Down With the Ship

One of the local papers here in Maine carried this story about a shipwreck in the 1800’s that coincided with a fireworks display honoring George Washington’s birthday. The unfortunate victims’ appeals for help were mistaken for more celebratory rowdiness and went unheeded. The ship was stocked with exotic cargo and Irish immigrants. For those who are looking for a good yarn that can spin off a bit of historical fiction, this article does a thorough job of describing the drama of the shipwreck and its consequences.

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Obedience School Dropout

While looking through my old blog posts for material on my previous post, I came upon this item, which struck me as an intriguing writing prompt: “Comments on a recent blog entry (one in which my son and I speculate about what our cat Paris would be like as a human) got me thinking it would make an interesting contest or survey for people to write about what they would be like as an animal….Paris spent the first several minutes of my time here yapping at me and begging to get in my lap. Now he’s sleeping contentedly on the dead printer. This can only mean he’ll be standing on my face at 3:30 AM declaring his loneliness. If Paris were human, I think he’d be a telemarketer.” In the earlier post, my son, who was then about 9, had tried to picture Paris going to school and thought about what would be in his lunch (he guessed sardines). I wrote often about Paris back then and, if I still had a “slice of life” blog, I would continue to do so, as he makes himself the center of our lives. Though older, he has not matured in the least, still bounding through the house like a kitten, following us around like a shadow, making peculiar demands, such as his plaintive yap requesting that we turn the tub faucet on so he can watch the water. If he were a person, he’d be the life of the party and possibly get diagnosed with ADHD. But then what sort of pet would I be?

Get Out Your Pitchforks, Light Your Torches

Let me cleanse my palate from the last post and forget for the moment that it happened. Thank you for not mentioning it again for a bit, because….

I spotted an article in my local paper today that would make a useful vignette in a storyline that concerns the appearance of unexpected fauna in the woods. The article, which itself cribs from a crytozoology website, reports on the sighting of a “white Bigfoot” (isn’t that a Yeti?) in the rural south-central Maine community of Litchfield.

Here is the paper’s account of the sighting verbatim:

“He was walking his dog outside his Litchfield home in December when the dog started barking and pulling him as he had never done before.

He said he looked up and saw a huge, fat, white-haired beast, which stopped in front of them, looked at them and growled before screaming and running away into the woods.

“I couldn’t see his eyes well, but they looked brown to me, but very, very dark, almost black,” M.P. told the website. “Big mouth, like a monkey, with big sharp teeth. I tell you, a freak. I’ve always laughed at all these Bigfoot nuts. Now I guess I’m the crazy one here. Unless it was a very good hoax played on me, that could be, but I tell you again it ain’t easy for a man to make those kinds of moves. That didn’t look human to me.””

This story reminds me of another from several years ago that went viral, starting with a story from Maine. Here is my commentary on “The Mystery Beast” from my former blog, The Pixley Picayune:

“Day three of the siege of the creature (will this madness never end?). To re-cap: Somewhere on a remote rural stretch of highway, someone ran over a “dog-like creature” in the act of chasing a cat. An alert neighbor photographed the corpse from every angle. Word immediately spread in the tiny community that this was the dreaded evil “mystery beast” that had terrorized humans and slaughtered house pets and livestock for over a decade. The community contacted the state biologist, who, being one of the heartless bureaucrats who represent the Imperial Regime, told them no official response would be forthcoming because (what an excuse!), “We are understaffed and very busy and the photos are unremarkable.” Luckily, people kept their heads and contacted the local newspaper, which saw a great opportunity for a sensational story series and jumped right on it. Next, they sensibly engaged a nationally known expert on Bigfoot (wouldn’t you?). I thought this was great fodder for a satirical work of fiction until I discovered (according to the paper, which might be puffing things up a tiny bit) every blogger and cyber-journalist between here and Sudan already wrote about it. I did find commentators on the e-version of the paper already said many witty and interesting things. The paper today issued the findings of an Anthropologist (!), who more or less said the obvious, that people are attracted to what they fear and like to heighten their fear (hence the continued comments that “the beast” is evil and otherworldly). Incidentally, the crypto-zoologist and the state biologist (who was shamed and bullied into at least saying what he thought the photos looked like) agreed the creature is probably a feral chow dog.”

In a later follow-up post, I wrote: “The mystery beast wrung one more front page appearance out of the paper—not the tiny Pixley rag but one of the bigger ones. Apparently the DNA tests came back proving the beast is a plain old dog. Not to be deterred, the cryptozoologist remarked that he knew the corpse was a dog but the beast “is still out there”. Meanwhile, the evil state bureaucrats defended themselves again with the explanation that the cost in gas and salary to investigate was not warranted by the suspicion that the beast was not a dog (especially given the photos, which clearly show a dead dog).”

I never did fully take on The Mystery Beast as a topic but do allude to it in one of my fantasy novels (Fire Tongue) when a group of rustic locals encounters an injured demi-demon on a rural road and debates about its nature before hauling it away. As for the crypto-zoologist, a former colleague of mine at the university, he was my hero in the caper for firmly coming down on the side of the facts at hand and calling the “beast” for its true self when he had a logical motive for doing otherwise (i.e. driving traffic to the International Museum of Cryptozoology).