Saturday, August 30, 2008

Helot Thrall

It's been a while since I posted a short story. This is a unique tale that might ring true for many of us. Enjoy!

Helot Thrall

Amidst a trumpet blast and fanfare, Helot Thrall labored through the crowd of royal subjects gathered in the great hall, who parted as he neared them, allowing him passage to the throne just beyond him. He was dressed in the humility of serfdom, having been enslaved his entire life. The ball and chain shackled to his feet grinded across the cobble stone floor as he toiled to plead his case before the king. Two of the king’s royal guards escorted the man holding long spears that bore the ceremonial standard of the kingdom.

As he neared the throne, he caught a glimpse of the king who was dressed in purple robes and seated from a vantage that allowed him to oversee his subjects. The final yards of his journey weakened him so that a court appointed servant embraced Helot by lifting him from under his arms and reinforcing his strength. Together, the two men knelt before the king and awaited his benevolence.

The king, who astutely observed the struggle, spoke kindly to him. “Who brings a grievance to my throne?” His great voice overwhelmed the idle conversations in the background, causing all to turn and politely view the ceremony.

“It is I, Sire.” He spoke with great consternation. “My name is Helot Thrall.”

The king evaluated Helot as if inspecting his royal knights. “Why have you come to me?”

Without lifting his head, he spoke with grave respect. “I have come to you from beyond the valley and from the land of shadows. My journey has been great and I’ve come to seek your favor.”

“And what do you seek from me?”

“I seek your pardon. I seek your mercy.” As he spoke, tears filled his eyes and his voice faltered.

“What have you done, Helot Thrall, that requires my pardon?”

“Your majesty, I was not born in your kingdom, but from beyond your borders. My parents were both your subjects, but I left them and I journeyed beyond the valley, where I have been enslaved.”

“And where are your parents?”

“Alas, Sire, they have died in your service. I am all that is left of my family.”

The king considered the wretch that knelt before him. His clothes were typical of a slave, and his mannerisms displayed the respect he had for the monarch before him. “I will grant you an audience. You may state your case.” With those words, the armed escort bowed graciously and retreated beyond the crowd.

Helot, overwhelmed with humility, began to sob openly. “Your Majesty, I received your invitation to submit to your kingly rule, and I have come to subject myself to your authority. I have abandoned my old master and I now throw myself at your feet, lest I become your footstool. I was not born of your kingdom, but I desire greatly to be counted amongst your ranks. I have nothing to offer you but myself. I can’t bring you any gifts that would cause you to take notice of me or consider my misery. If you refuse to grant me relief, then I will surrender my life to death.”

The king regarded Helot’s plea and proudly proclaimed, “Today, I grant you pardon. All that you have transgressed in the past will be forgotten. I now offer you a place in my kingdom, where you will serve me as a bond servant.”

Overwhelmed with relief, Helot collapsed where he knelt and cried out, “Thank you, Great Master. I vow before you my life. You may use it as you please. I will serve you with gladness and I will be faithful to you from this moment forward. I have forsaken all others and seek only your will.”

“Then I will treat you as my brother. The riches of my kingdom are available to you. I will provide all you will ever need.” The king paused and looked upon him with favor. “I welcome you home.”

A burst of applause echoed through the hall as the king’s subjects relished in the joy of surrender, having all of them surrendered in like fashion at one point or another. Immediately, a royal servant unlocked the shackles that bore witness of Helot’s slavery and freed him for the first time in his life. Helot then rose to his feet and took his first step as a free man. Elated at his ability to walk effortlessly, he began to spring and bounce as joy filled his soul. He ran across the hall, demonstrating his newly discovered freedom and then ran immediately to the throne. “Thank you, Sire. The taste of liberty is sweet, and I’ll savor it for my remaining days.” When he finished speaking, the royal servants led Helot from the hall into a small room where he was bathed and groomed. As years of slavery were washed away from him, he couldn’t help but excitedly chatter to the men who attended him. Grateful to serve, the men laughed with him and graciously smiled to see him experience independence for the first time in his life. Once his transformation was complete, the head attendant placed a bundle of clothing on a stool. “These clothes will replace the ones we destroyed. You may get dressed. When you are clothed, you need to leave this area and return to the great hall, where the king will host a banquet in your honor. We have killed the fatted calf, and prepared the choicest of meals for you. Please don’t hesitate to join us quickly.” He turned to leave and then faced Helot with grave sincerity. “Oh, one last thing. Don’t tarry long. There are many who would offer you great rewards and meaningless glory, but the cost is equally great. Be extra vigilant to seek the king’s grace before committing to others.”

Helot smiled warmly. “Thank you, brother. I’ll join you shortly.” With those words, the attendants left the room, extending privacy to him. As he dried himself from his bath, a door in the back of the room opened and a man dressed in dark lavender robes cautiously approached him.

“Helot Thrall? I’ve been sent by the king to offer you some clothing that will set you apart from all the others. Do you see my robes?” As he spoke, he modeled the clothes and turned for him to view. “These are the choicest of fabrics and are imported from the traders beyond the valley. They are purple, just like the king’s own clothes.” He then pointed to the clothes left by the royal attendant. “You don’t want to wear these drab old rags. If you like, I will provide a complete set of these beautiful robes for you.”

Mystified by the offer, Helot examined the clothes. “This material is so soft and clean, are you certain the king wants me to have these? Who am I to merit such comforts?”

The man nodded eagerly. “Oh, the king insists that you have nothing but the best. And look, you will be given golden chains to wear.”

“Golden chains?”

He produced a toothy smile. “Nothing but the best to symbolize your service to the king. When you wear these chains, you will be immediately recognized as a bond servant of his majesty.”

Helot paused in confusion. “But, I thought that….” His voice tailed off.

The man smiled again. “You thought that no one wears chains in the king’s service?” He laughed with a friendly chuckle. “Oh, what you can’t see, is that underneath everyone’s robe, is a set of chains. We are all slaves of the king, and we all proudly wear his shackles. The best thing about these chains is they are golden.”

Helot examined the chains closely. “They are beautiful.”

“And expensive. Many of the subjects still wear the iron chains around their legs, but I know you will appreciate the freedom you’ve found in the king, and you only want to sport the best chains possible.”

Helot frowned in thought. “But, I thought we were free from shackles.”

“Shackles?” the man repeated with disdain. “Perish the thought. No, these are golden chains that symbolize service, not the harsh, biting, rusting chains of a slave. Rather, these will demonstrate to all that you’ve committed your course to the kingdom.”

“How then will people recognize the symbolism if they can’t see the chains from underneath my robes?”

“Ah, a very discerning question, indeed. The gesture is symbolic only to you. It is your personal regard for the king. You should keep it private, for you don’t want to boast in front of those who weren’t given golden chains. Do you understand?”

Helot frowned again. “I’m not certain that I do.”

The man shrugged. “Well, it means nothing to me. I wanted to extend the king’s gift to you, but if you choose to reject his first gift, I’ll let you explain it to him yourself. Thank you.” He turned to walk away.

“Wait! I didn’t realize that the chains were a gift from the king himself. I’ll gladly wear them if it means so much to him.”

“Very well. Now, keep this to yourself. We don’t want to cause jealousy among the subjects, do we?”

“Uh, I suppose not.” With those words, Helot places the shackles around his legs and donned the deep lavender robes provided by the stranger. He was satisfied that no one would be able to see the chains from underneath his clothing. For a fleeting moment, he considered the stack of modest clothes left by the royal attendant, but paused to consider the beautiful clothes on his back. “This is better,” he said to himself. “And I only want the best for the king.” He then lifted his burden to hurry from the room and into the great hall, where a feast was being prepared in his honor. The stinging metal only irritated his legs a little, but it was a small sacrifice if it brought pleasure to the king.

Monday, August 25, 2008

You Might be in a Redneck Church if...

This last week when I was in San Diego for a few days--and struggling with a kidney stone, I might add, I ran across this little bit of down home wisdom. Perhaps you will appreciate some of the following. Perhaps not. At any rate, try to enjoy!

You might be in a redneck church if:

1. People ask, when Jesus fed the 5000, whether the two fish were bass or catfish, and what bait was used to catch 'em.

2. The pastor says, "I'd like to ask Bubba to help take up the offering," and then five guys and two women stand up.

3. Opening day of deer season is recognized as an official church holiday.

4. A member of the church requests to be buried in his 4-wheel-drive truck because "It ain't never been in a hole it couldn't get out of."

5. The choir is known as the "OK Chorale."

6. Boone's Farm "Tickle Pink" is the favorite wine for communion.

7. In a congregation of 500 members, there are only seven last names in the church directory.

8. Baptism is referred to as "branding".

9. There is a special fund raiser for a new church septic tank.

10. Finding and returning lost sheep isn't just a parable.

11. High notes on the organ set the dogs on the floor to howling.

12. People think "rapture" is what you get when you lift something too heavy.

13. The final words of the benediction are, "Y'all come back now, ya hear?" (banjo accompaniment optional)

14. The Church has its own hunting dogs.

15. The Church bus is up on blocks in the back yard.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

We Have a Winner!

Congratulations to Yvonne Wright for her outstanding achievement! Yvonne, you've won an all expense paid trip for two to Jamaica! (You must be married to qualify). In the event you didn 't qualify for the trip, you will be awarded a Dr. Pepper as a consolation prize, and a kitten.

Thank you one and all for your outstanding efforts and terrific entries. Here's how it all breaks down:
A Sarah
B Alison
C Anonymous
D Will
E Will (I entered twice, but I didn't win.)
F Yvonne
G David
H Daniel

Thank you for allowing me to host this event, and I look forward to the next time we lock in battle.

Tune in next week, where I will post another short story. Until then, may the bird of paradise...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Battle Poet: Iron Crib

Let the games begin!
The entries are as follows:

Entry A
The sun shines through my window
And lands upon my desk.
It creeps along the floor
And up my treasure chest.
It shines upon a picture
Hanging on my wall,
Then it goes away
As if it weren’t there at all.

Entry B
Blippety bloopety blave
The mouse hid in a dark cave
Then - jiminy! Drat!
The cave was Tom Cat!
So a kick to Tom's tonsils he gave

Entry C
I journeyed from the Land of Zonder
To walk barefoot in the grass
But when I tried to pick a rose
I found that I’d walked past

Entry D
Pop Corn! Yelled the vender
From across the isle
But when I tried to eat it up
It was empty all the while

Entry E
Sparkle, sparkle, firework show
Sending sparkles tally ho!
Spatter, spatter, raindrops clatter
Sending children running home.

Entry F
Tiny faces with perched up lips
These are the kisses I like the best
Beautiful hands and tinny tiny feet
To hold each other, a savored memory I will forever keep
Twinkling eyes that look up so dear
Beautiful giggles I live for to hear
No expectations, no worries at all
Always trusting in me to soften their fall
Dreaming together and watching clouds
Their orneriness and creativity make me proud
From my womb to life, a love so deep
These are the miracles that really make me think

Entry G
There’s a bear in our church,
No one knows why he’s there,
He was spotted this morning,
You could see his black hair.
He scared all the kids,
As he ran down the hall,
They heard his loud growl,
And saw his large paws.
When no one’s around,
He plays the guitar,
He loves to eat salmon,
Smokes smelly cigars.
It turns out he’s friendly,
And really quite shy,
Wait, he’s not a bear,
Just a romance writer guy!

Entry H
A long time ago in a faraway land
There lived a princess who loved just one man

Although she was sweet and although she was kind
There were bad people who had foul things in mind

The bad people had plans and oh how they tried
To start a war with the neighbors they despised

They kidnapped the princess - on her engagement day no less
And were going to kill her (as Alison would guess)

Lucky for her, there was a swordsman so fine
That if he were smarter, the situation he could define

His friend was a kind giant (most of the time)
Who had a big heart and the gift of the rhyme

These 2 were the captors of the beautiful girl
Led by a man so vile your stomach would curl

Up the Cliffs of Insanity they started to climb
But a man in black was following and gaining time

(No this man in black was not Will Smith
That’s another story that is shrouded in myth)

He fought the swordsman to the end in an epic battle
Worthy of any tale that can be told with much prattle

Then he continued his chase after the maiden so fair
And found himself in a clash with the larger of the pair

The man in black finally knocked the giant out cold
When he forced him to submission with his excellent choke hold

The Sicilian who kidnapped her was all that was left
And the man in black wanted to stop him from this horrible theft

This man was her true love - a farm boy thought gone
That had not been seen for 5 years this dawn

He beat the Sicilian with a powder from Australia
By putting it into the drinking paraphernalia

But the story does not end here – it’s not time to cheer
There’s a twist in this plot that is quite queer

You see the man in black that she loved was not the prince
She thought him dead and was engaged in recent times since

Suffice it to say this made things quite bad
For the 2 people and the love that they had

In order to save space (and 2 hours to deadline)
We’ll condense the rest to one major headline

The swordsman and giant helped the man in black
To thwart the prince and find their love back

The problem I have is that I lied this day –
This made the maiden not a princess in any way

So the crux of my story is sad indeed
If you lie in your opening – the victory you concede

Let this be a lesson to all that have read
And try to listen to all that I have said

If you want to write a nursery rhyme and you are lost
It’s better to give up no matter the cost

For the embarrassment you get for doing so bad
Is much greater than the small enjoyment you had

I guess this rhyme does have a moral
Don’t enter into other people’s poem quarrel.

Please vote on the left using the poll buttons. I will hold the polls open until Thursday at 0800 (MST). May God defend the right.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Last Call

Calling all poets, calling all poets
You must submit your entries by Sunday at midnight.

I say again,

Calling all poets, calling all poets
You must submit your entries by Sunday at midnight.

Please email your entries to:

That is all.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Nursery Rhymes--A Crash Course

Nursery Rhymes have delighted our ears for centuries. While most of the verses have lost their meaning throughout the generations, some still have a meaning that is surprisingly dark.

According to, “Little Jack Horner” is a “popular nursery rhyme, still in circulation after 200 years. The first known printing dates from 1725, but the rhyme was taken up by the chapbook publishers and incorporated into a much longer rhyming tale entitled ‘The History of Jack Horner’ printed a number of times later in the 18th century. A 19th-century explanation of the story claims that it celebrates one Tom Horner who was steward to Richard Whiting, Abbot of Glastonbury, at the time of the Dissolution. Whiting entrusted Horner with a pie in which title deeds had been secreted to be delivered to Henry VIII. As in the rhyme, Horner opened the pie and thus became a major landowner.”

Another classic favorite has an unexpected past. According to, the seemingly innocent Sing A Song of Sixpence has dark and brooding written all over it, as it represents a coded message to recruit hands aboard a pirate ship. To learn more about how the verses are broken down and explained, see:
To be fair, some of the research I found revealed that several people disagree with snopes and claim that the song is simply silly. describes the origins of a few rhymes as “The provenance of many rhymes is interesting enough without resorting to sensational interpretation. Wikipedia calls "plausible," for instance, the theory that Pop Goes the Weasel tells a tale of silk weavers peddling their equipment to pawnbrokers for drinking money. This NPR story explains that in the language of Henry VIII's time, Goosey Goosey Gander associates the Catholic Church with prostitution. As for "Sing a Song of Sixpence," it tells the story of Henry VIII's ill-fated marriage to Anne Boleyn. And a complicated set of references in Yankee Doodle really just boils down to trash-talking between the British and Americans during the Revolutionary War.”

The Ring Around the Rosie verse is clouded in great distress. According to tradition, the poem tells about the Great Plague of the 1300’s in Europe, saying the “ring around the rosie describes the rash of the beginning stages of the disease. The posies refer to the flowers people kept in their pockets hoping it would protect them. The “ashes” imitates the sound of sneezing, and then they all fall down dead. However, Snopes discounts this account saying the rhyme has no definite origin and it has no definite meaning.

On the information about nursery rhymes website:
“I found the following account about Hey Diddle Diddle. This old nonsense rhyme is probably just that - nonsense, however some people have suggested that the cat is Elizabeth Ist and the dog is Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester who she once referred to as her 'lap dog.' Hey Diddle Diddle was a new dance accompanied by a fiddle according to a play written by Thomas preston in 1569. Michelle Cheng kindly contacted me with the theory that the characters in this rhyme are actually constellations of stars, and the line, 'the dish ran away with the spoon' relates to the stars disappearing over the horizon.”

Regardless of how they came to be, nursery rhymes are fun and should be counted as a literary treasure for the generations yet to come. Whether you choose to make yours political, nonsensical, or historical, I wish you the best of luck. If you need my email address, I can be reached at I will accept your submissions until Sunday at midnight. After that, the dish will run away with the spoon and it will be
Diddle diddle dumpling for you.

Monday, August 11, 2008

And the Winner Is...

The polls are now closed and we are locked in a 12 way tie. Remarkable isn't it? I am now ready to exercise my presidential powers and vote the tie breaker.

It is my privilege to announce that our poems will be......

Drum roll, please,

Nursery Rhymes.

Hold your applause until the rules are read, please.

Here are the rules:
- One entry per person
- Anyone can enter (the more the merrier)
- No limit on size, scope, or form (doesn't have to rhyme), as long as it's a poem
- Title is your choice as long as it is a nursery rhyme that is original and written by you
- Entries due by midnight Sunday, August 16th
- Entries will be posted on Monday, voting will be by a poll I'll create...honor system that you vote only once. You can vote for yourself.
- Entries will be posted with no names attached, just labeled something like Poem A, etc.

I recommend you read a few "Mother Goose" poems for some inspiration.

Tomorrow I'll post a short history of nursery rhymes--it might surprise you a little to know how there little gems came to be, which might give you some insight on how to approach writing a little ditty.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Poem-Off Part Deux

Poem-Off Round Two

Following up the success of my peer and fellow blogger, the ever so lively Alison (you can find a link to her site, Hmmm, on the left), I have been selected as the host of the next Poem-Off. I appreciate being considered as a host and I intend to make the contest as enjoyable as it can possibly be. Below, I’ve chosen 6 possible titles for you to consider. If selected, that title will be imposed on the poet as the only acceptable title. On Monday, I will announce the winning title and we will begin the process of preparing our works of profound impact.

1. The Smoking Loon
2. Bubble Bath Bonanza
3. Practically Perfect Pumpkin Pastries
4. Nursery Rhyme (Any nursery rhyme such as Jack and Jill or Old King Cole, except it is a new creation by you.)
5. Pony Express
6. Mountain Majesty (For those of you who don’t enjoy overt humor and prefer a more dignified poetic expression.)

For more clarification on the Nursery Rhyme choice, let me explain what I’m envisioning. Several years ago, I wrote a series of nursery rhymes for my kids called the Silly Sissy Poems. I’ll give you an example:

Little Silly Sissy
Ate a melon whole
But when she tried to spit the seeds,
She couldn’t find a bowl

And one other:

Little Silly Sissy
Lit a candle blue
And when she tried to blow it out
She dropped it in her shoe.

These are great fun and kids love them.

Please take a moment to vote on your title of choice. You don’t have to be a contestant to vote. In fact, that might make for a more interesting contest if the poets can’t vote, but I’m not willing to consider that option!

To witness the last Poem-Off Battle Circus event, follow this link: