Posted by: wrmcnutt | February 16, 2012

How the King Lost His Feet

This is a play I wrote many years ago now.  It’s actually a puppet show.  I wrote it for the “Iron Laurel” arts competition at an SCA event back in the day.  The goal was to take a box of random stuff, and believe you me, it was random, add whatever you brought, and create Art within a limited period of time.

As puppets have traditionally been made out of whatever castoffs the puppeteer can find, they are well suited to this competition.  So – without further ado:

How the King Lost His Feet

By Master William McNaughton

And Other People Too Embarrassed to Claim This

Concept by Master Saher Faux

 Narrator: 

And now, for our Feeture Presentation . . .

Once Upon a Time, in the happy, sunshine filled Kingdom of Merdies there was a great king.  I really great king.  You know in the biblical sense.  Good King Fundament was sooo great that when he sat around the castle, he sat AROUND the castle.

Each day, just after sunrise [Raise sun]  he would break his fast in quiet contemplation of his greatness.

King Fundament:

Boy, it’s great to be the king.

Narrator:

But today would be different.  A dark day.

King Fundament:

But this is Meridies. The sun is shining.

Narrator:

Hush, now.  We need to get along with the story.

King Fundament:

Right.  Sorry.

Narrator:

After he finished his scrapple, Good King Fundament looked down and was aghast at his discovery!

King Fundament:

Gasp!

Narrator:

For as he looked down, King Fundament beheld a shortage.  An absence of presence as it were.  His companions from his childhood were gone.  His two best friends were missing.  That is to say, they were not in hand.

King Fundament:

My feet!  Someone has stolen my feet!

Narrator:

Feet?  But . . . . .

King Fundament:

Now YOU hush.  I’m only gone to go along with so much for the sake of a joke.

Narrator:

All right, all right.  So, King Fundament in his grief, bewailed his loss.

King Fundament:

Wail!

Narrator:

But Fundament, like all kings of Meridies, was a man of action!  He lept off of his couch and  . . .

Fundament:

They can see me, you know.

Narrator:

Yes, I know.  But I’m a narrator and I get paid by the word.

Fundament:

Right.

Narrator:

Right.  So he leapt off of his couch and called for the greatest of his knights.  Like the good king, the premiere chevalier of the Kingdom was a great man.  A really Great man.  A man of some parts.  A man of some prominence.  A man of gravity, who lent his weight to . . .

Fundament:

All right!  They get he point.  Duke Sir Sweatsox!  Get your white belted keister in here!

Sweatsox:

Yes, my king?

Fundament:

Sweatsox! There’s been a theft! My two best friends have been taken!

Sweatsox:

You mean . . . .

Fundament:

No, you idiot!  Someone has stolen my feet!

Sweatsox:

What happened?

Fundament:

I just looked down, and there they weren’t.

Sweatsox:

Like this?  Ahhh!  Great Leaping Loops of Duct Tape!

Fundament:

What’s the matter?

Sweatsox:

By the rattan, someone’s stolen my feet, too!  Wadda we do your Majesty!  Wadda we do?  If we don’t have any feet, we can’t be Knights in good standing.

Fundament:

Calm yourself, Sweatsox.  We’re both Knights, right?

Sweatsox:

Right.

Fundament:

And so when Knights have to look for something, we do what?

Sweatsox:

Make our squires do it?

Fundament:

Right, we make our . . . no no no!  We go on a quest!

Sweatsox:

Of course, a quest.  We travel, see the world, and maybe find what we’re looking for.

Fundament:

Right.  And if we don’t, at least we have the opportunity for cheap laughs at the expense of the other peerages.

Narrator:

And so it came to pass that King Fundament and Duke Sir Sweatsox sallied forth on the Quest for the King’s Missing Feet.  Onward they journeyed, across trackless wastelands of Ansteorra, over the burning deserts of Atvenvelt, beyond the frozen tundra of Aeldormere . . .  Together they endured harsh conditions, great privation, and the depredations of savage beasts, and dangerous men.

Sweatsox:

Do you feel the slightest impulse to keep up with the narration?

Fundament:

Not in the slightest.

Narrator:

Weenies.  Ahem Until at last, one day, they chanced upon a Pelican busily sorting her underwear by date and color.

Fundament:

Excuse me, milady but . . .

Fussbudget:

Oooh.  Now look.  You’ve made me lose count.  Well, since people are watching . . . . I am Mistress Fussbudget.  How may I be of service.

Sweatsox:

Someone has stolen our feet.  Have you seen them anywhere?

Fussbudget:

Well, no.  I haven’t seen any extra feet around here, but I wonder . . .

Fundament:

Yes?  What do you wonder?

Fussbudget:

Well, it’s just that, I seem to be missing something, too.

Fundament:

Oh, really?

Fussbudget:

Well I just noticed the other day, well, really, someone just pointed out, that is to say . . . .

Fundament:

Get to the point!

Fussbudget:

It seems that I can’t find my own, uh, rear, even if I use both hands, in broad daylight.

Fundament:

Then you shall join us on our quest.  Leave the underwear to be sorted by protégé’s!

Narrator:

And so King Fundament, Duke Sir Sweatsox, and Mistress Fussbudget journeyed on, over stormy seas to the Kingdom of Dracenwald, back again through dangerous waters and savage sea monsters to Atlantia, until they returned to the Northeastern Boarder of Merides.

Fussbudget:

You know, I rather like it here.  It’s peaceful.  Almost serene.  As though we were nearing a place of knowledge and wisdom.

Sweatsox:

I smell flowers.  That scent.  What kind of scent is that?

Fundament:

I think that that’s the sweet odor of Mountain Laurel.

Enter Mistress  Wisdom

Wisdom:

Welcome fair travelers, to our humble Barony.  All who seek wisdom may find their art here.

Sweatsox:

We aren’t seeking wisdom, we want our feet.

Fussbudget:

We wouldn’t be adverse to finding ourselves a little behind, either.

Fundament:

Are you, in truth, one of the Mountain Laurels we’ve heard tell about?  The legendary fonts of knowledge and wisdom?

Wisdom:

You’re too kind.  Actually, you’re all kinds.  But I digress.  Here in the Northeast we make no pretensions to great knowledge or wisdom, but we can occasionally make note of the obvious.

Fundament:

We are on a quest.

Sweatsox:

A quest!

Fussbudget:

A quest!

Fundament:

Someone has stolen our feet!  Oh, and Fussbudget needs a piece of tail.

Fussbudget:

Hey!

Wisdom will now examine Fussbudget, Sweatsox, and Fundament, and note where each puppet falls short.

Wisdom:

Ah.  Something’s afoot.  And I do see your little behind!

Fundament, Fussbudget and Sweatsox:

What!  Where?  Who?  When?  Which?

Wisdom:

Fear not. I think that we can help you.  Wait here.  I must repair to the Temple of Art and Wisdom, But I Repeat Myself.

Wisdom now moves off stage

Sweatsox:

So, who was this Art guy that they would build a temple to him, anyway.

Fundament:

Art was the first Saxon King of Britain after the Romans left.

Sweatsox:

Right, right.  Sorry.

Wisdom Returns.

Wisdom:

Please meet my apprentice, Lord. Hands.

Two hands wearing green wristbands show up.

Wisdom:

He doesn’t say much, but he’s handy to have around.

Lord Hands ties a bumroll to Mistress Fussbudget

Wisdom:

Tush-tush, my dear Mistress Fussbudget, nothing is fundamentally unsound here here.  You have simply worked half of it off.  But . . . .  There are many Peers who are greater asses than you.   But they do have something you haven’t.  A bumroll.  So from now on, remember:  when ever you feel like you’ve worked your ass off, just go out and tie one on!

Lord Hands ties a pair of point-toed shoes on Sir Sweatsox.

Wisdom:

Duke Sir Sweatsox, your um greatness, has, er, overshadowed your other feets.  Other Peers put their feet in their mouths with little or no effort.  And they have no more feet that you do.  But they have one thing that you haven’t.  The order of the Golden Arches.

Lord Hands ties a pair of pointy-toed shoes on King Fundament

Wisdom:

Your Magesty, it boots well that you are on a quest.  For a just and honorable king, can never truly be de-feeted.  Other Kings have achieved your prominence and have been just as outstanding. But they have one thing that you haven’t.  A really good pair.

Fundament:

Don’t go there.  I said we weren’t going there in scene one.  Oh, wait, never mind.

Sweatsox:

What have you learned, Sire.

King Fundament:

I’ve learned that just because something is beyond your reach doesn’t mean it isn’t there, and that there is no joke so cheap that a puppet troupe won’t exploit it.

Sung By All Cast:

Love me tendon, love me feet,
There’s no pun too low.
There’s no joke that we won’t do,
No place we won’t go!

Ol’ Thor’s Mountain’s number one,
Our art is really neat,
Puppet shows are our turf,
Grey Niche shall know de-feet!

Posted by: wrmcnutt | January 18, 2012

Treadmilling

UT Cardio Vascular Institute

UT Cardio Vascular Institute

It’s hard to believe it, but it’s been about ten weeks since I’ve written anything about my heart issues and my recovery.  Mostly it’s been because I can’t imagine you being interested in hearing that “I went to the Cardio-Vascular Recovery Center again today.  As an athlete, I still suck, but I got a tiny, but noticeable bit better than last time,” over and over again.  But that’s what’s happened.  Since I completed my home-bound convalescence I have attended twenty one workouts over seven weeks, missing a total of five:  one because I over-scheduled myself that afternoon, and three because of various holiday closing that had the Recovery Center closed.  I have five sessions to go.  By a strange coincidence, my recovery period will be over on the exact same day that my insurance coverage for supervised recover runs out.  I’m shocked.  Shocked and appalled.  But talking about how health insurance works is a whole ‘nother day.

The procedure works as follows: 1) Weigh in.  This is the time that I make it a point to leave my shoes and electronics on the bench.  I home I weigh naked, but I’m guessing the staff and clients at the Recover Center don’t want to see me in my altogether.  2) Once I’m weighed in, I select a three lead heart monitor and hook up, announcing to the trainer at the computer that I’m “On the air.”  She checks my heart rate and then dispatches someone to  check my blood pressure.  Once that’s done, the workout begins.

My current circuit is:

  1. 6 –  minute brisk walk on the walking track
  2. 7 – minute run on the treadmill, 3.9 mph, 2.5 degree incline
  3. 6 – minute arm crank, 30 watts
  4. 6 – minute step-up, 6″ tall doing simultaneous two-hand curls with five pound weights
  5. 7 – minute run on the treadmill, 3.9 mph, 2.5 degree incline
  6. 6 – minute cycle on the air-bike, resistance 3
  7. 7 – minute cycle on the reclining Nustep – resistance 7, 160 watts
  8. 5 – minute cool down.

They monitor my heart rate the entire time. Mostly I’m left to my own devices, but today we had a little excitement.  Apparently a heart rate of 165 is considered “excessive” by certain authorities, and I got told to dial it back during my second session on the treadmill.  I’m still getting slightly funny looks from my trainers.  I’ll get up on the equipment and light it up (for a fat middle-aged cardiac patient) and they’ll take my blood pressure:  120/80.  Utterly normal.

After ten weeks of this, I’ve made considerable progress.  I’ve lost about six pounds and have gone from walking at three miles an hour for six minutes at zero incline to running at four miles an hour for seven minutes at a 2.5 degree incline. For a heart patient, I’m weird.  I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating.  While I technically have “heart disease,” my issues are with the nerves that drive my heart not tracking the proper signals.  I have no blockage, tears, or muscle damage.  We afib patients are unusual among cardiac patents that way.  Perhaps the most important thing about all of this is that since I’ve started, the monitoring team hasn’t seen a single “off” rhythm.  Straight, normal sinus rhythm, no matter how hard I load myself up.

You find your silver linings where you can, and the fact that I’m in a cardiac recovery unit at 48 is not good.  But at least I’m in the recovery unit.  Moreover, for the first time in a long time, I’m not just “the new guy.”  I’m the young guy.  My fellow patients call me “the kid.”  I’m also the strong one, the flexible one, and the fast one.  And that’s kind of fun.  Until I remember that the reason I’m running with this particular pack is because there was something wrong with me that got a twenty-year head start on me.  And then killed me.

My youngest fellow patient’s easily got 20 years on me. They’re recovering from blocked artieries, multiple by passes, open heart surgery, stents and a host of other procedures that have left them a wreck.  They’ve got chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, peripheral artery disease, and plain ol’ “bad hearts.”  The men around me, and it’s mostly men, women number about 5% of us, were soldiers, sailors, cops, and athletes.  There’s even a couple of Marines I see from time to time.  Most left that kind of work behind and became successful businessmen and teachers at the University.  Many are wealthy.  All are lucky.

And they envy ME.

I’ve got a pretty accurate self-image.  I’m carrying 50 – 70 pounds too much weight.  I have a receding hairline, I’m thinning on top, and I have more chins than the Hong-Kong telephone directory. I’m not only middle-aged, but I’m in the middle of middle age.  Youth and athletic prowess are just a memory.  And, rose-colored glasses aside, I never had that much prowess to begin with.  But I do remember the guy I was when I was twenty.  I also remember the guy I was when I was thirty.  And I envy the guys I used to be.  I’m working hard now to do things that I could have done casually ten or twenty years ago.  Hell, I envy the guy I was when I was 40, and HE thought he was fat and old.

With all of that running against me, they envy me.  I’m not projecting.  I’ve been told that more than once in recent weeks.  All of these alpha-male types around me, decorated veterans and wealthy industrialists, want to be like ME.  Able to run a lousy 7 minutes at 3.8 miles an hour, up a 2.5 degree slope.

Sobering.  Humbling.

There’s a lesson here somewhere.

Posted by: wrmcnutt | January 17, 2012

The Keys to the Kingdom

If you know her, please tell her I’d like to contact her.  Back in 1970, her name was Miss Childs.  Like Miss Othmar before her, she may be married now, and have a “married name,” but in the real world she will always and forever be Miss Childs.  But be careful with the name, for if you speak it in my presence, you will take off your hat, and you will speak the name with respect.

She will be easy to recognize.  Her hair is platinum blonde; the color of a freshly honed dagger edge.  The color of her eyes have been lost to me in the passing of the years, but they are deep as the blackest night between galaxies and as warm as freshly mixed cocoa in front of  crackling fire.  If I recall correctly, she stands about nine feet tall.  But despite that, her statuesque beauty is rivaled only by her academic genius.  By her will do the tides roll in and out on schedule.  In her name, does the sun rise to warm us and the rain fall to group the crops that feed us. When she speaks, all nature stops to wonder.

With all due regard to my mother, and eternal love and affection for my lady wife,  Miss Childs remains the single most influential person in my life.  She taught first grade at Skyland Park Elementary School.

All the things I know.  All the skills I have.  The philosophies and thoughts the guide my decisions.  The friends I know, online and off.  All these things she gave to me.

You see – she taught me to read.

Yea Gods.  I remember the day and the hour.  I came to her knowing the alphabet, and by custom and by law, she was forced to inflict Phonics on me.  And we plowed through it.  I memorized words and phrases.

Yeah, yeah – I “see Spot run.”  Yes, I will “Look, look,” and “See Jane.”  Big, fat, hairy deal.  This was BORING.

And then, one day, “Today class, we are going to learn a new word.  Remember that you can tell who is speaking because the words are printed next to them?  Well now we’re using a new work, ‘said.’  Now we just look to see who ‘said’ something.”

It was like being hit in the head with a kickball.  You could almost hear the traces snapping as I broke them and read ahead.  Poor Miss Childs NEVER had my full attention again, because there was always a book in my lap.  Text books?  Workbooks?  Read and gone.  The tiny library at the back of the room? Blown through by the end of the school year.  At the end of the year I could read like a fourth-grader, and I never slowed down.

Knowledge is power.  Sheer, raw, unaldulterated power – to make of myself what ever I chose, and to make over my corner of the worlds as I see fit.  And she just gave it to me, without hesitation or reservation.

Thank you Miss Childs, wherever you are.

Posted by: wrmcnutt | November 11, 2011

Veteran’s Day

This was, I think, my very best essay. I can’t think of any way to improve it.

https://willstuff.wordpress.com/2009/11/11/the-eleventh-hour-of-the-eleventh-day-of-the-eleventh-month/

Posted by: wrmcnutt | October 25, 2011

Mortality

If you’re a regular reader, you already know that I’ve just recently come through heart surgery.  I had a surgical ablation that went all squirrely and involved a full-on cardiac arrest.  After that I had a series of atrial fibrillation with pauses of increasing duration.  And by pause I mean that my heart stopped and five second later I lost consciousness.  I came through it okay.  I’ve got some scarring, a persistent cough, and stamina issues, but I improve every day.

In fact, I improve so much that my experience is beginning to feel like it was just a nightmare.  I catch myself doing something normal – washing dishes, putting away laundry, reading e-mail, and then think, “How can this be so normal?  Six weeks ago, I was in pieces.  A week after that I could barely move, and I had all manner of medical devices implanted in my person.  Now, I just get out of breath going up stairs and have a little cough.”

I keep coming back to that – how things be so normal?

But there’s one other thing I’ve not yet gotten rid of. I’m fine during the day.  But at night, in between the time that I stop reading and turn off the light and the time I fall asleep, I listen to my heart beat.  I listen to my heart beat, and I wait for it to stop.  Again.

I lie there in the dark, listening to my heart, and realizing that I’m getting older.  I’m slower.  I’m weaker.  My organs are beginning to fail me.  Oh, sure.  I’ve got a goodly amount of time left in the sun.  Even when I run my own calendar down, I’ll be able to hide behind technology for a few years.  But there’s no way around it.  In the dark, alone with my thoughts, in the silence of the night, I try to face it:

I. Am. Going. To. Die.

Oh, not tonight, or this week, or this month.  But someday, and probably not by misadventure. Sorry.  I know it’s self centered of me, but I consider this to be an enormous realization.

You’re probably thinking that, at 48, this should not be news to me.  I mean, after all, we learn about mortality as a small child when our first guppy dies, and it’s rubbed in when we have to bury the family dog at twelve.   We go to our grandparents funerals in our teens, and our parents in our forties or fifties.  But it’s one thing to understand something intellectually.  It’s another entirely to internalize it; to accept it emotionally and make it apart of your identity.  And that’s what I’m trying to do, this time.

My very first experience with mortality as an adult, guppies and kitties not withstanding, was the passing of William Blackfox, a noted caricature artist in the SCA.  I used to pass his booth at Pennsic every year, thinking I’d like to get a portrait.  They weren’t expensive, and didn’t take that long.  But I was always trying to get to the battlefield, or it was dinner time, or a host of other excuses.  But I really did want a portrait.  And then he died.  I thought there would be time.  Then there was the passing of my friend Amy.  Amy was just a few years older than me, and overweight.  But, I thought, in generally good health.  Looking back it was clear that she had been keeping her health issues private.  In any case, she had some surgery, and was convalescing at home.  She posted to a mutual discussion list that she was feeling better and stronger, and would be online more now that she could get downstairs to where the computer was.  The next day a close friend of hers posted that she was dead.  I was gob-smacked.  Amy and I shared interested in Elizabethan England, modern sailing, and the golden age of sail.  There were many movies I had wanted to share with her and many conversations I planned to have.  I though there would be time.  Then it got even more intimate.   Back when I had my motorcycle accident, I ran into this, but I think I managed to cram it into a mental drawer and pretend it wasn’t there.  It got closer when I buried my Dad.  My Mom’s passing, while significant, didn’t hit me as hard as Dad’s.  Probably because I was Dad’s caretaker, and was deeply involved in his daily life.  Mom lived out of state, under my sister’s care.

I. Am. Going. To .Die.

I’d like to say “been there, done that,” and I probably will from time to time, but it’s bravado.  You see, I don’t remember seeing the other side.  I was only gone for eight seconds, but you’d think that would be enough time to at least see the white light and hear at least one deal relative beckon.  But I didn’t get to see the light, nor Jesus and the garden.  What I remember is being told, “we’re staring the anesthetic” and then being asked “how are you feeling?”  And nothing in between.

I’m afraid that my faith has taken a little bit of a hit.  The question of “what comes next” is something I’m not gonna try to answer here.  A whole lot smarter guys than me have tried to answer it.  But I’ve peeked behind the veil, and I saw . . . nothing.

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