainment.”

“So make yourselves comfortable,” says Will, “as we now present to you: ‘To Hel in a Handbasket’!”


[The curtain rises on the TARDIS interior set. Will Scarlet as a grim, Doctor-guised Mad Hatter fiddles with the controls at the console, with Annabelle Gray and Sir Wilbur Lamb from INSPIRED standing, body-switched, at his side.]

Sir Wilbur/Annabelle: So Loki announces that he and Fenrir the Antichristmas Wolf are gonna kick off Ragnarok, and you tell us to retreat?

Will/Hatter Doctor [jaw tight ]: Nothing for it. Our past selves were due to reach the top of Mount Atlas at any moment. If we’d been caught loitering there when we did, it would have thrown all of time into a paradox that would make Ragnarok look like the end of the world as the ancient Norse know it.

Annabelle/Sir Wilbur: Um, yes. That’s what it is.

Will/Hatter Doctor: Nope. It’s the end of Christmas. And that is far worse.

Sir Wilbur/Annabelle: Okay, so what are doing to stop it? Still fishing around in the past for someone to stop you from getting shot in Steampunk Sherwood, or what?

Annabelle/Sir Wilbur [shaking Annabelle’s head ]: I fear that would do little good. Loki seemed to have all too clear a view of the big picture across time. He manipulated us all into doing as he wished before. He could do it again, rerouting any course we took to bring us right back around to where we started.

Will/Hatter Doctor: Too right, knight. There’s no going back, now – only forward. We’ve got to get to the North Pole ahead of father and wolf. And we’ve got to get its chosen Santa Claus back.

Sir Wilbur/Annabelle: That won’t be easy if Hel’s got him.

Annabelle/Sir Wilbur [surprised ]: I’d gotten the impression his immortal soul was in a holier state than that.

Sir Wilbur/Annabelle: Mythology, Wilbur. Hel is the Norse goddess of the dead.

Annabelle/Sir Wilbur [brightening ]: Oh.

Sir Wilbur/Annabelle: She’s also Loki’s daughter.

Annabelle/Sir Wilbur [moaning ]: Oh.

Hel as depicted by Agnes Olsen via -
Hel as depicted by Agnes Olsen via –

Will/Hatter Doctor: Nobody freak out. I’ve got a plan.

Sir Wilbur/Annabelle [wincing ]: If you don’t want us freaking out, “I’ve got a plan” is really not the thing for you to say, Hatter.

Will/Hatter Doctor: No, really. Step one: I go to the land of the dead. Step two: I have a panic attack, because HELLO, land of the dead! Yikes! Step three: The crisis releases my Shadow, leaving my body wide open for possession. Step four: Jack Snow rides me out of the underworld and to the North Pole, where the wedding of his Christmas spirit and my good looks will beat back Ragnarok, and – callooh, callay! – Christmas will be merry as a Brandybuck.

Sir Wilbur/Annabelle: What about Hel?

Will/Hatter Doctor: What about her? She only rules the Norse mythological underworld. Jack Snow’s life isn’t mythological – it’s a fairytale. That means his death will be, too.

Annabelle/Sir Wilbur: All right, then. Story expert – [turns to Annabelle in his body ] –where do dead fairytale characters go?

Sir Wilbur/Annabelle: Oh, heck, they could end up anywhere, or hang around in any form. Plants. Animals. Just plain ghosts. If his body weren’t currently alive and in the Antichristmas’s possession, it would be par for the course for his decapitated head or bones to start talking to us in riddles. I wouldn’t know where to begin looking for him.

Will/Hatter Doctor: So we don’t look. We just find him.

Sir Wilbur/Annabelle [glaring ]: Does your madness provide a method for that?

Will/Hatter Doctor: OH, yes! [cranks a lever on the console ] Next stop: The Shortcut to Everywhere!


“Aaaand SCENE!” says Will.

“Thank you to audience members Miranda McNeff and Chelsea de la Cruz,” says Allyn, “for providing us with the inspiration ‘a wedding’ and ‘Brandybuck’.”

“If you enjoyed yourselves,” Will says, “(or if you didn’t, but you totally did, right?), don’t forget to leave suggestions for future productions in the comments! Words or phrases we’ve got to include, a prop to use, a prompt to run with… anything goes! ‘Til next time, friends: Will and Allyn out!”

Doctor, Doctor, Give Me the News (Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell)

“From the stage that brought you Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre,” Allyn-a-Dale proclaims before the curtain, “here’s Ever On Word’s original talk show, Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell.”

Danielle whipped up a logo for me, because she is awesome first class.

The curtain rises, the studio audience applauds, and Will Scarlet himself walks smiling and waving onto the bright, cozy set.

“Hullo, everyone! Let’s jump right into it, shall we?” Leading by example, he hops into his armchair. “Allyn, who is our guest character today?”

As the guest enters from the other side of the stage, Allyn reads the introduction, as provided by author Rebekah Cryder:

James Connors. General Surgeon, very jaded and set in his ways. Has been married twice, both ended in divorce. His niece, Clara, died three years ago from brain cancer. Dr. Connors and his second wife, Joyce, raised Clara, and were naturally very affected by her death. This is what ultimately led to their divorce.

“Welcome, Dr. Connors!” Will greets the man now seated in the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – what is it even like to be in your sixties?? ‘Cause, yeah, on one level, I may have sort of lived that long, but with Avalon immorality keeping me from aging, the whole senior citizen thing is kind of outside my experience.”

“Well I’ve not really found myself slowing down too much. I’m fortunate. As a doctor, I know what I need to do to keep myself going as long as I can. Some days I find myself slowing down, but for the most part I don’t feel much different than I did at 30. I’ve been toying with the idea of retirement, but I don’t know if I’m quite ready for gardening.”

“There’s always shuffleboard,” Will quips, then sobers. “But listen, I am so sorry about the loss of your niece. And the dissolution of your marriage. And of your other marriage.” His mouth turns down sympathetically. “How are you holding up?”

“You know, Kid? Some people might call you impertinent.”

Will points to himself like, Who, me? A half-smothered chortle, meanwhile, can be faintly heard coming from the direction of Allyn off-camera.

The doctor continues, “There was a time when I’d reach across and smack you for asking me something like that. But then again, people change. I didn’t used to believe that, you know? I spent a long time being the exact same man. Clara did that to me. Or at least softened me to it. I miss her… My first marriage ending was my fault. I never left the office. There was always one more thing I could finish. One more piece of paperwork. One more test I could run for a patient. Then she left, and I didn’t have anybody to go home to. Joyce and I, well, that was different. We were both at the hospital most of the time. I don’t honestly know why she left, but I think the strain of Clara’s death was too much for us. I haven’t spoken to Joyce since, but I think it’s better that way.”

Will’s brow creases at that last statement, but he shakes off whatever’s on his mind, asking instead, “Why don’t you tell me about Clara? How did you and Joyce come to be her guardians? What do you remember most fondly about her? How about the moments where she drove you nuts? C’mon,” he says, smiling playfully, “there have to have been some.”

“Oh, Clara! She was so intelligent, and creative. She was always coming up with new stories that she’d tell to me every night. I taught her to play chess, and within two weeks she could whip me. Joyce and I took her in when her daddy left. Her mom had… a lot of problems. Drugs and alcohol. We couldn’t say no. Joyce and I devoted ourselves to that girl. I can honestly say I don’t think she ever drove me— no wait, I take that back. She loved to play the piano, but she was awful! No matter how much I asked her to stop, she’d just shake her head and keep at it. She practiced for hours every week, and I don’t think she ever actually improved. It drove me crazy listening to it, but I admired her tenacity.”

Will chuckles. “I don’t think any minstrels I know would call tenacity over talent admirable. So much the better that you were the one with Clara in your life. Now, I’m told your motto as a surgeon is ‘care for patients without caring’. Do you find it difficult to maintain that emotional distance?”

“I’ve never struggled with that. From my very first day of med school on, I was determined to be able to keep a clear mind and always be able to do what was right, without allowing my personal feelings about the patient to get in the way. And I did just that. Too often you hear of doctors who let their personal feelings get in the way, and that leads to sloppiness, and unnecessary mistakes. I don’t want to be like them.”

“Of which your patients are most appreciative, I’m sure. I, meanwhile, am most impatient to have my final question addressed. Tell me it to me straight, Doc: What is your author Rebekah’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?” He arches an eyebrow. “Or would you rather kiss me?”

“Her deepest, darkest secret? She dances to Shake it Off in the car when she’s stuck in traffic!”

“Whoo-hoo, traffic dance party! Way to make the most of rush hour. ;D On that musical note: Allyn, how ‘bout a quick word from our sponsor?”

“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn, “was brought to you by Rebekah Cryder’s short story, ‘Pills’.

We meet Dr. James Connors when he is in his sixties. He’s been at the same hospital for nearly thirty years. Always the professional, James’ motto is “care for patients without caring”. In other words, don’t get attached. This rule has served him well in his time as a surgeon, but he finds himself very deeply vested in a puzzling case involving a twenty year old girl, Hailey. He finds himself drawn to her because of her similarities to his niece. James and Hailey become closer throughout the course of the story, which culminates in her diagnosis (a rare disease with no cure), and leaves James to pick up the pieces and attempt to move on with his broken life.

“Thank you, Allyn,” says Will. “Thanks to you, too, Doctor Connors. And thank you, my beautiful audience. Remember, authors – if your characters would like to appear on the show, simply follow the guidelines provided in this post, and we’ll get them on the schedule. ‘Til next time, lovelies: Scarlet out!”

“Eulogy” or “Love Letter to a Dead Dog Walking”

I begged for you for years. Actually, I begged for any dog for years. For a while, there, I begged for a beagle, until I was told that they howled and dug up the yard. Then, towards the end, I begged for a Shetland sheepdog; a little girl, to be named Daisy. At the last, it came down to three (all Shelties): A Philly; a Molly; and you.

I watched them bring you into the foster house from outdoors, you surrounded by a canine sea of frisky little noisemakers. Small as you are, you loomed over them, shy and silent. You sat quiet as we petted you, and followed meekly as we led you out for an experimental walk. Out of the three, you were the only one who didn’t bark and jump and terrify my sister. You were ours.

It seemed stressful for you, your first arrival at your new house. Not as stressful as the obedience classes, of course; all those bothersome dogs with no sense of personal space, one of whom drove you to your first and only growl. But you pushed through and graduated, then promptly eschewed every useless thing you’d half-learned out of your head. You really are a Shipley.

You used to leap at squirrels, until you got tired of never getting farther than the leash. You used to hop onto the couch and hope we somehow wouldn’t notice. You used to rear up with delight at the thought of a treat, and lean back into a stretch with a yawning sound of excitement. But almost never a bark.

We supposed barking had been beaten out of you by your previous owners – apparently with a camera, since any attempt to capture your image had you heading for the hills. A good decade together, and we’ve got only a handful of photos, the best of them taken lately, with you too blind to tell what we were up to.

You can’t seem to see much of anything, now. Or hear. Or stand on our slippery wooden floors, never mind take the stairs like you used to. What is there left for you to do, now that your dog years stack up past a hundred? Not much, except that one last act, and you refuse to do that easy – out of stubbornness, I swear it. Such a Shipley.

All those times you got underfoot and tripped us up… All those times you left a puddle or a pile or got sick… All those times you wandered in confusion from the driveway and I had to hunt you down and bring you back… I won’t miss those times; the times that made me grumblingly wonder when you’d hurry up and die.

I will miss those times you’d sit there and smile at us. Those disgusted looks you gave us that expressed so much, clear as speaking. That way you always seemed to know exactly what we were saying about you, and snort with appropriate derision. You and your opinions; no wonder your articles were the popular ones in our family newsletter.

I didn’t want this to be my decision. I wanted to leave it up to somebody else, or just let you live until you didn’t. Who am I to make the call on when you go?

But I’m afraid for you, puppy.

That night I awoke to a sound I blearily thought was my sister singing in her sleep. But no, it was coming from downstairs, and down I went, and there you were, sprawled on the floor, unable to rise, struggling and whining in distress. I helped you back onto the carpet, and tried to calm you; and then, for some while, I stood back and watched you, feeling for the first time that aching, miserable fear that you were in too bad a way to live.

That day I was in the basement, and watched in helpless horror as you tumbled down to the stairs’ first landing, and from there to the bottom, fallen to that godforsaken space between the steps and some piece of plumbing. I thought that would be the end, right there, but I pulled you out and took you up and you were absolutely fine. It’s like you can’t even die on your own power; not quickly, anyway.

I can’t bear the thought of finding you, someday, caught and strangled somewhere after who knows how many hours of torture, or drowned in your water dish because you couldn’t raise your head, or… well, if you were going to get run over in the street, I’m sure it would have happened before now. But you get what I’m saying, right?

So they left it up to me. Because you’re my dog. And I’ve put it off and dithered, while the signs increasingly point the same direction.

I don’t want to put you down, Max. But I will.

And I’m so sorry that the last you’ll know of me is that I made you get in the car (where you’re always so nervous, you stand and pace and pant the whole ride) and took you to a place I know you’ll hate (because you’ve always hated any place we ever took you) and stood by listening to you cry while some stranger stuck you with a needle.

And I’m sorry I wasn’t always nice to you, and yelled at you for almost killing everybody by tripping them when they had knives and stuff in their hands, and that maybe I wasn’t always as gentle as I ought to have been when putting on the senior citizen doggie diapers you despised but necessitated.

I’m sorry I couldn’t keep your fur brushed and your teeth clean and your nails clipped, since you refused to sit still for any of it, and even began to resist it so violently, I was sure you’d do yourself injury.

I’m sorry for ever calling you a lousy, stupid mutt, when I was sometimes just as much of a lousy, stupid owner.

I’m not sorry I’ll soon be done having to deal with you.

But I’m sorry you’ll be gone.

You’re family, meaning that, sometimes, I’ve hated you.

And meaning that I love you.

I’ll miss you, Maxie.

Maximillian Devineaux Shipley:

Born ~1996, with us October 25, 2001 – July 30, 2012 


A few years ago, I wrote a short Christmas story in which (nutshell version) fifteen-year-old Al Fischer spends the holiday enthusiastically telling his family everything he loves about the Christmas season.

By purist coincidence (or not…), Al and his author have similar ideas about Christmas. And he’ll be pleased to know that I’ve decided to commemorate our mutual obsession here on Ever On Word by dedicating a series of blog posts to The Top 10 Reasons Christmas Rocks My World.

* * *

#10: Reason

            The tenth “declaration made to explain or justify action, decision, or conviction” listed by Al is the “basis or motive for an action, decision, or conviction” behind the holiday itself. That is to say, his reason number ten is the reason for Christmas.

            There occurred an intermission in the writing of this piece while I browsed online for the literal definition of the word “Christmas”. A bit of Googling led me to an article which states:

The World Book Encyclopedia defines “Christmas” as follows:  “The word Christmas comes from “Cristes Maesse”, an early English phrase that means “Mass of Christ.” …The word “Mass” in religious usage means a “death sacrifice.” (“The True Meaning of Christ-Mass”, David J. Meyer)

            Meyer proceeded to go on a tirade about the satanic evil inherent in a holiday where people go around laughing, “Merry death of Christ!” (Full diatribe found here, for any who care to see.) I’m gonna go ahead and respectfully disagree with this guy’s view. I’m well aware that the idea of a midwinter celebration has pagan origins (plenty of history on that here), and anyone can tell that Christmas has undergone its share of secularization. What surprises me is that the “Merry death of Christ” detail offended Meyer the way it did. See if you follow my reasoning:

            Some two-thousand-odd years ago, God sent his son to be born on earth. The reason behind this? The world needed a Christ – a Messiah – a hero to save us from our just desserts for the misdeeds it’s been in our nature to commit since Adam and Eve’s big goof-up. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), and only a perfect death sacrifice would cover all of humanity. Well, shoot; none of us are perfect. So enter Jesus of Nazareth, born for the sole purpose of living a perfect life to offer on our behalf before returning to Godhood with his father. We Christians celebrate Jesus’ birth because he’d come to die for us. In light of that, why not hail each other with a “Merry death of Christ”? Sounds like the last laugh’s on Satan, to me!

            Leave it to God to rock our world, eh, Al?

            Al nods vigorously and self-quotes, “I mean, salvation aside, I say we owe him just for this awesome holiday!”

            It stands to reason.

PerGoSeeMo Psalm 13

Psalm 13. Romans 5:18-19; “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien

Three Selves in One over new earth and sky,

Seven days spent in creation and rest,

One paradise where Man never need die,

If he can pass this one oh-so simple test

In the face of the Dark One’s fork-tongued lie.

One rule, and that was all. One Man to break it.

One Man to bring the fall, and all Mankind to take it,

In the aftermath of the Dark One’s lie.

Three crosses up on a hill, in a line,

Two bearing Men reaping what they had sown,

One with a heaven-sent pure sacrifice

Soon to serve Man’s sentence entombed in stone,

In wait for the morning when he would arise.

One death in place of all. One Man to take it.

One Man to see the wall ‘tween Man and God and break it

In order that we, too, one day will arise.