Strassur the Red Panther

Toughts of a Reader and a Writer

Month: August, 2013

Response to Writing Prompt

Here is the paragraph I wrote in response to my prompt given on the AFK podcast:

Enok arrived at his destination and began to find his way from the crowded taxi drop-off to the shop entrance.  Having only been in the United States for a night, he already missed the slower pace and snow covered hills of his homeland.  An easy read from one of his favorite American comic book heroes always eased the nerve of intense interviews and his struggle with the English language, and promised for a calm evening.  The bright sun and intense heat would eventually become a welcoming feeling, but the absence of dry air already caused his aging joints to be noticed.  Walking slowly as he searched his small translator for the word Entrance, the Greenlander made his way across the parking lot, occasionally stepping over discarded cans, flyers and other rubbish.  He assumed the comic book store he had been dropped off at would be in this large building.  As he rounded the corner of the multistory structure, he first noticed the rounded glass and open front of the creatively crafted waterside mall.  His attention was suddenly pulled away by the hundreds of people lined up in the front. Bright costumes, oversized swords, and creative ways to barely cover the unmentionables of those in line filled the patio of the great center.  Stunned, Enok looked up at the sign above the large glass doors and read, “San Diego Comic-Con 2013”. 

New podcast episode on the Noob

Come on over and check out our latest episode where we define a Noob, covering its origin and history.  Also included is a writing prompt and response paragraph. Dont forget to tell us what you would like to see defined next.

http://afkpodcast.podomatic.com/entry/2013-08-09T03_11_38-07_00

The First Draw (Short Story)

 

               The rain had stopped and the early morning sun was beginning to pierce the dreary gray cloud cover. Wet clothing and hunger provided a restless night as the long line or archers battled not only fatigue from a poor night’s sleep, but fear. Fear of dying and fear of failing the man next to them.  On the brink of combat, the two large armies stared each other down like crouched tigers waiting to pounce.  Colorful banners and flags flapped quietly in the wind, the silence only broken by the occasion commanding shout amongst the ranks or the weary soldier losing control and emptying the contents of his stomach on the battlefield.

               Jerl stood quietly on the line, peering across the field at the heavily armored infantry preparing for their assault. Large war horses danced anxiously as they moved into their ranks, nearly touching the haunches of the mount next to them. Their skilled riders controlling the beast with one hand on the reins while their other grasped a sharp lance.  Long shafts of wood with barbed metal tips that when wielded skillfully could skewer three armed men. 

               Thinking of the lances, Jerl removed an arrow from his heavy leather quiver. The tip of the bodkin looked like a lance, as sharp and pointy as a stiletto, able to penetrate the highest quality armor.  A broad sword or a broad head arrow created a much larger wound channel, but could not penetrate the modern metal armor crafted by the finest of smiths. 

               Perhaps, thought Jerl, a creative smith of neutral party invented the theory of the bodkin and the lance.  One destructive device for each side of the war.  It gives both sides an advantage and keeps the blacksmith in business.  A quality craftsman could greatly benefit from a war, one they wouldn’t even have to wield a sword in.  Crafting quality weapons and repairing damaged armor during a campaign could bring steady work for decades. 

               Jerl could not seem himself as a craftsman.  He possessed the large frame to swing a hammer, but preferred to use his size to draw the full weight of a longbow.  Having shot for years, he built up the strength to maintain a sustained rate of fire, and the callous tips of his fingers allowed the full weight of the waxed bow string to roll off hundreds of times a day.

               He placed the bodkin arrow across the top of his long bow. The freshly oiled yew wood glisten in the rising sunlight. As he knocked the arrow, he realized how bad his hands were shaking, and so did his mentor. 

               “Jerl,” Marcus said giggling, remembering his first war and how a large portion of the battle was against yourself. “You must calm your nerves, boy. They are just like any other targets ya hit before, except if ya miss too much, these targets will kill us.” 

               “Comforting thoughts, sir,” Jerl replied smartly.

               “I’m just teasin’ ya. Tryin’ to make light.” Marcus stopped laughing and looked Jerl in his eyes, squaring his shoulders with his hands.  Jerl stared back and saw eyes deep and dark, the look that had no doubt stared down many enemy armies in the past.  Their edges were worn with stress that a position of leadership can bring.  Although Marcus never had the desire to promote, he has trained green archers for nearly a score of years.

               “Look boy. There is no doubt the knights and men-at-arms across that field look scary, but I assure you, they are men. Men just like you and I. Aim true, breath and release, and they will drop.”

               Jerl nodded, “I can do this.” 

               “Yes you can,” Marcus replied in a near whisper. “And don’t stop,” his voice elevated. “Drop as many of those bastards as ya can.”

 

               “Ready your arrows” shouted the section leader.

               Jerl reseated his arrow, this time with a steady hand. His callous finger tips slid up and down the waxed string in one final inspection. This arrow would be the first arrow he will have shot in combat. His first attempt to take another human life and he still didn’t know the full reason of the war. Did the enemy really hate him and his countryman, or were they doing their job? Did his prey have a family waiting at home, keeping the fire warm and the children in line until his return? Or maybe a beautiful lady they tried to court into marriage, similar to Lisa that Jerl had left behind.  Oh he missed the smell of gardenia and rose oil she used to spot her neck with.  He could always catch a quick scent before she pushed him away when he tried to kiss her neck.  He remember the soft touch of her hands as they walked through his families wheat fields, never wanting to let go, long past the setting sun.  She used to shout encouragements when Jerl strung his bow and launched arrows the length of the fields.  “Good shot, Jerl. Just a little to the left, Jerl.”

               He could still hear her voice.  She would read her studies out loud when preparing for an exam.  She said it help her remember better, but Jerl always thought it was another attempt to lure him into a passionate frenzy, teasing him before she got called away to help transcribe text in the Keep. 

               Jerl would return from this war, and he would ask Lisa’s father for her hand in marriage.  How could he say no to a war hero?  A soldier returns from combat with the spoils he earned, wealthy and ready to settle down.

               The young archer looked down the line at his fellow soldiers.  He relied on them to take down the enemy.  To shot true and fast, and when the time came, drop their bows and fight up close and personal.  Jerl always heard his own blood pound and stir in his head as excitement and fear rose, but never heard the blood of his enemy splash onto the ground, wetting the soil like rain. 

               His mentor told him to keep firing, and never give up.  The other archers relied on him as well.  And the knights, the fighters, the true heroes, they needed Jerl to thin the lines, cause havoc, and slow the horses change.  Thousand pound beasts did not stop easily.

               Jerl raised his head up from his bow, sweat trickling down his brow as he again gazed across the field at the approach of the enemy.  He picked his target.  A well armored knight atop a gray war horse.  The lance was held high with pride as a bright yellow and blue banner flowed like silk behind him.  It was a beautiful scene. How the banner stayed clean amongst the flying mud kicked up from the trampling hooves surprised Jerl.  But, it did not matter.  That was about to change.  Jerl was going to make it home, and so was his fellow soldiers.

               “I will see you soon, my love,” he whispered.  Pulling back his string, Jerl’s muscles easily fought against the full draw of a six foot long bow.  He again caught sight of his first target, and released.

Utilities of Morphemes

         Speaking comes to many of us naturally, as we learn from a young age by mimicking sounds and words of caretakers.  Any language can be difficult to learn, whether for first time as a child, or a new speaker to English. An easy method of teaching language to a student is by breaking down words into smaller parts and expanding our vocabulary as we progress. Morphemes are letters or words attached to a base that then creates a new word or enhances meaning. When learning English, a solid understanding of morphemes can be used to expand vocabulary and identify unfamiliar words.

            With an estimated 600,000 words in the English language, the chances of learning let alone hearing every word in use is impossible. Prefixes, suffixes, and compounds take simple words, or a base word, and add, reduce, or change the meaning entirely. If a student of English learned the simple bases of this language, adding a morpheme could increase their arsenal of usable words exponentially. A simple base word such as car is a free morpheme because it is a word that can stand alone.  When combined with the word port, car changes from a simple automobile to a “roofed, wall-less shed, usually projecting from the side of a building, used as a shelter for an automobile.” (Dictionary.com)

            Faith is a common word that a student may want to learn to describe confidence or trust in a person or a thing, such as the doctrines or teachings of religion. If a student knows the base word faith, they can add ly on the end to create a different word or meaning.  However, the suffix less on the end can diminish the meaning, like faithless, and add negativity. Ful adds a positive tone to the word, like faithful.  Jean Berko conducted a study while at Massachusetts Institute of Technology to determine if morphemes could be taught to a small child where the concept was understood and testable.  In the study, 1,000 of the most common words that a first grader uses through conversation, composition, letters and similar documents were evaluated.  The most promising area discovered were plurals and possessive nouns.  In the study, made up words were used, such as gutch, and the students were asked to make it plural.  Most could perform the task and even emphasized the suffix when pronouncing the word.  By having an understanding of what prefixes and suffixes can do to a word can also help a student identify an unfamiliar word.

            A young child learns simple one-word phrases to begin with, as in hot, toy, or milk. Over time they unknowingly add suffixes to change the meaning, making something more hot, like hotter or hottest, or adding an additional toy to a group, making toys. Once a child begins to read and their vocabulary increases, they will often come across words that are unfamiliar. According to an article in the Journal of Reading Behavior headed by author William Nagy, upper elementary aged children encounter 10,000 new words every year in print that they have not previously seen.  These are words that are not common in daily oral conversation and are difficult to decode. Nagy states that most of the words, however, are related to familiar ones through prefixation, suffixation and compounding. With an understanding of these morphemes and the uses of prefixes and suffixes, the reader can look to the base word, like friend, and know that the prefix un takes away from this, making unfriend or unfriendly a negative word.

            All the rules and practices of grammar are very important, including the exceptions and the difficult to understand rules, such as the dreaded silent e.  However, with extra understanding of base words and morphemes, a student of the English language may have more success decoding unknown words and expanding vocabulary to a much greater span so they can communicate more effectively.