You've Found The Lost Poetry

The Lost Poetry is a living book from the mind of Squire Vain.

The Lost Poetry by Squire Vain
© Shaun Vain 2020.
Made possible by Future Publishing Service.
All rights reserved.

Video and photos: Julia Golonka


A proper writer creates a living novel in 30 weeks for all to see. Starting on the first day of spring in the year 2020, witness the birth of a new piece of modern literature.

Click to start reading

Witness the birth of a piece of modern literature, as Squire Vain writes a new book on this very web page.

This book is the first of a new series.

A Work in Progress is being released for free on this website.

Squire Vain unleashes 150+ words each day.

Additionally, he's sharing segments that align perfectly with the subject matter, including People and the Stories They Tell, Mid-Atlantic Exposé, Authors for Healthy Living, and Hardly Boiled.

A Work in Progress by S. Vain

The Lost Poet of Woodlawn

$19.88 (+ Shipping & Handling)
(First edition hardcover,
cloth/grey, 240 pages
ISBN 978-0-578-51396-6)

$32.88 (+ Shipping & Handling)
Signed by the Author


(First edition hardcover,
cloth/grey, 240 pages
ISBN 978-0-578-51396-6)

Take a Look Inside:

Paperback Edition

$14.50 (+ Shipping & Handling)
(First Edition paperback,
perfect bound, 244 pages
ISBN 978-0-578-53353-7)

The Lost Poetry by Squire Vain
© Shaun Vain 2020.
Made possible by Future Publishing Service.
All rights reserved.

Video and photos: Julia Golonka

Return to Table of Contents

A Work in Progress

— chapter one

Winter set in upon the town with great hesitation, leaving ample time for folks to tend to what the trees left behind from the way nature releases into the fall. Those leaves would have decayed on their own, of course, had they been left to rot upon the wet grass. It was still a proud duty to remove matters before the snow settled in and made removing the leaves an impossibility. The way of the fall weather, that was rare to rain upon the town, allowed townsfolk ample time. Still, most people were quick to lift the leaves from their gutters and lawns while they were still crisp. Raking wet leaves was a challenge that could be avoided, and it should be avoided to efficiently make use of energy.

The bow rake dragged along the flowerbed, scraping gravel and dirt from the bed into the lawn. The firmness of the tool caused some damage to the dry grasses outside of the flowerbed. Witnesses of the raking were alarmed by the disturbance, for the grass needed to rest as it was without being pilfered in order to reign supreme over the rest of the foliage in the yard in the springtime. All along the back porch and balcony areas, members of the household took turns looking over the work being done. Murmurs echoed behind sliding glass doors, but the workers kept moving at full speed.

The tenants of the household had no business in matters pertaining to the grounds of the manor, for their rental agreements didn't include any plot of outdoor ground. Therefore, the yard was maintained by the hands of the landowner, a mild-mannered old-timer, who employed the help of neighborhood children. He thought children were cheap labor, and he hadn't any grandchildren of his own to employ, so he paid for the chance to teach his simple ideas to the children that lived in his cul-de-sac.

Meow, a cat owned by one of the older boys, followed the children to work each day. He was a hefty orange tabby who must have found it odd that his humans went two blocks away when there were perfect leaves all around their manor at Brookshire Village. Cats didn't crawl the streets there often, at least not in clowders (as they are often called). Brookshire was scarcer than Sherwood, especially in the sudden cold that was settling in on their town. They could have raked leaves on their own, but they wanted to learn from a seasoned professional, and their parents wouldn't spring for more than what they already were getting for allowance, so the spoiled rich children thought they'd take advantage of the situation. Although, there were two who wanted to learn what old Mr. Rolick had to say about horticulture.

Apart from Dustin and Sarah, all the other children listened to what Eddie had to say, and they were a big group, so Eddie usually had to whoop loudly to get them all on his side.

"Aren't we going to get them dollars today? When old Rolick drops his wallet, I'll take it and run," said Eddie. His companions found him amusing, except for Dustin who held his little sister's hand to keep her away from the menacing group of youngsters.

He whispered to Sarah, "Don't listen to that boy. He's just trying to put on a show."

Sarah was confused by it all. She asked her brother, "Is he planning on robbing from Mr. Rolick?"

"No," said Dustin, "I don't think so. He's all talk. You'll see." Dustin thought he knew Eddie better than anyone else because he had seen his antics in school and at the basketball court where they played foursquare and other games. They were in many of the same classes; he didn't think anyone his age was capable of doing anything as sinister as thievery, especially from a kind-hearted man like Mr. Rolick.

They caught up with the group before the children reached the manor housing complex with the tall oak trees in the backyard. Meow waited at the gate leading to the backyard while the children filtered through the fence. The cat's tail swept through the grass, and its body spread out along the ground in a way that helped the cat conceal its appearance along the perimeter of the backyard.

"Professor Onion wouldn't have lasted a minute with her," said Eddie to his followers.

All the children agreed. Whenever Eddie told them that a particular teacher of theirs was failing to hold up to his peculiar standards, the other children would find it so amusing. In this particular case, Dustin and Sarah caught up to the older boy giving a discourse on how one frequently perspiring professor wouldn't have been a fair match for their voluptuous guidance counselor.

Their conversation garnered attention from onlookers that lived in the manor apartment complex, and Mr. Rolick had to sit to take a break when he heard the children coming up the hill to where he was raking leaves. By the time they reached the prayer garden, he had his rake spun upside-down to admire how its teeth were free of leaves. He spent some time showing the children how to get the leaves out from the teeth of their rakes before they started working on the piles of leaves.

Dustin took a small rake over to his sister, and he used a full-size rake to work with her on a section of the garden where the grapevines would take over the trellises in the spring and summer months. Pretty soon after getting started, they were too hot for their jackets and scarves, but their gloves remained in place to keep from putting blisters on their hands. The air was still cold, but they heated their bodies with work.

They built a big pile of leaves together. All of the children were putting in their share of effort to get the job done, for they all wanted to earn a few extra dollars. Mr. Rolick was notorious for tipping extra for doing a good job on helping him clean up the grounds.

When the pile was big enough to fill a can, Mr. Rolick went to the shed to get an old plastic container that was once used to hold water. The barrel was bright blue, and holes had been drilled in the bottom of it to keep it from filling with water when it rained. Before he was surrounded by helpful hands, he turned the barrel onto its side, and he used his rake like a shovel to put a few scoops of leaves into the vessel.

Sarah was eager to help fill the barrel by taking leaves into her hands, and she carried them across the grounds, dispersing some along the way, until she reached the barrel. She only had a fraction of the leaves that she originally intended to capture, but the harder she held them in her grasp, the more they seemed to slip away. Her brother gathered a few handfuls of leaves that were dropped along her trail, and their contribution was mashed into the barrel under the boot of Mr. Rolick's right foot.

He hadn't had any trouble getting his foot into the barrel, but he stumbled during its removal. His boot laces were caught on a sharp piece of plastic, causing the old horticulturist to lose his balance. When he crashed down onto the ground, he was cradled by the very same part of nature that he was trying to remove.

His wisdom made him privy to the fact that he had been going about his day with great haste firing from his limbs when all his hard work manifested into that catastrophic fall.

He had been reaching down and using his body in thoughtless ways for the purpose of picking up leaves. Mistakenly, he had been bending at the hips to lower himself. Instead of bending his legs to the slightest degree, time and time again, he continued to topple himself forward. Earlier, he had been displacing his own body, superimposing his own beliefs in place of his natural center of gravity, to pick up the leaves, and after he fell, it was he, the adult in charge, who was the one that needed to be scooped from down below.

When he fell in front of the prepubescent hired workers, he remained remarkably still. He stayed there, with his head laying flat and his body crumpled. His back was saved by the pile of leaves that broke his fall, but his pride was shattered. For, falling in front of adolescents meant that he was no wiser than a baby who's still learning to balance itself on its own legs.

After the initial embarrassment wore off, Mr. Rolick noticed how his head was disturbingly close to the sharp teeth of the rake on the ground next to him. Oh, how he used the rake moments before to demonstrate ways to delicately remove plant matters from the garden, yet the very tool for his instruction would have ended his life. If he had landed a few inches to the right, his neck, head, and his spinal column would have been impaled by the rusty teeth of the rake.

His horrors quickly dissipated when he was approached by the kind boy and the boy’s sister. They helped him to his feet, and he thanked them for brushing away the debris that was clinging tightly to his insulated flannel overcoat. The horror of nearly being stabbed by his own tool was replaced by a renewal of the embarrassment he felt when he was lying there, for beneath his jacket, mud had smeared all over his trousers.

As Dustin and Sarah backed away from Mr. Rolick to give him space to breathe, the rest of the group were an orchestra at Eddie's command. The bravaccio children chuckled whenever their conductor pointed and spewed out insults.

"Looks like the old man couldn't hold onto his breakfast," said Eddie. His eyes moved like a baton, from Rolick to a member of his ensemble. The bully child, to which the conductor looked, acted out motions of incontinence, and the rest of the orchestra joined in harmonious symphony.

"That's not nice to say," said little Sarah.

Her brother saw the way that Eddie was surprised about the young girl taking up her own opinion on the matter. Needlessly, Dustin chimed in, to say, "You should treat people—with the same respect you want to have when you slip and fall."

At that very moment, one of the tenants that lived on the topmost level of the complex was getting home from his leisurely assembly-line job. He expected to look out from his balcony into an opulent, well-kept ground. Yet, the fighting in the yard brought him to grapple with his serene expectation. Some people have trouble watching others get beaten down.

Dustin held off Eddie for as long as he could. Each swing of Eddie's fists ended with a violent impact that pushed Dustin backwards, and the other children closed in on their tormented tangle. Thanks to the old man, Sarah stayed out of the way. Mr. Rolick tried to stop their fighting, but he couldn't break into the tightly woven circle.

"Leave him be," said Mr. Rolick, and he tried to separate the boys, but he was too far removed. Eventually, he was able to infiltrate into their brutal circle, but Dustin was already on the ground. He pulled away the malevolent instigator from laying into the boy with fists that battered the boy’s face and chest, and his intervention ended the violent kicks to Dustin's ribs.

When the tyrant was removed from his atrocious acts, he flung free of the old man's grasp, and he cursed at everyone around him. But he was finished cursing by the time the tenant from the topmost level arrived at this scene taking place.

Now, it’s time for a segment that’s not part of A Work in Progress.

We’re going to take a look through a book Squire Vain found and brings to the ether through the medium of The Lost Poetry.

If you don’t want to be taken out of this story you’re reading, you should scroll past this section. You are free to come back at any time.

Today, we’re beginning a segment that I’d like to call People and the Stories They Tell. This segment is focused on literature, but the author doesn’t necessarily have to be in print.

Today’s entry comes from one of my favorite series in writing resources. Wordsworth Reference is a series named after the poet from the northwestern region of England. This series is an unstoppable writing resource that I’m proud to lean on and learn from when I come to a standstill with my own writing as the Squire.

The series includes Dictionary of English Etymology by Walter W. Skeat, Modern English Usage by H.W. Fowler, and quite a few other titles. We’re going to look at Dictionary of Proverbs assembled by G.L. Apperson.

In Dictionary of Proverbs, “nearly three thousand works dating as far back as the twelfth century and earlier” are arranged by subject matter.

Here's one delightful proverb that relates to the story you’ve been reading:

“A tyrant’s breath is another’s death.”

Dictionary of Proverbs indicates that this particular proverb comes from an earlier lexicon of proverbs, simply called A Book of Proverbs by H.G. Bohn (1855). If you’d like to see a scan of the original, Bohn’s Book of Proverbs is available online for free by visiting this archival website.

Without further adieu, let’s get back to
A Work in Progress.

The tenant was a burly man with clothes that were ill-fitting, clinging to his body and choking off his circulation. His grey sweatshirt was stained with perspiration from moving too quickly. He called out to the group before he made a slow climb up the small hill and into to the garden area.

"Are they picking on you again, Ed?" asked the tenant. "You better leave my nephew alone, you know what’s good for you." He snapped a rake in half and tossed the pieces to the ground in front of Mr. Rolick. "I pay my rent on time, and this is how you treat me? Bring our kids out here to be your slaves, and you let my sweet little nephew get thumped on in my own backyard?"

"Now, Mr. Tenpenny, your nephew was the one doing most of the thumping," said Mr. Rolick, but the irate tenant wouldn't listen to reason.

"He's a good boy," said Tenpenny, "being bullied by that mangy brat and his simple-minded sister."

The two children he was speaking about moved away from the rest of the group. Behind Mr. Rolick, Sarah inspected the lacerations on Dustin's face. His jaw was swollen on one side, clicking and grinding beneath the surface.

The other children followed behind Eddie, as Tenpenny lead them through the fence. They entered the apartment from the front side of the building. On their way through the gate, Dustin's cat was hissing the whole time. Meow's back was arched, and he swiped his paw in the air at the menacing child.

"Come get your cat, kid," said Tenpenny, and he kicked dirt in the cat's direction.

“You should be careful,” said Sarah. Her eyes were glowing with a staggeringly opulent radiation. “You don’t know whom you’re dealing with.”

“Excuse me, King Hairball,” said Tenpenny. “I didn’t know I was in the company of royalty.” He bowed graciously to Meow before shoving the swinging gate all the way in, to meet the inside fence of the garden area.

When the mayhem had subsided, the grounds of the manor returned to being a peaceful playground, where mother nature could welcome people into her home. The old man took up a rake and made a small pile of leaves that the two children picked up and placed inside the barrel.

Mr. Rolick stopped raking, and he leaned the rake against the barrel to free his hands. He took his wallet from a rear trouser pocket, and he paid the children, handsomely, for their troubles. "That's enough for today. Come back again tomorrow," said Rolick.

"We haven't finished," said Dustin. His lip was bleeding, and his jaw was swollen, but he was relentless in his pursuit.

"You shake off a beating like that," said Mr. Rolick, "then there isn't much that will trouble you in life. These leaves keep coming down. They don't bother me. Let's take the rest of the day to enjoy the fruits of our labor."

He figured that the good children left to find candy to purchase with their earnings. He took time to notice the trees in the backyard of the manor apartment complex, also, turning their fortified buds toward the sweet nectar of the evening sun. The old leaves dried out beneath their former branches, and they danced in the wind that blew across the grass.

Meanwhile, the children that followed Eddie feasted on meat pies prepared by Tenpenny. They waddled back to their homes after forcing their stomachs to distend. But Eddie remained there at the complex, churning his own ideas about how to get ahead in life.

While the evil nature of the young boy brewed into sinister actions, the kind old horticulturist put away his tools inside a garden shed for safekeeping. He was unaware of someone stalking about the grounds, and he didn't hear the crunching of leaves outside of the shed. He was busy tightening a screw on the bottom of the pole of a rake when he was taken by surprise.

He was locked inside of that dark metal garden shed for eight hours, and the cold weather nearly wrecked his joints. His knees became weak from acute pains caused by rheumatoid arthritis. It was more torturous than ever because he didn't plan on being trapped in a small, cold space. The shed was filled with sharp gardening tools, and he feared the rusty blades would poke his skin too hard, so he remained in one space for the majority of the night.

His fists pounded on the walls of the shed, and he yelled for help, but the tenants of the manor never opened their windows during the winter months. Eventually, he fell to the concrete floor of the shed with a loud thud, and he stayed there until the morning light woke him from a cold slumber. Inward beams of morning light informed Mr. Rolick of the space surrounding him, and he took up a pry bar to open the door.

From the opening he made in the sheet metal of the door, he had a vantage point of the driveway of the manor. It was a ways down the sloping hill from the shed to the driveway, but he could tell if someone was getting into their car, and he was able to signal for help. One of the tenants on the first floor came to his rescue, using a skeleton key to open the lock that was keeping him trapped inside the garden shed.

By the time he made it out from his place of entrapment, he found the pile of leaves had dispersed about the grounds. His joints were enflamed, so much so that no work could be done for the rest of the day. He placed his jacket and cap on top of a pile of split wood that was neatly stacked, alongside the apartment complex.

Before he went inside to recover from the event, he called out to the cat that had kept him company. Rolick said, "Mr. Meow, where did you run off to? Wherever you went, I owe you a debt of gratitude. You kept me from losing my mind last night."

Ordinarily, the cat would stick close to his owners, but the curious fury fellow had stayed behind to play in the leaves. When he witnessed the old man being locked in the shed, he hissed at the party who was responsible for Rolick's entrapment. When the delinquent ran off to ransack Rolick's home, the cat waited by the shed, purring and brushing up against the metal siding. He slept next to the shed, and he had a part in getting attention from the tenant when Rolick awoke from the morning light.

Rolick returned with a small saucer of milk for Meow, and he tried to contact the owners. He called the parents of the children who had stayed to help with the leaves the day before, but there wasn't any answer. He didn't want to leave the cat outside alone, so he took him into his living quarters.

"My daughter is at work," said Rolick, "so you'll have the place to yourself."

The faux-leather couch proved to be an adequate place of comfort for the cat. It chose to kneed upon cushions after clawing at the arm of the couch. The thick brown material was already cracked apart before the cat's claws tore through to the foam stuffing. The old man didn't seem to mind, for he was busy taking care of his own needs.

He took himself through showering, and he put on a bathrobe before entering his bedroom to search for comfortable pajamas to wear. But he was met with an awful surprise in his bedroom. The curtains were closed, so he pulled apart the fabric to reveal a disheveled mess. His dresser drawers were emptied out onto the floor, and the contents had been tossed about, onto the carpet of his bedroom chamber. Someone had been looking through his belongings, and he knew that he had been robbed.

The initial panic infuriated Rolick, and he cursed at the scene before him. His sharp utterance gained attention from the friendly feline. The cat appeared in the doorway of his bedroom, and the old man needed to calm down in order to avoid upsetting his guest.

He sat with Meow on the couch. Stroking the cat to calm his nerves seemed to have a similar effect on Meow. While his mind raced of what to do about the situation at hand, the cat's purring became a soothing melody to which there seemed to be no end. When the cat had enough of that sort of attention, he sharply turned his head with his ears pulled back, and he bit Rolick on the hand. Meow jumped from his lap, and he rooted himself on the living room carpet with one leg raised for cleaning.

"Gosh," said Rolick, "I'm getting it bad today. I bet you're ready to get back to your people already, so let's see if there's another number for me to get hold of them." While searching for information to help reach Meow's owners, he turned the cat's collar.

At first, he was disappointed about not having another number of contact to send the cat to where he belonged, but his disappointment subsided when he found a possible solution to his new problem.

The digital tracking mechanism attached to Meow's collar reminded Rolick about similar devices that were purchased by his daughter. The tiny microchip was linked to a satellite relay system that incorporated wireless networking to ping back a signal. Somewhere out there, Rolick thought, a computer system was registering the whereabouts of his feline guest, and he thought the same mechanism could help relocate some of his stolen belongings.

Be it as it may, the transponder linking the cat to his owners had brought attention to Rolick's home, on the first floor of the manor apartment complex. Yet, there was a great confusion to be had, between the parties appointed with responsibility to retrieve Meow and the old man who felt responsible for the well-being of the cat.

As Rolick pined over which of his belongings were missing and whether a microchip was installed in any of the missing items, the robotic sentinels were being deployed from a launch-pad in front of the manor.

. . . To be continued in Chapter Two.

Proceed to Chapter Two

Now, it’s time, once again, for another book that’s not part of The Lost Poetry. In fact, S. Vain managed to pick out this book before the ether began to crumble.

If you’d rather pay attention to the story unfolding before your eyes, please disregard this humble message as profanity that’s been written on the walls of an ornate hall of treasures.

You may promptly scroll to the next section of story,
or click here for Chapter Two.

Presenting to you, a segment from the Mid-Atlantic Exposé, an online journal. The Lost Poetry profoundly presents A Search for Environmental Ethics: An Initial Bibliography.

The Mid-Atlantic Exposé is an online journal dedicated to current events and technology in our world’s history. There’s a special focus on what is groundbreaking in the current age.

A Search for Environmental Ethics is another guidebook, carefully compiled by Mary Anglemyer, Eleanor R. Seagraves, and Catherine C. LeMaistre. The publication is sponsored by the Rachel Carson Council, Inc., and my copy was free.

I pulled this book from the Baltimore Book Thing before it lost its funding because I noticed scrawls of the authors’ signatures in the front of this copy. Whether or not they are real signatures, I haven’t closely researched, but I have opened the book to find the following information:

Even though this book is from the year 1980, it’s still relevant because it was written to address issues that came about in relation to the baby boom that was one of the most pervasive population jumps in recent history, an issue that we are still addressing in current environmental strategies for legislation.

Despite the current suspension of the Environmental Protection Agency, politicians continue to debate over the importance of environmental issues, and these issues concern us all.

A Search for Environmental Ethics is a reference work containing books about human studies that pertain to everything environmental. Long lists of books on population; conservancy trends in Africa, Australia, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, Southern Asia, and the U.S.S.R.; philosophy; religion; the atmosphere; youth education; endangered species; justice; land; materialism; natural resources; preservation; technology; theology; wildlife; and so much more.

Although the names of countries have changed in the past few decades, these issues have never been more important than they are right now.

And, although, this reference is being presented as an interruption to A Work in Progress, what we’re going to discuss is in direct relation to this work.

You might ask:

‘What does a book about the environment have to do with a strange science fiction novel?’

Although the technological themes are bursting and bristling from this story, we shouldn’t get into the inanimate without first paying tribute to the animate. Which is why, before going forward with A Work in Progress, we’re going to see what A Search for Environmental Ethics has to say about the topic of … animal rights.

Which artifacts in human history are illuminated by A Search for Environmental Ethics? When one looks for information regarding animal rights, this clever little bibliography suggests visiting the following authors:

William T. Blackstone’s Philosophy and Environmental Crisis contains several essays from American philosophers. Among the collection of essays, the question of whether animals have rights is raised.

Michael W. Fox’s Between Animal and Man is a book that studies the similarities and differences of human beings and animals. It’s written by a veterinarian, and Fox was the Director of the Humane Society’s Institute for the Study of Animal Problems.

Emily Hahn’s A Reporter at Large: Getting Through to Others is an interview with the author mentioned above, Michael W. Fox. One of the central themes of Fox’s work is explored in detail: developing an understanding and respect for all life.

Virginia Hines’ and Luther P. Gerlach’s Many Concerned, Few Committed highlights the importance human beings being motivated to act upon beliefs and values. Gerlach also published a compelling essay that’s available online, The Structure of Social Movements: Environmental Activism and Its Opponents, which is about his understanding of making change within society.

In System of Ethics, a German philosopher summarizes a formal system of ethics. Leonard Nelson’s system includes all of the subjects that are incorporated with humanity and human evolution, including dealing with animals and nature. Although this book review from the Philosophy of Science Association makes one question the scientific validity of Nelson’s writings, System of Ethics certainly brings forward voices that railed about ethics in the past century.

In Animal Rights and Human Obligations, a large number of famous thinkers throughout human history come forth to present their views. Essays from Descartes, Voltaire, Darwin, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, and others.

Animal Liberation: A New Ethics for Our Treatment of Animals by Peter Singer is a powerful description of how humans have brutally reined over animals, and it offers practical solutions to right such wrongs.

Ernest S. Turner’s Dominion Over the Beasts is a historical approach to realizing how humanity’s attitude toward the treatment and welfare of animals has changes over the ages, including an in-depth analysis of Greek, Roman, and Renaissance thought.

Proceed to Chapter Two

The Lost Poet of Woodlawn

$19.88 (+ Shipping & Handling)
(First edition hardcover,
cloth/grey, 240 pages
ISBN 978-0-578-51396-6)

$32.88 (+ Shipping & Handling)
Signed by the Author


(First edition hardcover,
cloth/grey, 240 pages
ISBN 978-0-578-51396-6)

Take a Look Inside:

Paperback Edition

$14.50 (+ Shipping & Handling)
(First Edition paperback,
perfect bound, 244 pages
ISBN 978-0-578-53353-7)

The Lost Poetry by Squire Vain
© Shaun Vain 2020.
Made possible by Future Publishing Service.
All rights reserved.

Video and photos: Julia Golonka

A Work in Progress

— chapter two

Even as a domesticated animal, the orange tabby that occupied the living room in the basement of the large manner complex in Brookshire Village was accustomed to wandering around the neighborhoods on its own. He would take to a can of tuna in a heartbeat, which is what Rolick quickly found out when he started making a sandwich for himself. However, the tabby wasn't accustomed to wandering neighborhoods in search of a way to satiate his own appetite. Typically, he would wander with purpose.

Just like a guardian angel, the cat felt that it was his purpose in life to watch over the children. They were the reason he roamed around in secret. Sometimes, the children knew that he was following them. And other times, they had no idea that the cat was chasing their school bus to make sure that they arrived safely. Even though the school was only a few blocks over from their home, Meow felt the need to follow them. Even when they went on field trips all over town. The cat certainly lost a few of his lives while hitching rides, in the beds of pickup trucks and on the racks of minivans.

Needless to say, the company in charge of pet retrieval wasn't amused. In a process that typically took less than an hour, the search and rescue team from Proud'z Pet Tracerz hunted Meow with swollen certainty. Each time, they would return him to his owners unharmed, and every time, he was let free to escape again. They reluctantly showed up at Brookshire Suites to retrieve the feline by following the signal emitted from the microchip on the cat's collar.

After knocking upon the main door of the complex, the chief operating technician unleashed his flying company of digital surveillance drones. Propeller blades on the mechanical surveyors whipped wildly to help the drones climb above the complex. They had a great view from high above the trees.

High above it all, their sophisticated communication relay systems picked up the exact location of the microchip on the cat's collar. The buds on a branch of a tree in front of the complex were trimmed from the tree by the wild blades of a drone that was maneuvering haphazardly.

The chief operating technician had been monitoring their flights from a handheld device that stared out at the world from all three of the flying surveillance robots.

"Good morning," said the technician to a nearby tenant. As the crows flew high above, the tenant made her way into the building, using a key from a chain that was attached to her wrist. The feeble old woman struggled with rotating the key in the lock; she didn't notice the flying robotic mechanisms that were covertly making their way into the building.

The technician was happy to help her with her key. He lowered the transmitter and tucked the screen between the pleated creases in the elbow of his uniform, and he buttoned the jacket that he wore above a turquoise company shirt. His shirt was printed with a slogan: "Proud to search near and far!" As he engaged in conversation about the weather, the technician slid his foot along the steel kick-plate. When he reached the last rivet in the plate, he turned outward toward the street to give the helpful tenant enough space.

"You take care now," said the technician to the feeble tenant.

"Always looking skyward, but I'll never know what will happen next," said the feeble woman. She pulled on the chain attached to her key, ripping it from the grasp of the technician.

"Don't let in the cold air," she said.

"Come on now. You can help me with the next door, and I'll give you a tea biscuit for your trouble."

The technician looked toward the sky to see about the stability of his birds. They were hovering in a triangular formation. He waved his hand in the air, making a large, swooping motion. The crows dispersed, dashing away in separate directions.

"I'm waiting here for a friend," said the technician. He leaned on the doorframe, but the feeble woman stayed facing toward the small stairwell that lead to the hallway.

Now, it’s time for the choose-your-own-adventure portion of this book. Once again, you may scroll straight past the slanted text to get back to the story at hand. If you dare to read this segment called Authors for Healthy Living, that’s on you.

In today’s segment, we’ll be concerned with health, in terms of the types of foods that you’re eating.

Are you giving your body what it needs?

If you’re feeling feeble, much like the tenant in the story (and Rolick for that matter), you might try a little vitamin D. You will find vitamin D in the dairy section of any grocery store, or you can find it outside. Although, I suggest going out when the sun’s giving off its safest, low-UV rays. However, you’ll have trouble getting all of your vitamin D from the sun. You’ll need to get it from food, somehow. If you don’t like milk, try mackerel, tuna, egg yolk, or … mushrooms.

According to 100 Foods to Stay Young, you’ll need to find maitake mushrooms if you want to have a good source of vitamin D with any vegetarian diet. You might be familiar with this specific type of mushrooms in its ground form. You’ll have to hunt for it in health food stores. But it can also be found in grocery stores.

Charlotte Watts, the author of 100 Foods to Stay Young, supports the claims of the general scientific community that maitake mushrooms are healthy for the heart, they’re great for staying young, and they’ve been used by Chinese and Japanese naturalist medicine practitioners for a very long time. Watts even claims that this mushroom “lowers levels of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol.”

Authors for Healthy Living is proud to present this information about vitamin D and magic mushrooms, but the main objective of this segment was to discuss one of the most delectable cruciferous vegetables.

Brussels sprouts are also great for reducing harmful effects of aging, and they’ll provide some of the same benefits of reducing “bad” LDL cholesterol.

But wait, there are more reasons to celebrate this friendly little green cabbage-shaped specimen. Before you complain about how preparing cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli and cauliflower) upsets your roommate, take a moment to consider this astounding fact:

Did you know that Brussels sprouts have higher levels of vitamin C than orange juice?

Using calculations based off of real data collected by the United States Department of Agriculture, it becomes evident that you would need one-and-a-half servings of oranges to have the same amount of vitamin C as one serving of Brussels sprouts. (There’s 80 mg of vitamin C in every 100 grams of Brussels sprouts. Meanwhile, only 53 mg for every 100 grams of oranges.)

100 Foods to Stay Young suggests refraining from overcooking the Brussels sprouts in order to keep your kitchen free of the smells of sulfur. But you shouldn’t complain about those smells too much because the sulfurous chemical is also a cancer-fighting agent.

According to this helpful little book of 100 different ways to keep your body looking and feeling young, “[the] sulfurous chemicals [are] called glucosinolates, which have been shown to reduce tumors and the incidence of cancer, particularly estrogen-related cancers, such as breast and prostate.”

This medium-sized book is packed full of helpful tips to stay young and healthy. Each food that the author lists is coupled with a recipe.

The author suggests scouring the Brussels sprouts on their individual bases, but I’m usually in favor of cutting them in half. Either way, these tasty little vegetables are going into a hot skillet until they’re tender.

As suggested by Watts in 100 Foods to Stay Young, the ingredients for a recipe called “Sprouts With Garlic and Almonds” are as follows:

- 24–32 Brussels sprouts
- 1 tablespoon of oil (olive recommended)
- 3 cloves of garlic (chopped to small bits)
- 2 tablespoons of vegetable broth/stock
- 3/4 cup of almonds (sliver each of them)
- 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
- 1/3 cup of live yogurt (please, use plain)
- salt and pepper to taste

The directions for this recipe include the following approximations:
1) Prepare the sprouts by cleaning, cutting, blanching or steaming (for two minutes) in water. Dry the sprouts before proceeding to the next step.
2) Heat the pan with the oil. Then, you’ll add the prepared sprouts. Keep the heat on medium, and stir the sprouts for one minute. They’ll start to get brown. You should add the garlic, and stir it for another minute. Repeat this process for an additional two minutes after you add the vegetable stock. However, you should add the cover onto the pan when you put the stock into the mix.
3) Add all the other ingredients, and stir everything together nicely. Heat everything together for a minute. Serve, and enjoy.

The feeble tenant entered her apartment in less time than she normally spent getting inside. She handed out an assortment of cookies covered by a cocktail napkin from her grandson’s birthday, which was concealed inside of a plastic cup.

After the technician made his exit, the feeble woman's next move was bolting her door. From there, she made no delay. She moved the drapes, and instinctively, she had her spyglass in hand. In no time at all, she gathered information about the technician in the turquoise shirt.

He made his way to the sidewalk; he waved his hands like they were covered in rigid gloves. Behind him, on the street, was a red van with (turquoise letters that spelled out sayings and spilled phone numbers) printed ads on the side of the van.

"At Proud'z Pet Tracerz, we won't let pride get in the way of finding your shnookuhms."

When she realized what he was doing, she pulled her curtains closed. She didn't want any part of what he was doing, and she certainly didn't want to be known for letting one of them into the secure building. She had been warned to not let strangers into the building before, but the technician seemed like such a kind gentleman.

Outside on the sidewalk, it was as if the technician was conducting a symphony. The gestures of his arms brought great movement and wonderful vibrations to the halls of the complex.

Upon being summoned, the crows appeared before their master, and they darted into the building on his command. They stopped suddenly at the landing of the first stairwell when they were overcome by decisions. They couldn't decide which routes to take on their own volition, so they waited for the technician to command them.

Command them, he would, if he hadn’t been interrupted by his father, calling through the remote device. His father spouted about his new invention—robots that clean the house on your command: “This changes everybody’s life. Nobody would have to clean again. I wouldn’t do chores again. The robots are made of steel and they are indestructible—”

“Whoa, hold on, boss,” said the technician.

“Call me father,” said the bearded man in Barbados. “Indestructible! They are solar powered so that your will never need to buy batteries or use electricity again to clean. The only downfall is at night.”

“No,” said his son. “You can’t clean at night, right?”

“Listen, son,” said the bearded man.

“That’s better,” said the technician. “I’m listening, dad.”

“Okay,” said the technician’s father. “You’re hearing this. The only downfall is at night your can’t clean at night.”

“What are you saying?” asked the technician. “I’m busy with the job, okay?”

“It can wait,” said the father. “You’re close to the target, and we know it. Now, zip it. Shawn’s Invention. It comes with a remote that will work from one mile away. The robots can dust, vacuum and sweep. They are easy to store and are small yet efficient. The price is high but it’s a good deal, it was also marked down $95 from when it was first made.”

“Sounds wonderful,” said the technician. “After all, you’re the boss man.”

“The robot servants will revolutionize cleaning in our lives, as we know it,” said Shawn Proudz.

Meanwhile, the chirping and throttling of internal gears echoed throughout the halls.

The ragged phonebook was chipped along its cover, but its pages were kept in pristine condition while being stored in a drawer filled with pens, large-screen calculators, various stationary items, dried markers, remote controls that outlived their purpose, and batteries that weren't charged but hadn't started leaking acid yet. Rolick's contact information was written on the backside of a business card for the florist that had provided the bouquets for the feeble tenant's granddaughter's wedding reception.

Before he could get out a word: "Hel—" the tenant interrupted by saying, "Henry, this is Muriel Mavens in 1D. I hope you have a moment to listen because this is important."

"Hi, Mur—"

"Mr. Rolick, you have to hear this: a man came in the building when I let him in. I didn't mean to let him in. Letting a stranger in…. I know it's what I did. But I didn't mean that the wrong way. He was so polite—"

"You did what? He? Who is he?"

Muriel went to the closed curtain, and she carefully adjusted the rigid, cream-colored shade toward herself in one sharp motion. She eased back and over toward the wall with such great care, and she didn't get startled by the sunlight beaming into her kitchen.

On the other end of the communication device, Rolick was being entertained by his feline friend. The cat was bathing himself once more, but he preferred the sunlight as a place to stretch out his long furry torso. They were bonding. The cat wasn't afraid to relax on his floor by the ground level patio door that faced toward the garden before the street.

"Oh, we don't have any maintenance happening today. On a Saturday. Did he have a sentinel?"

"I thought I heard a buzzing bastard," said Muriel.

"Now, let's not get too upset, Miss Mavens," said Rolick. "You're going to have another ulcer. Last time, you slammed your door when the food delivery device brought my Chinese food to the wrong apartment."

"Those bastard robots," said Muriel. "They have no place in our world. A boy without a father gets raised by the tribe, or else he makes his way with the wolves. Those manic machines aren't learning anything from our tribe. We might as well be building wolves. There’s no telling if and when those things are going to turn around and bite their masters."

"The only one that's biting is you, miss. S’matter of fact, I spent the afternoon cleaning egg noodles from the hallway that day," said Rolick. "You'll have to excuse me, but you can't call me on the weekend, and expect me to put everything down to shoo a delivery-bot out of the apartment every time you let one inside."

The connection was discontinued when Rolick decided to take his leave. He fell into a state of bitter resentment. His complexion became pale, and he withdrew from all existence. It was as if he entered a viscous substance. The firm rubber couch became his place of solace.

Wearily, he recalled the distant memory of his dismantled eggrolls. Dark green cabbage flying through the air on its way along the hall outside Muriel Myrtle Mavens’ apartment. When she clobbered the machine carrying his dinner, he vowed to never make the same mistake. He was afraid to order a delivery again because of the repercussions.

"On the left, go Jasper X13," commanded the technician, into the microphone on his handheld controller.

With a sudden jolt and buzz, Jasper X13 maneuvered downward and forward to descend the stairs. It hovered low, at ground level. Its buzz was caused by a grinding gear that grew louder as it made its way toward Rolick's apartment.

The technician commanded the other two robotic assistants: "X14, take the next floor. X10 will stay guarding the exit. We'll find it, gang. You're all doing great."

The technician studied blueprints of the building, and he based his analysis on the data he received from when the crows hovered high. When they flew above the complex, they were able to analyze the whereabouts of a certain microchip that was attached to the neck of a certain cat. But the reading was only accurate up to a certain degree. It was difficult to tell which floor contained the cat they were after in their search.

Jasper X13 reached Rolick's apartment before X14 was able to get to the same spot on the floor above. A small claw extended from Jasper X13, and it climbed higher in the air to reach the level of the door knocker. Its claw firmly grasped the knocker, it lifted the brass item high above its propellers, and it released the knocker to let gravity do the rest of the falling. It repeated this process three times before waiting for a response.

Although the knocking broke Rolick from muttering to himself about the Chinese food fiasco, he was still weary from the unfortunate event of being locked away in his own garden. His joints, particularly his knees, were aching with rheumatism. The cushions between his bones were worn down to nothing. Usually, those soft pads were present to support movement about the narrow space inside of his apartment.

Yet, this particular elderly gentleman was fortunate enough to have the assistance from a pair of experimental electronic knee braces. Two geriatric therapeutic devices were designed by Rolick’s daughter, Heidi, who was strongly affected by the dramatic work of a certain late-Renaissance English playwright. Consequently, the braces she created were fitted with the personalities of two star-crossed lovers from Verona. Silently, they communicated with one another, telling sweet secrets and promising to be together forever.

Lifting his own body from its resting place upon his living room sofa would have been an insurmountable task. His vital energy had been depleted, and his body was in shock.

“What delicate light,” said the Montague, to his beloved, “comes from yonder window.”

“My dear Montague,” said the Capulet, “we shan’t call your sweet serenade by any other name.”

Despite assistance from hydraulic braces, he fiercely scowled when the knocking started. A painting of a vase containing white lilies, mounted on his kitchen wall across from the counter and stove, seemed to shake, urging him to lift one leg at a time to get to the door.

"Coming," said Rolick. "Just a minute, please." As he unchained the door and unlocked it, he turned the knob to greet the mechanical guest.

Meanwhile, Muriel Myrtle Mavens had been laying waste to the hallway on the first floor. After Rolick ended their call, she continued to speak excitedly to nobody in particular. When she realized that she was talking to herself, she felt absurdly disconnected from humanity. What does a panic-stricken woman do when she is fearing a technological overhaul of massive proportion?

Muriel Myrtle Mavens reacted like anyone would when the trigger to a certain phobia happens to be hovering in a hallway nearby. Her heart raced, and she fell into a coughing fit, but she was stronger than most of her kind. For support, she held onto the sharp edge of the stainless steel countertop. When the coughing fit had concluded, she took matters into her own hands.

As she made her way to unbolt her door, she picked up a cast-iron griddle from the stove. Olive oil dripped along her floor, as she passed by her laser-transmitted viewing screen. Occurring onscreen, the latest episode from Tales of a Vagabond Paperboy was a muted portrait, a story that was indicative to the social struggles of their time. When she left her apartment, the broadcast continued, and as she unbolted the door, she noticed the vagabond paperboy was throwing a rock at an old woman's windowsill.

"No respect for their elders," said Muriel Myrtle Mavens. "I'll teach this one a lesson."

As she left her dwelling space, the projection turned off in order to preserve its power, but the sound amplification continued. At the end of the hallway, on the other side of the building, X14 was hovering high enough to reach the door knocker for the unit directly above Rolick's home. The technician was monitoring all the video feedback being relayed from his murder of crows, and they were closing in on their target.

Even though X10 remained at the landing between the stairs (giving it eyes on the first floor hallway), the machine's automatic relay system failed to report Muriel Myrtle Mavens as a threat to their operation. And since she moved at a turtle's pace with a cane in one hand, the technician hadn't considered the possible damage that she could inflict upon his properties.

Looming in line with the peephole, X14 extended its magnetic claw in order to select the door knocker with its firm grasp. As it lifted the knocker, a reversal of fate—and of gravitational force— was applied to its circuits.

It was the crooked cane of Muriel Myrtle Mavens that caused the hovering machine to fall from its flight. She balanced on the cap of the mahogany wainscoting by placing her weight on the rail of the decorative hallway wall. With her weight anchored on the rail of the panel, she lifted her staff above her head with her non-dominant hand.

The blow from her wooden cane cracked both front propellers into several small pieces. The tiny motors that operated the propellers remained attached to X14, as it crashed onto the carpeted floor. It moved like a bird that had tragically flew into a clean, closed window. It flopped over onto its back. It sputtered, smoked, and sparked. Dragging itself along the floor and into a wall, it attempted to flip itself back over onto its landing gear. For, it could maneuver to a safer place by using its two remaining propellers, and that is the protocol of a civilian machine when under attack.

She knew exactly where to hit it and how hard to swing in order to bring it down. Once it was on the floor, attempting to flip over, she ended its bionic existence. A second blow from her cane, upon the frame of the failed flying machine, caused a crack to occur in its casing, and its internal mechanisms were exposed, too. All that she needed to do to completely disable X14 was accomplished by jamming her cane in through the cracked casing.

She stomped on the remaining propellers, causing disintegration in lieu of operation. A light-emitting diode, once used to indicate directional navigation, broke off from X14, and it bounced down the hallway, making its way passed the stairs.

The small, translucent semi-conductor light-source acted as a flag to signal mechanical defeat. With its communication module disabled upon initial impact, X14 didn't have any shot of relaying distress signals to its companions.

Now, it’s time for a segment called Hardly Boiled. If you’d rather keep reading this story, you’re free to scroll passed the italic text that you see here. This segment contains anything conspiracy related, without concrete data.

Skeptics will label these types of books and ideas from such books as a type of pseudo-science, but those people have no patience for the mystical, like I do.

The title that we’re looking at for this edition of Hardly Boiled is called The Art & Practice of Astral Projection by Ophiel.

To everyone who says that this is a book of nonsense, you might be right.

But then again, what do you know?

Certainly, you don’t know everything.

You might think you know what you’ll have for dinner, but fortunately for you, the good spouse brings a surprise.

If you think you know what you’ll dream tonight, you’re more worse off than Proudz’s X14 delivery-bot.

If I were you, I'd try easing up. Take a moment to whistle like Rolick would, as he cleaned his egg rolls from the runner of carpeting outside of Muriel Mavens’ home.

While futzing around in Ophiel’s magic workshop of occult theorem, one will have the provisions to supply one’s curiosity about practical wisdom on esoteric topics, if there is such a thing. Fascinating topics, like astral projection, and more speculative benefits of inner plane activities. All of which involve churning away the daylight to set the stage for the perfect dream state.

Whether there actually are any verifiable truths behind any of these methods for projection— remains yet to be seen.

Undeniably, when you look deep within your own self, you’ll find everything you’ve ever wanted is there for the taking: adventure, romance, enlightenment, exploration of ideas, pursuit of knowledge, and much more.

The point I’m trying to make here is to look within yourself, but you’ve already done that, so let’s get back to the reason we’re discussing The Art & Practice of Astral Projection for this segment of Hardly Boiled.

To show you just how compelling this little book is, here’s a set of instructions that the mystical author named Ophiel left for those seeking guidance:

“This book places a great deal of emphasis on the preparations, as you will notice, and if you will follow these directions for the preliminary work you will have a very good chance of succeeding in learning how to make a definite inner plane projection that will delight and satisfy you.
Then when you have mastered the techniques as given in this book and you feel that you are ready for more advanced work, contact Ophiel; and it is planned that by that time more advanced work will be available for students.”

...and here is a “NOTE FROM THE PUBLISHER”:

“Throughout the book, Ophiel urges his readers to write him and even supplies his address. That was the type of person he was: open and willing to help all who sought his advice. Unfortunately, Ophiel passed away in 1988. We have left the book in its original form, but the reader should be aware that the address is no longer valid.”

It's probably just a coincidence, but I was born in the same year of Ophiel’s death, and I don’t mind if you contact me. However, I wouldn’t know where to point an occult student. But if you’d like to talk about poetry, that can be arranged.

Truly, this book will “project” its reader, sending one into a different period in humanity’s cosmic evolution.

Without further interruption, let's get back to the story at hand.

Until the next segment, your friend from the ether,

—S. Vain

After the initial knock, Rolick wearily attended to greeting his mechanical guest. Muriel's call from earlier had informed him about the prospects of such a visitor. Although, he was under the impression that Jasper X13 was a delivery-bot who arrived at the wrong door.

"It's such a large complex," said Rolick, cheerfully. "Happens all the time. Who is it that you’re looking for?"

While rotating, in midair, Rolick's flying guest announced its protocol: "Incorrect proposition. Does not compute. Ahem, thank you for assisting in the retrieval of one pet. At Proudz Pet Tracerz, we promise not to let our pride get in the way of finding your lost pet."

"But I didn't lose a pet," said Rolick. "You've made a mistake because I haven't got a—"

All the crashing and smashing, coming from upstairs, startled Rolick, and the hovering pet tracer adjusted itself in midair as well. They might have left to investigate, to find the source of the commotion, if Meow hadn't made his presence known.

The calamity occurring all throughout the halls must have startled Meow—just as much. Perhaps, he was too sensitive, for a cat’s close bond with nature makes it more receptive to the death of a machine. He was perched on a window ledge, within Rolick's personal chamber. When the robot’s circuits were crushed by the cane of the old woman, Meow yow-ow-owled a mean, tormented cacophony. The dissonance in his voice carried on for a great distance, traveling far from the proximal reach of normal vocal patterns that would typically come from the complex. The neighborhood (and all of Brookshire Village) suddenly froze in feeling his pain, fearing the profuse vocalization would cause permanent damage to their natural listening devices.

The technician was torn, between the scuffle in the hallway on the first floor and the source of agony that caused his eardrums to nearly reach implosion. He felt deep sadness when he saw the tiny yet purposeful electronic parts scattered along the hallway, and he quivered at the site of the woman's cane churning his digital comrade into nothing more than plastic turned into dust.

His stomach was sunken, and his face turned bright red, but he briskly maneuvered around any obstacles to get into Rolick's apartment. By the time he reached them, Meow was already out the window.

The cat knew that loud noises meant trouble, so he hurried away to find a better place to be. Typically, Meow wasn’t bothered by the outside world because there were so many safe places to hide. On the contrary, inside the complex was a different situation, with the commotion in the hallway and the flying machine that entered the master bedroom.

Incidentally, Jasper X13 would have followed and netted the cat, but it swooped into the room too quickly. Indeed, the haphazard motions of the automated flying machine startled the cat into a panic. The window was just above the ground, so it made for an easy escape into the driveway outside of the complex. Despite the haphazard maneuvers of Jasper X13, ultimately, it was the curtain that prevented Jasper's pursuit.

For, as the cat jumped out the window, the curtain was displaced enough to cause greater calamity for the Proudz pet tracking company. When the technician entered the large room in the corner of the basement apartment, he found Rolick leaning on the window, peering outside and calling after the cat. Meanwhile, Jasper X13 was stuck to the curtain which had been displaced.

As the motorized flying machine slammed against the wall, its propellers became further entangled with the fringe of the curtain. The thick threads of the curtain's layered lace ruffle became interlaced within the propeller blades, and the ripping threads from the curtain’s seam wrapped in knots around the shaft inside one of the drone’s motor bells, causing the motor to grind its gears. Flight was temporarily impossible, giving the cat plenty of time to slink away to a safe hiding space.

Immediately upon entering the space, the technician realized that he needed to deal with untangling his mechanical coworker. Using his remote control device, he attempted to take command of Jasper X13, but the initial override procedure was amiss due to the machine's alarmed state. He needed to manually override its operating process in order to stop it from repeatedly slamming, much like a headboard, against the hard stone wall of Rolick's master bedroom.

"What the hell happened here?" asked the technician, as he untangled his mechanical counterpart. He pulled a small battery-powered screwdriver from his jacket pocket to remove the housing for the motor that was responsible for spinning the tangled propeller.

"I was robbed," said Rolick. "I haven't called it in yet because I spent the last night locked in a shed."

"Sorry to hear," said the technician.

"I'm terribly exhausted," said Rolick. "Would you mind calling it in for me?" He was braced upon the window ledge to inspect where the cat crawled after it left. As he moved away, he nearly collapsed in pain.

"What's wrong with your legs?" asked the technician. He replaced the screws for the housing of the drone. "Activate Jasper X13."

"Damn if I know," said Rolick. He took hold of the window ledge once more, for its stability allowed him to stand without fear of falling.

The technician stood up and released Jasper X13 at few feet off the ground, and its propellers did the work to keep it from hitting the carpet of the master bedroom. It whirled around before flying through the window, nearly cropping Rolick's head of short grey hair.

The remote control device was buzzing and flashing. An incoming message from the Proudz headquarters was silenced before the technician said to Rolick, "If you want to call the theft in on your own time, be my guest. Otherwise, I've got my hands full already with a pet on the loose, and… X14. I almost forgot!"

As the technician started to leave to the hall, Rolick called after him to make a report about the robbery, but the technician was too busy to deal with Rolick's problems. Yet, Rolick's injuries are substantial, and his exhaustion is apparent. It’s obvious that he's in no shape to go through with any ordeal involving authorities, so the technician expresses his hesitation in leaving from the situation.

"Call the theft in," demanded Rolick.

"I've got my own problems," said the technician, and he held his remote control in an outstretched arm. It was buzzing with notifications that requested his immediate attention. "The boss is asking a lot of questions about why we haven't found the missing kitty cat yet."

"But you don't understand," said Rolick. He was left alone, to say to himself, "You don't know what was stolen."

The technician solemnly spoke to his supervisor about the missing pet, as he and his remaining compatriot cleaned up what was left of X14. The parts that weren't obliterated were swept up by the hovering robotic sentinel. X10's storage compartments were empty, but they became filled with the broken pieces of X14.

As the technician bent down to pick up the landing gear and scoop up fragments of propeller blades, he found it. The single ocular feedback mechanism used to relay images from the point of view of his favorite drone was still intact. It was laying face up, glaring at him from atop a rubber mat that was in front of a doorway close to the stairwell.

The technician sighed, and he said, to himself, "I could never forget about you, old friend."

The sniffling of the technician was brought to a sudden stop when Muriel Myrtle Mavens opened her door. Sniffles were replaced by the trumpets that played during the credits of the saga called Tales of a Vagabond Paperboy.

"You might put them aside," said the technician, to Muriel, "but these are my people."

"Put them aside," said Muriel, and she scoffed at the thought of having un enterrement—a burial— for a drone. "I'd extinguish technology if I could. The likes of genocide."

Finally, the technician discovered the memory cartridge responsible for distilling all of the experiences that the hovering machine had recorded while it was still operational. All of the images captured by X14, gathered during the various escapades the machine had encountered, were safely stored within the confines of a single cartridge. The technician held the entirety of those grandiose experiences in his hand. He put the tiny memory cartridge away for safekeeping, and he promptly evacuated those premises.

On his way out of Brookshire Suites, the technician spoke to his last remaining companion. Expecting no answer, since X10 was a machine that lacked a sophisticated personality design, he spoke solemnly. He asked, "What now, X10?"

It was a challenge for the technician to focus upon his job. He felt that capturing Meow was necessary to move forward, especially after Tipper X14 was destroyed. The howling cat rivaled the moans of Rolick, as it battled with Jasper X13, but everyone inside of the apartment complex was tuned in for an epic tale about a futuristic dystopia. Rolick straightened the curtain and closed the window before joining the search for Meow.

. . . To be continued in Chapter Three.

Proceed to Chapter Three

It’s time again for a segment called People and the Stories They Tell, so we’ll need to prepare ourselves to go on a journey back to a time when people looked to storytellers for guidance. In order to discover the meaning behind the story at hand, let’s turn to The Wordsworth Dictionary of Proverbs by G.L. Apperson.

In the story that has been playing out before your eyes, the technician has decided to seek out his prize, despite losing a valuable piece of equipment. Even though his ranks have been thwarted, the Proudz technician pushes forward for the creature that he seeks to capture. By sending Jasper X13, he risks losing another of his precious drones.

Some would say that this move is similar to cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. But why on Earth would someone be willing to do such a thing?

Looking closely at The Wordsworth Dictionary of Proverbs, it appears that this phrase originated in the 17th century.

According to a text from 1658, a biography called Historiettes by Tallemant des Réaux, “Henry IV conçut fort bien que detruire Paris, c'étoit, comme on dit, se couper le nez pour faire dépit á son visage.”

In an English translation, Henry IV understood very well that to destroy Paris, it was, as they say, to cut one's nose to make spite of one's face.

In a more recent publication, the Times wrote a piece in 1924 that claimed “Continual harassing of the railways, in payment for real or fancied grievances, is much like cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face.”

Within the fictional tales we tell, and within the news reports people generate, it’s important to reveal who is at a loss, and for what purpose are people willing to risk everything.

As the technician is left to scrape up the pieces of a fragmented comrade, he decides to risk losing another of his companions. Is it the right move? Furthermore, the robotic sentinels are created by computer programmers and engineers. Yet, the risk of losing something valuable matters all the same.

Proceed to Chapter Three

The Lost Poet of Woodlawn

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The Lost Poetry by Squire Vain
© Shaun Vain 2020.
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All rights reserved.

Video and photos: Julia Golonka

A Work in Progress

— chapter three

Tales of a Vagabond Paperboy reached millions throughout the world. The Inaugural Issue was met with hostility over the safety of the actors. By the time that people watched Issue No. 2: Eviction & Crime, the show was canceled from airing further episodes. Ratings were better than ever, but the Electronic Broadcast Council of Concerned Citizens declared that its production was immoral.

The participants in Tales of a Vagabond Paperboy weren't aware they were being filmed. However, this information would never be released to the public. For, such a violation of human rights would cause hysteria among all levels of society. When the show got canceled, the operation folded back unto itself, but those lives intertwined in the chaos were ripped from their surroundings. Ultimately, it was the paperboy’s story of redemption that intersected with those events in progress.

This is how the paperboy found out that he was being filmed:

"Give me the baby nickels," the boy said, clenching a shaking fist by his side.

"Last time I hand them out and don't see nuthin' back. Whut you doin' boy?"

The boy pointed his finger: a grimy nail shouted toward the true reason for the loss of income.

"Whatchyou saying?" asked the ringleader. There was a high note of aggression in his voice. "I'm done playing with that, children. If you treat me like a fool now, you be eatin’ like a dog on the street—not at all!"

The crowd of ruffian children parted ways before the boy's grimy finger, and out came the culprit. He stood a foot taller than the rest. His long neck seemed to have a kink somewhere in the middle where he constantly swallowed. He looked down at his mangy hat and wrung it in his grasp, thinking of something to say but coming up empty handed.

"You rat." It was all the tall boy could think to say.

That's all he needed to hear before the young vagabond lowered his finger and opened the palm of his hand. He took off his glove, and he laid his open palm across the tall boy's face. Blood-red handprints remained on his cheek, and with his clenched fist, he pummeled the tall boy's face.

The tall boy kept gulping and swallowing. "Put your hands up. Cover fast, boy!" said the ringleader, but it was too late. He surrendered, and his fate was left up to the vagabond to decide how much of a beating he deserved.

When he was through, he traded boots with the tall boy, stood one foot on the boy's chest, and shook out the tall boy's pockets. He was looking for anything worth taking. He found trinkets and other junk: a roll of tape and candy. There was something else that came out of his pocket that stopped him where he stood.

He reached into the tall boy's jacket because, as he was once told by the ringleader, every thief has a secret pocket. He pulled out at least a dozen coins. The bright silver pieces carried a mark from the highest sector.

"There's your money," the vagabond said, as he tossed the silver coins at the ringleader.

"Good," said the ringleader. "We'd better have the rest the crew hand them over to you from now and so on." He looked down and spit at the tall boy.

By now, you’re probably asking yourself, “How, for the love of all that is holy, could people return to this type of barbaric, old world behavior?” As you’ve already witnessed for yourself, some sectors of society weren’t so kind. We’re one cohesive nation around the world today, and most people are willing to believe that we got to be this way by acting peacefully, but war was the most powerful machine in history. When the papers finally read, "WORLD PEACE," newsstands sold every copy that could be printed. And everyone who wouldn't buy it was exiled to live among society's wastelands.

It was only so bad though. People had to survive on their own, without textiles and pharmacies. The lower sectors of society were wastelands; they were on their own, creating their own laws.

At first, everyone who was resistant to change was kindly asked to leave. And when big brother said— "Good luck. It's survival of the fittest. If you don't come with us, then you're on your own!" —eventually, people became ruthless. Small townships, like Brookshire, formed in the outskirts of society. They were heavily guarded by agencies that were maintained by the highest sector in society’s social system.

Those that dwelled in wastelands rebelled against the sector that aimed to monitor their every move. Sectors clashed, but they hadn’t yet reach the point of all out war. The highest sector was observing what the wastelanders were doing. Through careful surveillance, they were able to foil any uprising from the wastelands that could have managed to organize an attack upon their grandiose way of living.

The utopian ideals, which dwelled inside the minds of the folks living behind the walls that separated the wastelands from all other sectors of society, employed a sort of resourcefulness that found little use for conflict with outsiders. Their defenses made useless nature of the outside attacks.

The wastelanders were dangerous, as if they possessed small internalized rulebooks filled with nonsense. Consequences were strict, and rules weren’t explicit. The social order that was once built upon trading and bartering for goods and services became a brutal battle to get ahead.

Small assemblies formed all over the wastelands to make amends with prevalent technology. For, in the higher sectors, there were less people than there were artificially-intelligent machines. Assemblies coped with the prevailing fear of how it would be possible for people to continue to exist in such cutthroat conditions. Were the outsiders the smart ones for breaking away from the techno-utopia? Some wastelanders thought of themselves as spiritually rich to break away from such an uncontrollable mechanical overhaul within society.

Outside of the walls that separated the wastelands from the rest of society, human-machine optimization, through burying a microchip at the base of the spine, wasn’t enforced by law. For, it was natural order, once and for all, that ruled the wastelands.

Inside of the walls, all carnal needs were taken care of. Consequently, stealing wasn’t to be permitted. If you were missing something from your life, you would simply ask the council for it, and your needs would be satisfactorily fulfilled.

Approval of any of your wildest fantasies was quite feasible, but more than likely would require relocation. (For example, if you asked for more pharmaceuticals in a sector that was not approved for drug-use, you would have to move to another.) There was no reason to yell, swear, or steal; any violators were removed to be reassigned to a more morally synchronized sector in order to achieve absolute harmony inside of— what could have been— a permanent utopia.

There was absolutely no murder, nor rape of the physical essence, to be tolerated, yet there were exceptions for such actions committed in such a digitally-dependant social construct. For instance, there were sectors where violent simulations were permissible. Of course, these were typically private sectors with minimal human interaction throughout the lands. If you, or someone you knew, wished to be involved in a violent simulation, you only needed to speak to the council about your desire. Breaking these laws was punishable by permanent banishment to the wastelands.

It was a time for transition. A mostly peaceful time. People honestly didn't have any good reason to fight with one another, so they gave in. Sure, they would squabble among each other, as the division of goods and services throughout sectors created some levels of resentment. But, as the forces required to create a utopia were brought together, people knew it was only a matter of time before they lived under one ideological roof.

When the decree had been brought forth, that humanity would live peacefully in one location, all of us agreed to go along with it blindly. Why wouldn’t people agree to free housing, sustainable resources, and food grown the right way? It seemed that there was nothing to complain about. In a true utopian kingdom, where all needs were taken care of, the police state status was falling away. The world and its inhabitants saw glimpses of a brighter future.

“Don't break the rules. You get to live under our roof,” said a representative from one of the higher sectors, “but it's our house. If you break 'em, you're out of here! If you can’t find a sector that’ll take you, then you go to… the outside. No jails. We don’t have time for timeouts. Just a big wall with everyone you love on the other side.”

You may ask, "Why would anyone steal if everything was free?" Either they had habits and addictions from the old times, or they were bored and wanted entertainment.

Committing crime was a high for people. It's entirely conceivable why underground clubs for illegal activities continued to thrive. People had aggressive tendencies that didn't immediately go away. Social leaders from the New Reformation started to realize that there would need to be more standards in place.

To get everyone on one side of the wall, they stimulated humanity’s overwhelming desire to take part in aggressive tendencies. Leaders wanted a utopia so badly that they were willing to give all the people on the inside what they wanted. "It is up to the individual," they would say. But anything outside of their previously established rulings had to have been simulated. They turned a blind eye toward such underground clubs, and in official statements to the public, leaders mandated simulating such activities through the means of artificial reality.

These patterns went on for generations. Eventually, the bizarre became standard. People fell into normal ways of being conditioned for a new relationship with technology. The particular instance that makes up a bulk of this story occurred within the first few years of the New Technological Reformation.

Generally speaking, every sector was different. Each one tolerated certain activities that may have seemed uncouth to other sectors. To be a sector in the first place, such an elite set of ideals had to be held by a large group of people.

“To hell with that,” you might say, and since you engage in cursing, you would not have been approved to live in any of the proper sectors. Along those lines, if you were murderous and engaged in those sorts of simulations, you would only be allowed to enter sectors where such simulations were approved.

It’s time for another segment from the Mid-Atlantic Exposé. Throughout human history, people have been building great architectural achievements. Roads and buildings, bridges and monuments. Fortresses to honor and protect new nations. All of these achievements of a modern, developing world would not have been possible without the use of natural resources.

However, human beings have made strides to contain the depletion of natural resources used in construction, creating goods and services, and food production. We continue to monitor and maintain effective programs to ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy the same sensible pleasures that make life worth living.

In addition to having all the things we need for the home, office, and transportation to and from, we strive to preserve and conserve natural resources for the purpose of enjoying nature. For, nature is beautiful on its own.

A variety of publications pertaining to natural resources appear in A Search for Environmental Ethics, a guidebook compiled by Mary Anglemyer, Eleanor R. Seagraves, and Catherine C. LeMaistre.

America’s Changing Environment *is a compilation of articles from [Daedalus]( Articles relate to conservation, educating others about environmental impacts, and recreation.

Edwin Barker’s The Responsible Church deserves mention because it relishes in the fact that human beings have a responsibility to maintain natural resources, instead of contaminating their surroundings with toxins.

Michael Batisse’s Environmental Problems and the Scientist includes excerpts of a speech from the Director of Natural Resources at UNESCO. The lecture was designed to introduce ideas of a deal that human beings have with the natural world.

The Twenty-ninth Day: Accommodating Human Needs and Numbers to the Earth’s Resources by Lester R. Brown describes how the Earth’s resources are being depleted, and the last section of this book offers ideas for change.

In order to move forward as a society, human beings need to take responsibility for their actions. By monitoring and effectively using natural resources, we’re able to live and grow with the planet that supports our activities.

Visit the Mid-Atlantic Exposé for more information about how human beings are working with our planet to responsibly use natural resources.

Where the dust of the city found rest at night, there was a lone house beyond the outskirts of the wasteland. Even beyond the skids and an old abandoned church where homeless people lived, there was a worn out roof with patches of tar and newsprint, speckled with gravel, and inside, were the prayers that it would never rain.

He walked along the wasteland border, where flying shuttles soared in the sky above him. Sometimes he could find enough change to ride on a shuttle, and other times he was able to beg the operators to make an exception for him to board, in order to get to and from work. Even though most of the kids in his circle lurked in the shadows and slept places for unkind favors, he was still lucky enough to have a roof.

He crept in through the doorway, making no sound in his rounds, but still, the door did creak a little as the last small crack came to close. He stopped mid-creak and tried again, and when it kept noisily sounding off, he let his pride speak out: "The hell with it!" he exclaimed.

"Jeremy Todd Fisher! I'll give you a beating, you cuss like that, coming in this late. Where are your school books, huh?"

“Left those heavy bastards on at school, mum.”

“Well, what'd you learn today then?”

“That it’s bitter cold at winter because this part of the world keeps dyin’ and only idiots live here, in a city where you can sees your breath when ye’ talk. Even geese have the smart to fly away."

His mom smiled approvingly. "You're gonna catch a deathly…. You keep walkin’ out in the night air that way."

"I missed the bus." He started to his room.

"Well, you missed dinner too. Here, take a bowl of broth to warm yer belly."

She held a bowl, while spooning out broth and the remnants of overcooked vegetables. One stalk of cauliflower plopped into the bowl, splashing the red stain of broth onto her apron.

She nearly made it to him with the bowl in hand before the door at the end of the hall swung open. Its knob stuck firmly in place, in the drywall behind the door.

A portly man followed out after the saloon swing. He wasn’t much taller than the young vagabond. Although, he was six times his girth. His eyes glazed over, while staring at the boy’s mother. He stopped in front of the threshold to the kitchen and waved for her to come follow him into the other room.

"Be right there," she said, her head hanging low.


She placed the bowl of broth on the kitchen table and kept her gaze from her son.

"Mum, you don't have to do this anymore."

She stopped.

"Yes, I do. Eat your dinner, Jeremy."

"No. I can make us monies enough to live here."

"Shut yer trap," said the man with the glazed expression. With the back of his hand, he smacked her. She covered herself and started to weep.

Jeremy kicked his shin and backed away before the man with the glazed eyes had enough time to lunge after him. The boy picked up a ladle and swiped it through the air, moving between his mother and the man.

"That's it. I put up with you two fer too long. You whore and that tramp. Get out, or I'll call the guards on you."

His mother wept for a few moments, while Jeremy kept his ladle high, and he never lost eye-contact with the brute. He never blinked until the man with the glazed eyes turned to walk down the hall.

"I'll please myself tonight. You two be gone by sunrise, or there'll be hell to pay."

The door slammed shut. Paint chips fell, like confetti, crumbling to the ground.

They sat at the table for hours. He kept watch while his mother fretted. The cold air whispered beyond the pale glass. Snowfall was certain to come in the next few weeks.

They knew the shelters were full, and they remembered the last time they tried to enter a shelter. They ended up standing in line all night to be given a pillow and blanket when the morning arrived. They were told that there was an alley next to the laundromat where hot air from the dryers would keep them warm.

The churches weren't an option. They were dangerous. Most would bar their doors at night, and the few that let in people were not safe places of refuge. It was as if God had left the wastelands. People outside of the sector walls lost faith in a higher power when their beliefs were absorbed by the business of keeping alive. They quickly lost their faith when the high sectors finished laying their final row of bricks.

His mother cried, thinking about returning to that life. This cry was different from others the boy had heard. It was a deep pain. Her face turned beet-red before she plopped her head onto the table, with her arms falling to her sides.

The boy approached her. He rushed to her side and placed his arms around her shoulders.

She pushed him away, trembling. She said, "Call a medical team."

The boy ran through the door, moving swiftly to a nearby neighbor's house. Two doors down, he found one that he knew would have a working telephone.

He knocked loudly. No response.

"Ma'am. Please, I need you to place a call. My mum is sick."

There was a soft light about the doorway in the apartment above. It was where an elderly influenza patient was trying to sleep. She had a telephone that could reach nurses from a sector assistance center.

He reached down and picked up a small chunk of asphalt. He tossed it at the window's wooden ledge. The chunk of tar and rock was stalled on the flat, rotten sill. He could see the old woman peaking out at him near the edge of the frame. Usually she stayed tucked away, even around the vagabond boy. Especially around him because he looked quite dirty.

She yelled at the glass, "Go away, or I'll call the guard!"

The vagabond boy grew tired of games. He had enough of being told he was insignificant, nor did he employ the idea that his problems were none of theirs, and he resented the notion that his story was a poor one. So he threw a giant piece of asphalt to release his anxiety. This time it went through her window, shattering glass and spreading shrapnel about the sick woman's room.

"Call them,” said the vagabond paperboy. “I'll tell thems myself when they arrive."

. . . To be continued in Chapter Four.

Proceed to Chapter Four

Authors for Healthy Living segment coming soon!

Proceed to Chapter Four

The Lost Poet of Woodlawn

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A Work in Progress

— chapter four

The artificial personality that was appropriately paired with the disassembled droid (displaced by Muriel Myrtle Mavens of Brookshire Suites) was modeled after the brilliant fashionista turned entrepreneur named Katherine "Tippy" Le Roux. Thus, Tipper X14 had once drifted about with a similar poise and elegance. Although the hovering craft never quite captured Tippy's beauty, Tipper X14 was outfitted with a sleek gray casing to resemble the color of the model's signature hairstyle. It's too bad the designer chose to forgo adding a few strands of kinky, curly hair to the flying machine.

Although it has always been a hotly debated subject, of whether an afterlife exists, hardly anyone imagines an afterlife for robots. Yet, people posted signs all around Brookshire Manor and throughout the lands, recognizing the value of robot lives.

Even though people often disagree about what happens when we cease to live, most of all of us will admit that strange things do happen to provoke one’s sense of curiosity. Apart from unusual phenomena—usually involving optical illusions and unexplained voices cackling in the darkness—inexplicable occurrences do get reported from time to time by numerous individuals of various faiths and creeds. Some of these reports show rather concrete evidence of energetic fields that most certainly must be caused by some unknown entity.

Even if people have trouble agreeing about what happens when we die, those that do believe in an afterlife (and even many of those that don't believe in one) have made reports about animals seeming to sense any presence that's otherwise undetectable to a human being.

Oddly enough, the ghost of Tipper X14 and the fully-functional Jasper X13 weren't the only intelligent beings coming after Meow. For, deep in the distant cosmos, among the colliding Mice Galaxies of the Coma Berenices constellation, four-legged, furry, intelligent beings ruled the land on a strange planet called Mipsy. Although they would have preferred a more complex classification, these beings were an evolved species that shared a common ancestor with the Felis catus (housecat). And they had been carefully monitoring Meow's location.

The air reeked of rat urine. When the cluster of creatures from the Mice Galaxies arrived, the stench was overwhelming. They smoked cigars drenched in rat urine. Throughout much of modern civilization, human beings have, habitually, smoked tobacco mixed with chemicals, including rat poison. Partially, because human beings detest the presence of rodents. The cats that ruled the lands on Mipsy relied upon finding rodents as a source of nourishment. Since rats love nothing more than chewing through raw tobacco leaves, the cats on Mipsy had never committed to spraying their fields with poisons. Consequently, their tobacco fields were drenched in rat urine.

The cat that jumped from Rolick’s window was startled by the ghostly appearance of Tipper. After the robot was swatted and destroyed, its spirit moved in the form of its programmed personality. Tipper X14 had been programmed to mimic the feelings of a human being who believed in an eternal life after death, and the conscious memory of the robot followed this program after being destroyed. After its physical form ceased to function, Tipper X14 saw itself as it was programmed to imagine. Thus, the apparition of Tippy Le Roux sought to continue its mission, tracking the cat, and inadvertently, scaring it from the window sill.

The vagabond paperboy, so tired of clawing for life, failed to realize that his story was being heard by millions of people. His disassociation with technology had caused a vulnerability: openly, he disregarded technology's power to capture life. For, his stories were contained in easily digestible episodes.

When his tales seemed to settle down, another log would be added to the fire that was his life. Of course, some people openly opposed the rigorous manipulation of the child's reality. Occasionally, fans of the show would try to interject, or a concerned citizen would attempt to make the child realize that he was a puppet for the bourgeoisie. But the production studio was always around to ensure that their picture would move forward.

You might recall an earlier attempt at building a real-life simulated reality in the events that transpired on Lux Island. The oppressive, guerrilla studio behind that production caused a shipwreck to see how the survivors would react on an island populated by violent natives, snarling beastly creatures, and traps set by the oppressors themselves. When the shipwrecked survivors outwitted all odds, the studio sent schools of fish as a reward. The survivors finally realized that the whole operation was an orchestrated attempt to entertain a demented oppressive force. That operation was shut down, but those same values remained intact within the studio that was in charge of Lux Island.

The studio disbanded and spread like a virus, causing havoc by presenting their brand of distasteful manipulation of reality, throughout the world. It was a century later, after Lux Island, when a younger generation took control of a small outfit that was part of a studio descending from those that ran the bloody arena that was the former.

The studio behind Tales of a Vagabond Paperboy was comprised of an impressive group of performance artists, known all around the world as The Omni-Presenters.

. . . To be continued.

The Lost Poet of Woodlawn

$19.88 (+ Shipping & Handling)
(First edition hardcover,
cloth/grey, 240 pages
ISBN 978-0-578-51396-6)

$32.88 (+ Shipping & Handling)
Signed by the Author


(First edition hardcover,
cloth/grey, 240 pages
ISBN 978-0-578-51396-6)

Take a Look Inside:

Paperback Edition

$14.50 (+ Shipping & Handling)
(First Edition paperback,
perfect bound, 244 pages
ISBN 978-0-578-53353-7)

The Lost Poetry by Squire Vain
© Shaun Vain 2020.
Made possible by Future Publishing Service.
All rights reserved.

Video and photos: Julia Golonka


A Proper Writer Creates a Living Novel in 30 Weeks for All to See