All writers should take the bus, at least every now and then. Or the subway. Really anywhere where you can observe a lot of different people up close. I take the bus almost every day and I see some interesting people.
Last Thursday, I was taking the bus out into the countryside to one of my four schools. I was sitting in the back when a mentally handicapped man and an older man got on and sat down next to me, the handicapped one closer to me. He was interested in my book and pointed at it and gave me a thumbs up. Then he motioned to the older man and said, “He’s my dad.” This caused the older man to start laughing, so I didn’t know if he really was his father or not. I just said, “Oh, really?” “Oh, I see” and such things, since he kept saying it.
A lot of the people on the bus were older and seemed to know each other, so I felt like I was in kind of a community meeting. Then the handicapped man said, “He’s fifty” pointing to his “dad”, who started laughing even harder and said, “Yeah, I wish I were fifty again.” I really liked the older man; just a jolly sort of fellow.
A middle-aged woman came back, and saw there weren’t any seats left, so I gave her mine. Her husband was still standing up, with his backpack on. “Hey groom!” she yelled (Korean woman often call their husbands “groom”, although I’ve never heard a man call his wife “bride”). “Hey groom! It’s going to be a long ride. Take off your heavy backpack.” He took it off and put it on the floor with a grin. “That’s my groom for you,” she said. I saw other older women smiling and nodding as well. They understood.
The two men who were sitting next to me got off a few stops before me and the handicapped one gave me an awkward high-five. I smiled and said good bye. I went back and sat where they had been sitting and the woman I had given up my seat to apologized. I’m not sure why but possibly because she thought the handicapped man was bothering me. “Not a problem,” I said. “It’s okay.” And I meant it. I may never totally fit in here in Korea, but I do enjoy being a part of things anyway.
By the way, a few days ago, I posted something called The Mystery on the Bus, recounting another experience I had on a bus coming home from school. I asked people what they thought was going on. The first virtual high-five is for Carmelita, for the wackiest idea (I almost wish it were true), and the second is for EadesyBeadsy, for what I think is the most likely answer. Good job!
This is a true story, just to put that out there right away. I was on the bus a few days ago, coming home from school. In Korea, there are no school buses, so most high school students use the city buses. My bus was crowded with students and although I had a seat, it was just a solid wall of people in front of me.
I was looking out the window when another bus passed us. That bus driver looked at our bus and his mouth formed a perfect “O” of surprise. I was just wondering what he could have been looking at when a second bus passed. That bus driver looked over with a wide grin on his face and actually took his hands off the wheel while driving to applaud. I have no idea what they were reacting to, but it was intriguing.
So, help me out: what do you think they were looking at? The best answer in comments wins a virtual high-five.
This is a true story. It happened yesterday. I feel I should put that out there right away, since this is a fiction blog. But even in real life, interesting things can happen.
This weekend, I went up to the Seoul area with my wife. We went up to find an abandoned mental hospital that’s been closed for about 20 years, which is apparently one of the creepiest places in Korea. We were planning on exploring it at night. However, when we got there, we found the road leading to it blocked with a pretty imposing gate and barbed wire.
I think I can jump that.
However, we had traveled many hours to get there and we decided to try a more lateral approach. A little ways up the road was another road that branched off into a small valley parallel to the one the hospital was in. It had rained heavily and the road was more or less a rushing stream. Our shoes were quickly damp.
We soon came to a farm, which we realized pretty quickly was abandoned. After an abortive attempt at climbing over the ridge to the hospital, we went back and looked around the house.
It was odd, to say the least. It was clearly abandoned–the front door was smashed in–and there was a lot of weather damage inside. Still, it looked as if the people had literally just gotten up and left. There were family photos hanging on the walls, clothes in the closet, dishes still sitting in the drying rack by the sink.
The house was totally furnished, but totally abandoned at the same time.
I didn’t try on any of the clothes.
It would have felt like we had just broken into someone’s house, except that it was clear it had not been used in a long time. The calendar on the wall said January, 2011.
I took a picture of the mirror to see if a ghost would appear in the photograph. But alas.
We speculated about why the house had been left like this, although most of my theories were too mundane for my wife’s liking. It seemed to have belonged a retired couple, the husband of which had been a lawyer, based on all the law books around. Of course, why they came out to a farm, I don’t know, especially one with a huge warehouse of old mattresses, couches and chairs in it. And why didn’t they take things that would have had sentimental value, like this huge family photo over the fireplace? Even if they had both died, you would think that their children would have taken care of things.
It showed a lot of moisture damage. Then there was this long-dead houseplant.
In the end, we didn’t touch anything or take anything, just looked around and left. As much as I would like to know what had happened there, that would take a lot more poking into the piles of documents and other things that had been left and that would have seemed strange. The juxtaposition of the almost completely furnished house and the totally abandonment of the place made it seem both like we were in a ruin and in an occupied house. But who knows? If I ever find out the story, I’ll let you know.
(I also made a video, which I will share tomorrow, if I can get a chance to post it.)
In this Decide Your Quest story, The Mystery of the Missing Amulet, you were a police officer assigned to guard an estate auction. During the auction, an ancient Egyptian amulet was stolen. The beautiful granddaughter of the deceased, Brittany, had tried to steal it but she had grabbed the wrong thing because of her eyesight. You also find that she is addicted to danger. Your investigations lead you to Wombat Joe’s Grizzly Bear Emporium and an employee there, Midnight Gillespie. You retrieve the amulet and Gillespie is arrested. Last week, the viewers voted to ask Brittany out because although she’s addicted to danger, at least she’s hot.
The Mystery of the Missing Amulet: Epilogue
“Brittany, would you go out with me sometime?” you ask.
“Oh yeah,” she says. “I love a man in uniform.”
“This isn’t just the danger addiction thing, is it?”
“No, not at all.” She glances down at your holster. “Does that pistol have a safety switch on it?”
“Yes, of course!”
She sighs. “I see. Pity.”
You date her for a few months and eventually ask her to marry you. You get married but then she joins the professional bear-jitsu circuit and she is away from home a lot. This is fine with you though since she keeps putting cobras in the closet and slipping bits of broken glass in the food. Love is tough sometimes.
Midnight Gillespie is sentenced to five years in prison until the judge takes pity on him for his sheer stupidity and lightens the sentence to house arrest. Even there, he inadvertently gets locked in a closet and spends much of the sentence in self-imposed solitary confinement.
Joe Wombat’s Grizzly Bear Emporium is shut down for being a horrible place for the bears to live. They are scheduled to be returned to the wild, until someone points out that they do not know how to survive in the wild anymore. So, instead they are released into the New York City subway tunnels and forgotten about. This causes a drastic drop in the rat and pigeon populations in the city and despite the occasional bear attack in Central Park, everyone is much happier.
I hope this installment of Decide Your Quest was fun to read, since it was fun to write. I will probably do another one at some point, although not right away. In any case, what type of story would you like to read and participate in next?
This is the sixth and final chapter of my Decide Your Quest story, The Mystery of the Missing Amulet. In the last story,you go to Wombat Joe’s Grizzly Bear Emporium and find Midnight Gillespie, who has the amulet. He throws it into the bear pit and you jump in and grab it. You dodge them with your ballet knowledge and Brittany knocks them out with bear-jitsu. Midnight Gillespie takes off in a helicopter. Last week the readers voted for you to shake your fist in impotent rage.
The Mystery of the Missing Amulet, Chapter 6: Everything Wrapped Up
You shake your fist in impotent rage at the retreating helicopter. Probably best since there was nothing appropriate to throw at him.
“He’s getting away!” Brittany yells. “Why didn’t you throw the baby grizzly at him?” You’re rather shocked she would even think of such a thing.
“You know, I’m not sure why I’m doing this all on my own,” you say. “I’m going to call back to headquarters.”
You call back to police headquarters and get roundly yelled at by the lieutenant for not reporting in earlier. However, he grudgingly accept your story about the theft and promise to send a police helicopter out to find Midnight Gillespie.
You go back to the police station with Brittany to make out your report, although you neglect to mention that Brittany had been attempting to steal the amulet all along.
The next day you find out that Midnight Gillespie has been arrested. He had gotten away in a local TV news helicopter after he promised to give them an exclusive on who stole the amulet, effectively confessing to the crime and giving himself up.
Your lieutenant describes him as “an incredibly dim individual and the worst criminal I have ever seen.” He goes on to add that “only a series of freakish events and a colossal amount of incompetence on the part of the guard and auction house staff could result in Midnight Gillespie successfully committing any crime.” Apparently the bear hair and his name tag left at the scene were accidental.
However, then he commends you for regaining the amulet and your suicidal bravery in leaping into the bear pit. For some reason, he likes it when you do suicidal things.
“You’re one special officer, sonny boy,” he says in an avuncular way. “I’m promoting you back to the rank of Rookie, from the special rank of Sub-Rookie we had to demote you to after that . . . unpleasantness last year with the mayor and the K-9 unit.”
“Thank you,” you say, saluting. There is no medal, but he does let you take the special Sub-Rookie badge of shame off your uniform.
Brittany is waiting outside for you. “Well, hot stuff. I guess we made it. It’s almost dinner time. Can I take you out on a date?”
Hmm, she is pretty hot, but on the other hand, she’s got some pretty big issues. Big, scary, exciting issues.
Chapter 5 of my Decide Your Quest story, The Mystery of the Missing Amulet. In the last story,you go to Wombat Joe’s Grizzly Bear Emporium and find Midnight Gillespie, who has the amulet. He throws it into the bear pit. Last week the readers voted for you to jump into the bear pit to retrieve the amulet before the bears ate it.
The Mystery of the Missing Amulet, Chapter 5: Bear-jitsu
There isn’t a moment to lose. Your boss always says that the best thing about you is your willingness to do something insanely stupid without thinking. You leap into the bear pit without another thought, landing next to the amulet a second before the bears reach it. You snatch it up and then dodge a swipe from a bear paw that undoubtedly would have disemboweled you.
You are surrounded by hungry grizzly bears. A large female charges and you dance to the side, ducking under another and pirouetting around a third before making a flying leap over the biggest male. Apparently those ballet lessons your mother made you take when you were small were worth all the emotional scarring.
Someone lands in the pen beside you. It’s Brittany and you can tell by the fire in her eyes that she is in heaven.
“This is awesome!” she screams. “I haven’t been in this much danger since the Bleach ‘n’ Piranha Water Polo Classic.”
“Get out of here unless you know ballet,” you shout, pulling a complicated evasive arabesque.
She doesn’t know ballet, it seems, but it also doesn’t seem to matter as Brittany explodes on the bears, becoming a tornado of fists and flying head kicks. A minute later and all the grizzly bears except one baby (because seriously, who kicks a baby bear?) are lying stunned on the ground.
“How in the world did you—”
“Bear-jitsu,” she says. “I’m only a rainbow belt, but I think I did okay. You got the amulet?”
“Yeah, it’s right here,” you say.
At that moment, you hear a helicopter above you. A ladder is let down and Midnight Gillespie leaps on.
Chapter 4 of my Decide Your Quest story, The Mystery of the Missing Amulet. In the last story,you found that Brittany, the granddaughter of the former owner of the amulet, tried to steal it but since her eyesight is so bad, she accidentally stole the auctioneer’s gavel. You found grizzly bear hair, a brochure for Wombat Joe’s Grizzly Bear Emporium and a nametag that said Midnight Gillespie. The readers voted for you to go to Wombat Joe’s to investigate.
The Mystery of the Missing Amulet, Chapter 4: Bear’s Ahoy!
You decide to go check out Wombat Joe’s Grizzly Bear Emporium. It’s almost 5 pm already and according to your sources (Google), it closes at 5:30.
“I think we should go to Wombat Joe’s,” Brittany says.
“I was thinking the same thing,” you say.
“We should go wrestle the bears,” she says.
You weren’t thinking that at all. “Is this part of your danger addiction?” She nods.
You drive over to Wombat Joe’s Grizzly Bear Emporium, getting there after it closes. The emporium is like a huge park, where the visitors walk on walkways over the bears. Signs instruct visitors to taunt the bears as much as they want and throw food.
“Bears are not fed a regular diet and subsist only on dropped hot dogs and lollipops,” one sign reads. “Please be generous. But also, watch your kids and pets.”
“Come on,” Brittany says. She starts to climb over the fence.
“Wait!” you whisper. Someone is just coming out of the main building. He looks like an employee. “I’m going to go charm him,” you say to Brittany.
“Excuse me, sir!” you call out, walking over to him. The man jerks his head up and gives you a look like a trapped hyena. “You’re looking very fine this evening,” you continue. “I’m looking for a man named Midnight Gillespie—”
The man punches you in the face and flees back into the building. Son of a Tim Tam! That really hurt! You run after the man, who luckily did not get a chance to lock the door after him. Out of the corner of your eye, you see that Brittany has gotten her dress tangled in the top of the fence.
You follow the fleeing figure along several suspended walkways until he is trapped in a corner of the park. Underneath, you can see (and smell) the bears quite well. They are only a few feet below you.
“Are you Midnight Gillespie?” you ask, panting for air.
“Is that what my nametag says?” the man jeers.
“You’re not wearing one,” you say and pull out the nametag you have from the crime scene. “I think this is yours. Now, did you steal the amulet from the auction?”
“I didn’t touch any amulet,” the man says. Immediately, in direct contradiction to his words, he pulls out the amulet from his pocket and throws it over the side. Three bears run for it immediately. What should you do?
Chapter 3 of my Decide Your Quest story, The Mystery of the Missing Amulet. In the last story, the amulet up for auction was stolen and you, the main character, saw Brittany and an auction house assistant running away from the scene. The readers voted for you to chase after Brittany.
The Mystery of the Missing Amulet, Chapter 3: Brittany’s Secret
You sprint after Brittany’s retreating form. She must be scared, the poor dear. She’s running pretty fast, almost like she’s had training.
She rounds a corner and you see her run straight into a plaster bust of Kim Jong-il that’s sitting in the hallway. Pieces of Dear Leader go flying everywhere.
Maybe she’s not such a great runner after all.
“Are you okay?” you ask, running up. She’s lying there, stunned. “Hey, are you tired? Because you’ve been running through . . . the halls all night.” You abruptly abort your pickup line as she glares at you.
“Just help me up, would you?” she snaps. You pull her out from among the fragments of plaster and notice she is holding one hand behind her back. It must be her purse.
“Do you want me to hold your purse while you get dusted off?” you ask, holding out your hand.
She sighs. “You don’t have to play stupid with me. Alright, I’ll confess. I stole the amulet.”
You stare at her in utter shock. You hadn’t expected that at all. Britanny takes her hand from behind her back.
“Here’s the amulet. Just arrest me if you’re going to.”
“This is the auctioneer’s gavel.”
“Not again!” she cries. “I swear I’m as blind as a bat wearing sunglasses in a mineshaft. I have glasses but I never wear them.”
“I like danger. I’m addicted to it,” Brittany says. “That’s why I wanted to keep my grandfather’s cursed artifacts, even though my family decided to auction them off. And that’s why I stole the amulet.”
“But you didn’t steal the amulet,” you say. “You stole a gavel.”
“Then someone else must have taken it.”
“Let’s go back to the scene. There might be a Clue there.” You are a great believer in Clues. You put the gavel in your pocket and lead the way back to the auction room.
The room is deserted. You get out your magnifying glass and look around the platform. You find three strands of grizzly bear hair, a pamphlet for Joe Wombat’s Grizzly Bear Emporium, and a name tag for an employee of the emporium named Midnight Gillespie.
“I think,” you say slowly, “that the culprit works at Joe Wombat’s Grizzly Bear Emporium.”
“Don’t you think there’s a bit too much evidence?” Brittany says. “It seems a bit obvious.”
“That’s true, although the culprit probably knows that and so is giving us a lot of clues so we’ll think they’re not real.”
“I don’t have time for this,” Brittany says. She turns brusquely on her heel and walks into a wall.
As you rush to her aid, you ponder what your next move should be.
This is Chapter 2 of my Decide Your Quest story, The Mystery of the Missing Amulet. In the last story, you, the main character, accidentally bid 150,000 dollars for an old Egyptian amulet. The readers voted for you to retract the bid and explain the mistake.
The Mystery of the Missing Amulet, Chapter 2: The Theft
You know you have to retract the bid: $150,000 is like ten years’ salary for you.
“I didn’t mean to bid,” you mumble.
“I’m sorry, sir,” the auctioneer says, “did you just say you want to raise your bid?”
You turn to Brittany to explain, when she puts a hand on your arm. “That was a noble gesture,” she says, “especially with the curse that is on that amulet. I’m so happy you’re going to buy it though.” She bats her eyelashes. She’s batting a thousand in your book.
“I’m just going to go talk to them about means of payment,” you say in a hoarse voice and walk quickly to the front.
“I wasn’t trying to bid,” you whisper to the auctioneer. He gives you a hard stare that reminds you of that one teacher from high school that still gives you nightmares. Yeah, you know the one. You start to fidget with your gun.
Oops, you forgot to put the safety on when you were playing with it before and you just shot a hole in the floor. The assembled crowd of dignitaries and millionaires all start to scream like little girls and stampede towards the back of the room.
The auctioneer faints at the sheer impropriety of everything and you rush to try to catch him, except that your finger gets caught in the trigger and you shoot another hole in the floor. The auctioneer hits the ground pretty hard.
You turn and see that the amulet is gone. An auction house assistant is running off the stage to the left, talking on a cell phone. Brittany is running off the stage to the right.
She runs pretty well in that dress.
Pretty well indeed.
You slap yourself. This is the time for action. What should you do?