Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Kingdom of Butterball: The King, the Croc and the Minotaur, Part 4

Keeping his head above water, the King was able to watch the rest of the race. The giant finally got smart and used his height to his advantage, cracking the troll on the head and knocking him out cold, so he could go and strike the gong. While the python snapped at the Brownies with his teeth and lashed out at them with his tail, his efforts were fruitless—soon the Brownies had him tied up in a knot, and his snaky skin was not armor enough against their little javelins. The giant who had fought the troll lumbered over and untied the python, completely ignoring the Brownies’ attacks, and threw the python at the gong. The black water snake plunged in to the swamp as soon as he heard the gong. In no time, the snake was neck to neck with the King.

“You seem quite fit for your age,” the water snake commented.

“I like to think that I keep my body working,” the King replied.

But it was evident after a few minutes that he was not as fit as he once was. The snake began to get the best of him, and the King fell behind several feet. Tempting as it was to drop his sword--it was quite inhibiting to his strokes--he knew he needed to keep it in hand.

"Hey Daddy--catch!"

Soon, a bright yellow blob landed in front of him. It was tied to a rope that his three daughters all held tightly. "We'll pull you to shore! We're allowed to help you, remember?"

The King reached out and grasped the bright yellow blob--it was a circular tube--and began kicking harder with his legs. His daughters ran back from the shore line, pulling as hard as they could. Soon, he passed the snake, and reached the shore in no time. The King jumped up and struck the great gong.

The note sounded sure and clear.

Giles’ whistle to signal the end of the contest could not be heard above the whoops and hollers of the Crocs, or the bellows of rage coming from the Minotaur. Princess Buttercup sounded the gong again to gain the audience’s attention. They politely silenced, but continued to wave their tails in the air. Giles bowed to the Minotaur, the Great Croc, and King of Butterball, who was now standing beside the Great Croc, wet as he was.

“Your Majesties—it would seem that the King of Butterball and his royal daughters have fairly won the contest, based on the conditions laid forth by the Great Croc and the Minotaur. As a result, the Minotaur relinquishes his hold on the Croc’s Bottleneck, and returns the jurisdiction to the Croc People, and will not contest the matter of ownership any further. If he provokes the matter again, he will be dealt with as a law breaker, as the Protocol for Breaking Laws prescribes.”

The Minotaur bowed to the Great Croc in acknowledgement. “My troops shall be withdrawn immediately. The two Butterball knights shall be released. Congratulations on a good contest.” He then bowed to the King of Butterball. “I commend you on your swimming abilities.”

“Gee, thanks!” the King bowed back.

While the Great Croc and the Minotaur continued their discussion of details, the King went over to look at the yellow blob that the Princesses had thrown to him in the water. It was made of some sort of bendy substance, and filled with air. "Where did you find this thing?" he asked his daughters.

"It was in your bag," Princess Buttercup replied. "Bryce found it. You were certainly in the middle of an emergency, so we pulled the tabs as instructed and the thing filled with air. We figured it would float, so threw it to you. Do you know if its really used for that?"


The King, his daughters, and the two knights arrived back at the castle just as the sun was setting, much to Queen’s joy. She rang for the Princess’ favorite dinner to be prepared immediately—macaroni and cheese, with broccoli, and grapes for dessert, with the skin removed. The knights unfortunately had to decline the Queen’s invitation to join the party—there had been a bombardier beetle sighting at a farm just outside of Hockham, and the farmer was worried about the well-being of his harvest of hay, which he had just put in his barns for winter. While the princesses waited for the dinner treat, they recounted the day’s adventure to their mother, lauding their father’s bravery, and telling all about what a wonderful host the Great Croc had been, and how much they were looking forward to their daily swimming and fishing lessons.

“What’s this? Swimming and fishing?” exclaimed the Queen.

“Yes,” the Princess Buttercup confirmed. “For his helpfulness during the contest, the Great Croc has assigned Bryce as commander of the Moat Crocs, and part of his duties is to give us daily swimming and fishing lessons.”

The Queen looked to her husband, who was smiling broadly. “Well, alright, they’re sure to come in useful.”

“However,” the King cleared his throat. “If you are to get the most out of these swimming and fishing lessons, you should pay more attention to your knitting and tea-brewing sessions. You’ll be very grateful for the scarves, blankets, hats and warm beverage after your day in the cold water.”

The End

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Kingdom of Butterball: The King, the Croc and the Minotaur, Part 3

To the Great Croc, Ruler of the Slimy Swamp, who refuses to pay the tax on the Croc’s Bottleneck and so causes himself grief by bringing upon him the wrath of the great ruler of the Perilous Forest, and his ally the King of Butterball,

From the Great Minotaur, Ruler of not only the East Side of the Perilous Forest but also of the Croc’s Bottleneck,


I accept the challenge, and shall meet at the edge of the Slimy Swamp as agreed and outlined, upon one more condition: that the King of Butterball and his daughters be the only contestants from your side, if he wants his Knights safely returned to him afterwards.

“What!?” the King exclaimed when the Scribe had finished reading the newly arrived message. “So, this has become my challenge? Outrageous!”

“I’m afraid so,” the Great Croc apologized. “I could try and send him another message—“

“It is already early afternoon, and the Queen will be worried if we are not home by sunset,” the King grumbled. “And, I’d much rather get it over with today than draw this out till tomorrow or the next day."

“Daddy, we can help!” Princess Butterfinger chimed up. “You swim in your armor and with your sword, leave the rest to us!”

“Yeah, we’ll take care of the Brownies and the troll!” Princess Butterfly agreed. “Sissy is already a referee, so why can’t we help?”

“Absolutely not!” the King spluttered. “Its too dangerous!”

“Daddy, we’ll just do what you did to get here,” Princess Butterfinger assured him. “I’ll take care of the troll, Butterfly will take care of the Brownies. You have more chocolates and buttercups in the bag, don’t you?”

“Well, yes…but what if it doesn’t work this time?”

“We’ll figure some back up plan—just leave it to us!

At about four o’clock—thirty minutes later than agreed—the Great Minotaur arrived, with his three warriors who would be in the contest. He had a large gold ring in his nose, and the tips of his horns were plated with gold. He carried a long iron bar in his hand, using it as a walking stick but one could only guess what other uses he had for it. He met the King and the Great Croc on the shore of the Swamp. They all bowed in acknowledgment.

Giles approached the awkwardly silent group and nodded. He was decked out in a periwinkle and magenta referee’s tunic, trimmed with gold around the edges. “We are ready to begin when you are, your majesties.”

“I shall go and take my place,” the King said, and went to wait at the edge of the swamp.

He had a good vantage point. He could see the Great Croc and the Great Minotaur, sitting with their courts in the pavilion set up on the middle island. The troll challenge was to his right, the Brownies to his left. Princess Buttercup was refereeing the trolls, Princess Butterfinger was challenging the troll, and Princess Butterfly was taking on the Brownies. They were up against a giant and a python from the Minotaur’s side. He was up against a great black water snake, fitted out in a tube of armor and a cap covering his nose and back of his head. “Where’s your sword?” the Croc referee asked.

“My poison is as deadly as any sword,” the snake hissed back.

Giles blew the whistle, and the contest was off.

The troll and the giant were at it. The ground shook beneath their wrestling and pounding. The giant kept trying to get past the troll to strike the brass gong set up at the far end, but he could not; the troll kept wrapping his arms around the giant’s legs, tripping him and making him fall to the ground with great thuds. Princess Butterfinger was debating with her troll to let her past. She offered him the truffles but he shook his head and bellowed something that the King couldn’t make out between the distance and the noise. Their argument seemed to become very heated, and at one point he raised his fists as if to hit her, but then he quickly lowered them and shuffled out of the way. Princess Butterfinger walked over and struck the gong with all her might.

As soon as they heard the gong strike, the Brownies were flying at Princess Butterfly. Princess Butterfly simply let a shower of buttercups all around her, tossing them into the air out of her bag. The Brownies that were advancing on her fell to the ground sneezing, and the few that tried to get away crashed into trees as they tried to fly away with teary eyes. When the coast was clear, she walked over to the brass gong hanging from the tree at the edge of the clearing and struck it.

Now it was the King’s turn. “This is going way too easily,” he thought as he dove into the swamp, holding his sword out in front of him as he swam.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Kingdom of Butterball: The King, the Croc and the Minotaur, Part 2

Forgive the awkward formatting; I hope it doesn't make the text too hard to read.

The King watched Sir Matt and Sir Zap trot off to his right, heading toward the south side of the forest. It was hoped that by entering the forest by the main road, they were more likely to meet some creatures and cause a ruckus. This disturbance would allow the King to enter relatively unobserved from the less conspicuous northwest side, out of sight of the town. All seemed calm and peaceful as he entered the forest. The King shifted the bag slung over his shoulder, muttering something about having to carry extra baggage.

While he had intended to fight any enemies by sword, the Queen had insisted that he take the bag handed him by the Court Magician as he made preparations to leave the castle. The King had obliged her by taking the bag. Peeking inside, the King saw the usually mess of random items that was suppose to help him accomplish his mission. Once, the man had given him a sheet of aluminum foil, some bananas and chocolate, and a mystic fire-lighter. He ended up getting lost in a wilderness and eating the bananas and chocolate, catching a ride from a passing dragon by attracting it with the shiny foil, and giving the mystic fire-lighter to the dragon because the creature was afraid of its own flame and enjoyed cooked meals instead of raw. Another time, he had been given a spindle, some hay, and a bag of peas. Unfortunately, the damsel he was rescuing had a horrible fear of pointy things--said she fell asleep for one hundred years at a time if she so much as pricked her finger--and he never found out what the hay and peas were for as his horse got hungry and ate them. This time, the Magician had given him a bouquet of buttercups, two boxes of truffles, and a bright yellow package with a "pull tabs in emergency" label on it.

Suddenly, several creatures that at first appeared to be large mosquitoes came buzzing and laughing out of the trees. “Brownies!” the King exclaimed as several small javelins stung his unguarded nose. His horse reared, ejecting the King from his seat, and galloped out of the forest. The Brownies all cheered at this victory. None noticed the buttercups that had fallen out of the King’s bag and scattered on the ground. The pollen spread in the air as the flowers rolled to the ground. Immediately, the Brownies began to rub their eyes and sneeze. Soon, they couldn’t see where they were flying so began to crash into the trees. The Brownies that could evacuated the area immediately.

“Why, I do believe they are allergic to the flowers!” the King exclaimed. The area was as deserted as it was when he entered it. He bent down, picked up a not so mangled buttercup and placed it in his chain mail shirt. “Looks like the Court Magician got something right for once.” He found an ill-trodden path and followed it deeper into the forest.

After a while, the path took him through a clearing, and split at three big boulders. The trees overhead were so thick they blocked the light from the sky, making the place quite dim and spooky. Before the King could decide which way to go, the boulders uncurled themselves and became three big trolls, each wielding a spiked club. The King drew his sword to defend himself. “You won’t need that,” one of the trolls said. “Just pay the toll.”

“And what would that be?” the King asked.

“A bite off your arm!” bellowed one.

“No, a nice juicy thigh,” said the other.

“Or, just some caramel truffles,” the last one said. “We rarely get those, and they taste ever so much better.”

“Well, I just so happen to have a box,” the King drew the package of chocolate out his shoulder bag. He extended the box to the trolls. “Would you kindly tell me which way to the Slimy Swamp?”

“To the right!” they said as they wretched the box from his hand and ripped the pink ribbon off. The King rushed passed them to the right and continued his journey.

After following the path for about thirty minutes, the foliage began to change from oaks to pines and finally to large cypress trees, their knees rising out of the algae covered water of the swamp. To the King’s right was a lichen covered log, floating in the still water. On second glance, the log was certainly green, but not lichen-covered—it was a crocodile, sunning itself in the last rays of light coming through the gaps in the forest ceiling. The King was startled to see it so close that he jumped and cried out. This woke the sleeping crocodile, who in turn jumped and yelled when he saw the King.

“Oh please, don’t tell them I was sleeping on the job!” he began to plead with the King.

“Sleeping on the job?”

“Yes, you see,” here the crocodile leaned in close to the King and whispered, “We’re having a bit of trouble with some other creatures in the Forest—“

“Another Leviathan?” the King interrupted.

“No, not a Leviathan, but a situation of similar direness. The Great Croc is currently conversing with the three Princesses of Butterball—“

“Whom I have come to collect,” the King cut the poor Croc off again. “What’s the meaning of capturing them like this?”

“They weren’t captured!” The Croc became defensive. “They agreed to visit the Great Croc at his invitation—“

“And they didn’t tell me about it?”

“The Great Croc invited the King and Queen too. The Royal Jester, who was with the Princesses, said he’d extend the invitation himself.”

That great joker, the King thought. I’ll…deal with him when I get back. He cleared his throat. “Well then, please take me to the Great Croc, and my daughters.”

The croc blinked in surprise. “Oh, yes your majesty!”

With the Croc’s permission (whose name was Bryce) the King seated himself on the animal's back, and they swam to the small island in the middle of the Swamp, which served as the central court of the Great Croc. There were several Crocs standing around talking, some wearing gold medallions, embellished leather vests or suits of armor. On a large flat rock at the far end of the island lay their leader, the Great Croc. He was chatting with the three Princesses of Butterball.

“Daddy!” they exclaimed when they saw him coming towards them. They leapt up and wrapped their arms around his neck to greet him.

“Guess what?” Princess Butterfly exclaimed. “The Great Croc wants to send some of his warriors to live in the Castle moat again!”

“And give us swimming lessons and take us fishing!” Princess Butterfinger jumped up and down.

“That’s not all,” Princess Buttercup explained. “He’s having Minotaur trouble, and wants you to defeat the Great Minotaur in battle.”

“What?” the King asked, confused.

The Great Croc let his formidable tail slide over the rock. He explained the situation more coherently. “The Great Minotaur, as you know, is the ruler of the east side of the Perilous Forest,” the Great Croc pulled out a map of his domain and spread it on the rock for the King to see. “Our Swamp borders on his realm, and there is a small part where our swamp bottlenecks and spread out again. He has taken hold of this part, where it joins the Gleaming River. This is a major problem, since that is where most of our fish supply comes from.”

“We have already tried negotiating with the Minotaur, and meeting him in battle, both which did not end well. So, I thought I’d call upon you for assistance, and accept any help you decided to give. I realize that the alliance between the Crocs and Butterball has not been honored for some time, but I was hoping you would keep it.”

“Of course,” the King replied. “Glad to help an old friend in trouble.”

“The Princess Buttercup has already given a suggestion that I think will work,” the Great Croc said.

“Yes—I suggested a contest between warriors of opposite sides!” the eldest princess said gleefully. “Not a joust or duel—they’re too boring and dangerous. More like a race with obstacles. You know, swim the length of the swamp with your armor and sword in hand, a wrestling match with a troll, and outwitting the Brownies. And make so there’s no holds barred on the contestant’s side, meaning, they can’t do anything to hinder the other contestant, but can do anything necessary to overcome the obstacles themselves. What do you think?”

“Brilliant!” the King exclaimed. “Could we make it a relay race? That way one warrior won’t have to do it all—it could be quite tiring, to swim with your armor on and sword in hand. In my younger days I could do that, but now, I might not have the strength left to wrestle a troll afterwards. But not even all young warriors can do that. Splitting the challenges up will make it fair for everyone.”

“Sounds excellent to me,” the Great Croc was satisfied. “I shall issue a challenge to the Minotaur immediately. Bryce! Prepare a flag of truce, and send the Scribe to me.”

Bryce nodded his head and crawled quickly away.

“Your Excellency—two of my knights came into the forest by the main road today,” the King told the Great Croc. “Did any of your people happen to sight them or know where they might be now?”

“No, but I can inquire after them,” the Great Croc replied. He called to another Croc. “Giles! Go with Bryce and inquire after the two knights of Butterball.” Another Croc slithered away, following Bryce.

A Croc supplied with a writing kit soon appeared. After laying out a large, thick sheet of parchment and inking his quill, he indicated that he was ready to transcribe the Great Croc’s challenge to the Minotaur:

To the Great Minotaur, Ruler of the East Side of the Perilous Forest, and fashioning himself owner of the Croc’s Bottleneck,

From the Great Croc, Ruler of the Slimy Swamp, to whose People the Croc’s Bottleneck really belongs, and the King of Butterball, ally of the Croc People,


To settle the current border disagreement concerning the area of land commonly known as Croc’s Bottleneck (for a reason), we challenge you to a contest today to take place at half-past three in the afternoon. The winner shall claim ownership of Croc’s Bottleneck. The details are listed as follows. Please reply by half past one this afternoon.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Kingdom of Butterball: The King, the Croc and the Minotaur, Part 1

While rummaging around in some old computer files, I found some stories I wrote for my cousins about five years ago as a Christmas present. Actually, my cousins--three sisters--were the ones to imagine the characters of the stories, and the seed to begin the plot, as part of their imaginary play. I simply transcribed and elaborated on their ideas. Below is one of them. Since this story is rather long, I'll post it in a few separate blogs for easier reading. This is definitely different that what I've posted before, but I hope you all enjoy them!

The Kingdom of Butterball:

The King, the Croc and the Minotaur

Part 1

In the Days of Yore (which happened between Hither and Thither, but after Yon), there existed a small, peaceful kingdom called Butterball. It was ruled benevolently by, who else, but the King and Queen of Butterball. They lived in a glass-frosted castle perched on a hill overlooking a very green valley, where the town of Hockham lay, bordered on one side by the Gleaming River and on the other by the Perilous Forest. While there had been such events as epic battles, black magic hunts, and dragon raids in the past, no such disturbances had occurred for at least two generations. For the most part, the people went about their daily routines in peace and happiness, enjoying the niceties of life after a hard day’s work. However, that did not mean exciting things did not happen. Many of the adventures that went on were much more thrilling than dragons.

For example, one day, the King and Queen were having their usual mid-morning snack—wheat toast with butter and marmalade, and Earl Grey tea—on the sunny balcony overlooking the fountain garden below, when the Royal Page arrived, all white faced and trembling. “Announcing the Royal Jester with an urgent message for your Majesties.”

The Royal Jester entered and bowed pompously, the bells on his multicolored hat jingling merrily. When he stood straight, the King and Queen saw that his face was white too.

“Your majesties—I was just coming back from my regular morning walk, when I saw it: the Princesses Buttercup, Butterfinger and Butterfly being taken into the Perilous Forest by two huge crocodiles!”

“What?” the King was so shocked he would have dropped the teapot had he been pouring his own tea. But the Royal Servant did that instead, and immediately began to clean up her mess.

“Whatever for?” the Queen gasped.

“Why, in my grandfather’s day, we had an allegiance with the Crocs!” the King spluttered. “We aided the other when they were in trouble. They protected Hockham from the dragons when they went out pillaging after someone stupidly raided their treasure cache, and we defeated the Leviathan who decided to take up residence in their swamp without their permission. And now they’ve gone and done the opposite! This is outrageous—“

While the King continued to rage, the Queen began to give out instructions. “Royal Servant, I think we’re done with our snack, please clear it away.” The Royal Servant piled the used dishes onto the silver tray and skipped quickly away. “Royal Page, call on Sir Zap and Sir Matt, bring them here at once, tell them its urgent,” The Royal Page bowed and fled the room.

“Why call on Sir Zap and Sir Matt?” the King asked, puzzled.

“Why, to rescue our daughters of course!”

“If anyone is doing any rescuing, it will be me,” the King announced. “What sort of king would I be sending others to fight my battles for me?”

“But this concerns all of us,” the Queen reasoned.

“But the Crocs have insulted me by taking my daughters! They obviously want to pick a fight with me—“

“But dear, you’re not young anymore. It has been at least twenty years since you have fought in battle, let alone a creature like a Croc. You will hurt yourself!”

At this instant, the Royal Page arrived, and announced Sir Zap and Sir Matt. Two tall, lean fellows entered, dressed in mail shirts covered with bright blue tunics bearing the emblem of Butterball—a bouquet of buttercups, with butter knives crossed below them. They bowed graciously. “You called for us, your Majesties?”

The King cleared his throat. “Actually, the Queen did. Our three daughters have been abducted by the Crocs of the Slimy Swamp in middle of the Perilous Forest.”

“This will never be stood for! What an outrage!” Sir Zap boomed.

“We shall go rescue them, my Liege!” Sir Matt drew his sword.

“Humph! I will be rescuing them,” the King stated

The Queen rolled her eyes.

“But I do need your help,” the King continued. “You will create a diversion.”

Punishment? Or Alternative Assignment?

“If you don’t do the reading, and you don’t turn in your response paper on time,” our instructor threatened, “then your punishment will be performing one of your traditional dances for five minutes in front of the class!”

I came back to my dorm room one afternoon to find my Pakistani roommate slothing through the reading assignment. “There are so many words here that I don’t know,” she stated. I looked to see the words “indigenous” and “powwow” circled in the first paragraph of her copy of the reading. “I’m thinking that dancing for five minutes would be so much easier—I mean, I can dance for thirty minutes, no problem!”

Dancing for five minutes in front of the class would be punishment for undergraduates at UCR enrolled in some cultural arts class. But in a similar class where students harken from Pakistan, South Korea, Myanmar, Philippines, and Malaysia, and all are specialists in some aspect of their “indigenous” arts, dancing for five minutes in front of the class may not be seen as “punishment,” but an alternative assignment—and one that takes less effort and energy! Leave the reading and response writing to the two white Americans in the class who have advanced English language capabilities and no dance moves!

Well, while she did, in the end, decide to do the reading and the written response, we still got to see our Pakistani classmate do two dances as “punishment” for being late, as well as one monologue as Lopakhin from Anton Chekov’s “The Cherry Orchard.” She’s one talented artist, to say the least.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

"Does your mother know?!"

I was at a friend’s house recently, for a movie night, where I was a complete stranger to everyone else who showed up. I was introduced as a fellow church member who had been working abroad for the past eight months or so in Nepal. One young lady’s reaction was particularly intriguing.

“Don’t tell me you went by yourself!” she exclaimed rather unexpectedly.

I assured her that I had in fact gone by myself.

“Did your mother know? What did she think about it?!”

I assured her that mother had in fact been quite excited for me, since she had raised me there as a child. She thought it had been a wonderful opportunity to return and reconnect with friends from my family's previous time there.

The young lady didn’t seem to have anything more to say, but looked at me with blank, almost hysterical, amazement.

What perplexed me more than anything was this young woman was probably not much older than I; what business did she have to scold me so? Looking back, I was in jeans and my college sweatshirt, and introduced as a UCR student. She probably thought I was much younger than I actually am. Note to self: I should emphasize graduate student, and apparently need to work on looking older. I guess that means wearing make-up and heels regularly. Bleh.

People’s reactions to learning that I was about to spend eight months on my own in Nepal had solicited similar reactions. Was it politically stable? What did people think of Christians there? Was it safe for young, white women? Many assumed I would be shot or kidnapped. I assured them that I had more of a chance of getting shot or kidnapped here in the States than in Nepal. I was welcomed back to Riverside from my stint in Nepal in 2009 with text messages from UCR’s security warning everyone that an armed robber was running rampant on campus, and newspaper headlines about shootings on Perris Blvd in the neighboring town, which I drove passed at least twice a week. I’m glad I’m covered by the prayers of my Nepali brothers and sisters every day I’m outside the country of Nepal.

When people ask me what I did in Nepal, I reply that I worked at a small NGO involved in language and literacy development. My jobs mostly entailed editing English documents—annual reports, drafts of grants, my Nepali boss’s articles, various forms that are supposed to amount to ‘accountability’ for foreign donor agencies—but I also re-did bulletin boards, made photocopies, collected and edited material for the website, phoned liasons at embassies, mingled with linguists and politicians, and made numerous trips to various partner agencies in and out of the Kathmandu Valley, where I was based.

After a confused look, they usually tentatively ask, “…and you said you were a missionary?”

Who do they think does all this necessary footwork? Is my usual thought. My work for this NGO wasn’t too different than what office staff at my sending agency back in the States do everyday. At least once, I should take a friend’s advice and tell inquirers, “Well, you know, I performed miraculous healings and cast out demons on the weekends; all that office work was just a cover for my real work.”

However, another friend’s wise advice rings loud and clear during these times of temptation—“Grace, Tori, display grace”—bringing me back to the reality that I, though justified, am still in the process of santification myself. I should be the one thanking these people for being instruments of God’s sanctification in my life rather than nashing my teeth at them on the inside…