Shákhmaty with Czar Cheslav Krakóva

A challenger vanquished sits silently anguished
Suffering Czar Cheslav’s celebration dance.
It’s not checkmate he hates; his poor nose is chafed
By the King of Krakóv’s chartreuse and purple pants!

Sighs at the chess table show the challenger’s grateful
For the simple shame of regal cabooses;
The king shakes when he’s glad. The alternative is bad:
Czar Cheslav Krakóva is worse when he loses!

August (Poem + Story) / (Story a Day in May)

I am participating in the “Story a Day in May” challenge (see for more details). The goal is to write a complete story each day. Today’s piece actually meets two challenges: not only does it count as my Story a Day, but a second challenge which was “Take a poem or story and rewrite it as a story or poem, and post the two together.” So, I did.

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Story a Day in May: Day 1

I am participating in the “Story a Day in May” challenge (see for more details). The goal is to write a complete story each day. The following is the first day’s results: unedited, unreworked, and… unfinished.

I have a very good idea where this story is going, but it’s obviously a much longer piece than I intended to write. But, the important thing is that I wrote it all in one sitting, and I successfully completed the first day of the challenge.

See you tomorrow for Day 2!

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The Legend of Slottsfjellet: Chapter Six (Part 18)

Just starting? Be sure to check out The Legend of Slottsfjellet: Foreword and Disclaimer first, so you know what’s going on.

Somehow Joe managed to not see Marta at all until early Wednesday afternoon, about an hour before the workers were to arrive. He was standing outside trying to picture the completed castle in its place when she came up behind him. He heard her approaching.

“It’s going to be really busy the next few days,” he said, without turning.

She stood next to him and looked in the direction he was facing. “Yes. Yes, it will be.” When Joe didn’t add anything else, she observed, “We won’t see each other much while the castle is being built.”

Joe looked at her but still didn’t turn. Instead of responding, he put his arm around her shoulders.

  • Part 19 Coming Soon!

The Legend of Slottsfjellet: Chapter Six (Part 17)

Just starting? Be sure to check out The Legend of Slottsfjellet: Foreword and Disclaimer first, so you know what’s going on.

Joe spent most of Tuesday walking around the construction site with Karl, going over details and taking further instructions. “It’s necessary now for you to know more of what is happening here, because you will be in charge of the workers who arrive tomorrow.”

“What exactly do you mean by ‘in charge’?”

“Well, Mr. Stadtler, these will be Norwegian construction workers, so it is important that they not know that I am involved in this project. Instead, they will take their directions from you.”

“From me? But I don’t speak Norwegian, remember?”

“That is not a problem. Most, if not all, of the men we will hire will speak English. Norwegians are quite well educated, Mr. Stadtler.”

“And what am I supposed to tell them? They’re bound to wonder why we’re building something here, especially a castle.”

“You’ll find, Mr. Stadtler, that Norwegians are a lot less nosy than Americans. However, it is true that some of them may become curious, which brings us to an additional way I planned for you to be useful. If anyone asks questions, tell them that you work for an American firm that is building this castle for a wealthy American client. That will satisfy them. They understand Americans’ eccentricity.” Joe scoffed, but Karl continued, “Now, we have sixty men already recruited and waiting to be transported. Will that be enough?”

“That depends. . . will we have heavy equipment? Like a crane? Bulldozers? Backhoes?’

“You will not need bulldozers or backhoes. The foundation will be laid directly on the rough grade. If needed, certain areas can be prepared with shovels, but in general even that will be unnecessary.”

“What about the stone? I can’t put it in place without a crane, and I don’t know a thing about cutting it.”

“That is also not a problem. The stone has already been quarried, and you can hire a team of stonemasons to size it as it arrives here. We will bring a crane for placing the larger sections.”

“So, sixty men—not including stone cutters—ready to arrive tomorrow. I still don’t see how we can possibly be finished in two weeks without heavy equipment, even if we work eight-hour days with no breaks.”

“There is no need to limit yourself, Mr. Stadtler. You will get the most skilled and the strongest labourers we can find. They will have no problem working ten or twelve hours each day. In fact,” he added, after thinking a moment, “There is no reason you can’t divide the men to work around-the-clock, since we would like the project completed as soon as possible.”

“We can’t work in the dark.”

“Of course not,” Karl said, with emphasized patience. “You would not be expected to. We will bring in very high intensity lights to set around the site when it gets dark.”

“So, I’ll use two shifts of thirty men each working twelve hours at a time.”

“Sixty men—”

“Plus the stone cutters.”

“Sixty men, plus the stonemasons, will be here Wednesday afternoon or early evening. That’s tomorrow. Now, Mr Stadtler, you will also be in charge of paying the men’s wages. They will be paid cash; U.S. currency. This is to further the pretense that you are at the head of this project. At the end of each day, we will give you exactly enough money to cover that day’s wages. From there, you will be responsible for getting all of it to your ’employees.'”

“How much am I—are you, rather—paying them?”

“We are offering two thousand American dollars per day to each worker.”

“Where am I going to keep all that cash? I can’t just walk around with a couple hundred thousand dollars to pass out every day.”

“I suppose you are right. I will have a safe placed in your trailer tonight, and we will secure the money in it. It may be easiest to have the workers collect their wages from you there, rather than allow you to distribute the cash.”

Karl was thoughtful for several minutes and said nothing. Finally, he looked at Joe and said, “In order for that idea to work smoothly, you will need this.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out several keys. Selecting one, he held it out to Joe. “This is the key to your trailer.”

Joe reached out hesitantly for the key, but didn’t take it. “Are you serious?” he asked.

Karl nodded. “All of the workers will be housed in trailers, which will arrive tomorrow before noon, and they will have free access to come and go. It would be too difficult to explain why their alleged boss were restricted and confined to his own quarters. Besides, Mr. Stadtler, I think you already understand that it would be very foolish if you should decide to leave.” Joe took the key from Karl and put it into his pocket.

Joe wasn’t sure what to make of this gesture. He wouldn’t go so far as to consider it friendly, but he had to admit that it seemed out of character for Karl to show so much trust—first with the money, then with the key. “Thanks, Karl,” he said uncertainly.

“Do not forget that I am directing this project,” was Karl’s stern reply. “You’ll meet tomorrow a man named Peter Bruvik. He will be our liaison, communicating instructions from me and information from you while I stay out of sight. Though you will appear to lead everything, I will be constantly informed of your progress.”

“I just don’t get all the secrecy, Karl.”

“Mr. Stadtler, there is no way for you to understand the importance of the work we are doing here. Even if I thought you could understand, there is precious little that we can safely tell you about the larger nature of this project. To have too much information would not only jeopardize our work, it would jeopardize your life.”

He said it so casually that Joe couldn’t help joking, “What is this? Some sort of international espionage?”

With an ironic laugh, Karl replied, “No, Mr Stadtler, international espionage would be far less complicated.”

The Legend of Slottsfjellet: Chapter Five (Part 16)

Just starting? Be sure to check out The Legend of Slottsfjellet: Foreword and Disclaimer first, so you know what’s going on.

Joe was not surprised to find Karl back at the trailer. “I hope I didn’t keep you waiting, Karl.”

“Not at all, Mr. Stadtler. I have been here only a couple of minutes.” He smiled warmly, either missing or ignoring Joe’s sarcasm. Joe did not return the smile. “I’d like to discuss a few things about the construction, which should, by the way, begin no later than Thursday. Since today is Monday, that gives you three days.”

“Go ahead.”

“First, how is your progress with the drawings?”

“Fine. They’re on the table, if you want to look at them.”

Karl sat at the desk and leafed through the vellum. “I’m not an architect, Mr. Stadtler, but I do have some experience in the field. Your skills have been accurately praised; this is excellent work.” Joe offered no response. Karl turned back to Joe and continued. “In order to start in three days, we must have labourers here Wednesday—that’s the day after tomorrow. This means that your final draft of the plans must be complete by tomorrow morning. At that time, I will have additional details of your assignment to share with you.”

Karl rose from the stool and smiled. “That is all I had to discuss, Mr. Stadtler. Is there anything else you need right now?”

Joe thought for a few seconds. “No, not really. . . Wait, there is something. I assume I’ll need to make prints of the plans when I’m done with them. Do you have a printer or a copier for me to use? And some extra paper? I didn’t see any in here.”

“We can have it all here tomorrow morning,” said Karl.

“That’s it, then,” said Joe. Karl nodded and left.

After Karl went out of the trailer, Joe sat down at the table to work. He continued the rest of the morning, and didn’t stop when Marta brought lunch. He drew rapidly, and by four o’clock he was completely finished with all the plans. As he stacked them in order, he was surprised to find himself with nothing to do.