Author Archives: Paul J. Stam

The Mouse and the Elephant – An African Fable

I have always liked this fable which I first heard growing up as a kid in the Northeast corner of the Congo. So here it is.

Central Rock-rat (Zyzomys pedunculatus)

There was a mouse who built a nest. All know that of all the animals of the field, the mouse is the least.

A female African Bush Elephant raises her trun...

An elephant, a bull, full-grown, with tusks the length of a man, made his way through the grass to drink at the water hole. He saw the nest of the mouse in the grass and said to himself, “That is only the nest of a mouse. What can a mouse do to me?” And he stepped on the nest of the mouse.

The mouse said, “He is an elephant, what can I do to him? He is so big, and I am so small,” and so the mouse built another nest somewhere else. But the elephant came another day from a different direction and stepped again on the nest. The mouse built a third nest and the elephant stepped on that also.

The mouse said to himself, “If I would live peacefully in my nest I must get rid of the elephant. To get rid of the elephant, I must first learn the ways of the elephant.”

So the mouse followed the elephant. He saw the elephant pull up the grass with his trunk and put it in his mouth. He pulled down branches from the trees and ate them also. At the water hole the elephant sucked up the water in his trunk and put it in his mouth. He sucked up the water and blew it over himself to cool off from the hot sun and all the time the mouse was saying, “The elephant is too large. How can I come against so strong an elephant?”

The elephant lay down to sleep, its stomach full with grass and water. The elephant said to himself, “I am full and content. I am large and strong. Nothing can hurt me while I sleep.”

The mouse saw the elephant sleeping and said to himself, “I am small and weak. The elephant is big and strong. I must use cunning, not strength.”

When the elephant slept the mouse ran up into his trunk. The elephant tried to blow the mouse out of his trunk, but the mouse crawled up farther; scratching and tickling. The little squeaking of the mouse sounded loud inside the elephant’s trunk. The elephant shrieked in anger, but the mouse stayed right there, scratching and tickling and squeaking.

The elephant beat his trunk against the ground, but the mouse stayed right there, scratching and tickling and squeaking. The elephant got up and started running among the trees; bellowing, waving his trunk, beating his trunk against the trees. The mouse just kept scratching, tickling and squeaking.

Whenever the elephant would try to eat, the mouse would scratch and tickle and squeak. When he tried to drink the mouse would scratch, and tickle and squeak and the elephant would wave his trunk or beat it against the trees, until finally it became so sore and bleeding that he could not use his trunk to feed himself or water himself.

So, the elephant lay down again, bleeding from beating his trunk against the trees, tired from running from tree to tree, hungry from not being able to feed, thirsty from not being able to drink and the mouse ran out of the trunk. The elephant died and the mouse built a nest.

Tell me now, which is stronger, the dead elephant, or the live mouse? There is no strength in death, and to be cunning is to be wise.

A fable from the Northeast Congo.

Copyright © 2012 by Paul J. Stam
All rights reserved

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Paul’s book The Telephone Killer published by 2nd Wind Publishing is now available on Amazon and from the publisher. Kindle and Nook versions just $4.99. The Telephone Killer is also available as an audiobook.

Another new novel of mine, Murder Sets Sail, will be coming soon from Second Wind Publishing.

Since everything is copyrighted please feel free to re blog any of my posts but please repost in its entirety and giving appropriate credit.

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A Hand Is a Hand Is a Hand

A Couple of weeks ago I had a post entitled “Behold – The Hand.” I received more comments on that post than any other. Since I had so many comments on “Hands” I thought I would explain a little of how it came about.

As some of you know I dabble in ceramics. On the wheel I do bowls, mugs and plates, but my real love is sculptures. On the wheel I have a pretty good idea of what I’m doing, and it’s pretty routine, but I have not idea what to do with sculptures. Each sculpture has is own challenges and that’s what so exciting about it.

Dancer 1Dancer 3I had started on a series of dancers and when I got the first one done and someone said, “I really like the flow of it, but what is she holding, a piece of cardboard?”

I hoped it looked like a scarf. But as I’ve already told you, “I don’t know what I’m doing.”

Some one else observed, “Her boobs are too low.” Since I didn’t have a live model to work from I excused that observations.

I didn’t throw that one out, but went to work doing it again. This is the result of the second attempt. So you say, “What does this have to do with your post about hands?” I’m getting to that.

Dancer 4

While I was doing it I was looking at my hands as they worked with the clay and I was very grateful that they worked so well. Even if their manipulation of the clay isn’t everything I would like it to be, that’s not my hands’ fault. I have known people with their hands so gnarled with arthritis they can’t hold a pencil.

Dancer 5aDancer 5bI started working on something a little different. Still with idea of a dancer, but different and this is what I came up with.

Then It seemed to me that in gratitude for all my hands have done for me, the least I could do is somehow pay tribute to my hands.

Hand 1Hand 3That is when I made this sculpture. I didn’t really try to reproduce a copy of one of my old, wrinkled hands. Wrinkles are awfully hard to reproduce in clay as I learned in trying to do the dancers scarfs and skirts.

There are some who are so good they can produce every wrinkle.

In a class where I was the model one student reproduced every wrinkle in my old face so accurately I wanted to hit him over the head with the head he had made of me. Not until it was high fired of course and hard as a stone.

Then he had the unmitigated kindness to give it to me. I immediately put it for sale in the annual Christmas pot sale at Windward Community College. I like to think that the reason it sold so quickly the first day was because I’m so good-looking, but I know it is really because of his talent to show my every wrinkle.

Damn, I wish I could do that. Well, given another 5 or 10 years I may get to be that good with the clay.

May everything your hand finds to do come with ease if not always with fun.

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Paul is the author of The Telephone Killer published by 2nd Wind Publishing now available on Amazon and from the publisher. Kindle and Nook versions just $4.99.

To watch The Telephone Killer video click here.

The Telephone Killer is now available as an audiobook from Amazon.

Another new novel of mine, Murder Sets Sail, will be coming soon from Second Wind Publishing. This novel is not a mystery. You know from the beginning who the murderers are and who they intend to murder. Adventure aboard a sailboat from Honolulu to Hong Kong.

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Behold – the hands

Have you ever stopped to consider your hands?

2 hands 1It is amazing how little attention we pay to our hands until something painful happens to them. Most people give daily, sometimes hourly, thought to their face, or their body, or their hair style, or even their shoe size, but hardly ever consider their hands except maybe to decide what color nail polish to use.

Babby meMy hands pushed me to a standing position when I was a child learning to walk, or held onto the helping hand during those first steps. Now at almost 85 they are again helping me to get up out of the chair I’m siting in, or reaching for a helping hand when I have to climb the stairs.

When I was a boy a friend accidentally shot an arrow through one of my hands. The doctor said there would be no permanent injury, but to this day I can’t fully open the last two fingers of my right hand. It is no great impediment, but when I notice it, it evokes happy memories of a day hunting frogs so we could have frog-legs for dinner.

My hands have held the reins to a team of matched grays pulling a sidebar mower or a side-delivery rake. They developed heavy callouses pitching the same hay that I had mowed and raked some days earlier.

They have passed ammunition for a 5-inch gun during a shore bombardment during the Korean Conflict. On another occasion they held a compress to a shipmate’s bleeding leg until the corpsman got there after he fell down a ladder. “Nothing serious,” the corpsman said, but it sure bled like hell.

These hands have turned the pages of innumerable books in a college library before computers came to be.

They trembled when I slipped the ring on my bride’s finger and again when I held our newborn daughter for the first time.

For eight years my wife, our son and I lived aboard a sailboat in Hawaii. Every year in about September when the rainy season started in Hawaii we would head south to the summer months in French Polynesia. It was our hands that raised and trimmed the sails and for 8 hours in every 24-hour day, for 22 to 25 days, we each had to take our turns of 4 hours of holding onto the tiller.

We sold the boat and started a normal life when our son was ready for college. In the years following we talked about our sailing days more than anything else, but we never talked about the part our hands played in it.

I have no idea how many years of hours these hands, first on a typewriter and later on a computer, have hit the keys in my trying to write novels.

The hands have always had something to do with all my joyful moments. Why have I never paid more attention to them?

They have been bashed, cut, bruised, bled, broken and reset and are probably the most abused of any part of me. They are old, soft, and wrinkled now, but of all my body parts they are what I can depend on the most. They catch on to something if I start to fall and hold me up. They still clap for something I admire.

As they have been doing for eighty-some years they still faithfully lift the food and drink from the plate to my mouth, maybe a little more often than they should sometimes, or feeding me things the doctor says I shouldn’t eat, but that is not their fault. They are only doing as they are told.

Oh, how grateful I am for those hardly-ever-thought-about hands.

May your hands never fail you and be always ready to reach out to someone who needs a helping hand.

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Paul’s book The Telephone Killer published by 2nd Wind Publishing is now available on Amazon and from the publisher. Kindle and Nook versions just $4.99. – Soon to be available as an audiobook.

Another new novel of mine, Murder Sets Sail, will be coming next month from Second Wind Publishing. This novel is not a mystery. You know from the beginning who the murderers are and who they intend to murder. Adventure aboard a sailboat from Honolulu to Hong Kong.

We jus signed a contract for another book with Second Wind Publishing. Death On the Church Steps is another mystery.

To learn a little more about me click here.

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A Snake In The Grass

My last post was on Christmas Eve and I told you about the gift of mongooses that were given to us. I mentioned that to the best of my knowledge not one of the 3 mongooses ever killed a cobra, though that is what, according to Rudyard Kipling and others, they are supposed to do. I also promised you a real live, no I mean dead, cobra story. Being raised with the law that one must always keep a promise, here goes—

Aba house-2abPlease note that this picture of the house where I was born and where I grew up has a grass roof. It has something to do with the title of this post.

Snakes. We had snakes everywhere. Well, not everywhere. I mean, my mother never served me wiggling snakes in my soup like in that Indiana Jones movie, Temple of Doom. I have eaten grilled python steak, but it wasn’t cooked on shiny, chrome gas grill, but skewered on a stick over an open fire. Continue reading

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A Mongoose I Once Knew

Red Berry Wreath

Well, here it is Christmas Eve and I should be saying all kinds of gooey Christmassy stuff, but they have already been said a thousand times or more and besides when you read this it will probably be past Christmas. So since you are reading this after Christmas is past let me tell you about a childhood Christmas past.

Now some of you may know I was born and raised in Central Africa. Now don’t be alarmed I have been totally civilized being as how my parents were missionaries and all. Their being missionaries meant that we were to do everything for the natives at Christmas time and not for ourselves, well, that’s not quite true, but story tellers are allowed to tell little white, or big black, lies ain’t they? Continue reading

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If At First You don’t…

You know the saying, “If at first you don’t succeed; Try, try again.” Or maybe you are more familiar with the saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, throw in the towel.” Or maybe you like, “If at first you don’t succeed, you probably shouldn’t have tried it in the first place.”

Poseidon, Greek god of water. The Roman water ...

Now you may be wondering what in the world a picture of Poseidon has to do with “If at first you don’t succeed.” Well nothing really, but since this post is about Poseidon, I thought I’d introduce you to him early.

What I was trying to do was a sculpture of Poseidon, or Neptune if you prefer, as part of the Hawaiian mountains. After all, the mountains came up out of the sea, which is Poseidon’s domain. Continue reading

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Reading? Why not?

Henry E. Vallely did the cover art for this 19...

When I was growing up In Central Africa in the 30s and 40s reading was the only entertainment we had. Nobody even had a radio to listen to such things as Jack Armstrong, The All-American Boy. The government post must have had cable communication of some kind because Lt. Lebray brought my father a cable telling us my grandfather had died.

Radio 4We were the first to have a radio on our station. It was a short-wave radio, dark grey, almost black in color. It sat in the corner of the living room close to a window. The copper wire that acted as the antenna was almost invisible where it ran out through the bottom of the window.

Outside the window, it ran up the wall, across to the nearest porch pillar and then from pillar to pillar halfway around the house. I helped my father string that antenna and we tried several different ways until we thought we had the best reception.

Half an hour before the news came on we started the 12-volt generator located on the back porch. It was allowed to run for half an hour to charge up the batteries. At five minutes of four it was turned off so the loud putt putting of the two-cylinder engine would not interfere with hearing the radio. Continue reading

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Murder Sets Sail – Excerpt 4

Sailboat red Cov 2 thmb

Murder Sets Sail coming soon from Second Wind Publishing.

In excerpt 1 you met Chris. He’s the poor sap who desperately wants a charter.

In excerpt 2 and 3 you were introduced to the bad guys of the story. They are richer than God and more evil than Satan. They could buy a yacht of any size they want, but they need a couple of boats that are not in any way connected to them to bring in a shipment of China-white.

In this excerpt meet the other chump, but he won’t be around for very long. He owns the second boat the bag guys are going to appropriate for this little job.

* * *

Alone in the cockpit Jimmy started thinking about Mary. He’d thought of her a lot since leaving Hong Kong. They had corresponded since he left, exchanging three or four letters a year. But it was not until this trip that he started wondering if she would like to join him. He knew she hadn’t married. They were still close enough he was sure she would have mentioned if she was involved. They’d had a lot once. It had been the situation that had driven them apart, not their feelings for each other. It would be nice to have Mary always alongside him, to share things with. She had always been one he could depend on.

When he got to Honolulu he would write her and ask if she wanted to join him for a while. She might like this kind of life and decide to stay on indefinitely. The more he thought about it, the more pleasant the idea became, and the more possible it seemed. It suddenly became a desperate necessity to write and mail the letter as soon as possible. Continue reading

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Telephone Killer – 5

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]Meet Detective Captain Vince Williams. The Department thinks he has some kind of knack for solving puzzles. And also let me introduce Tori Billingsly. She is Vince’s love. Some not-so-good things are going to happen to her later on and it will be up to Vince to save her.

Oh, dear, I’ve just given away some of the story. That’s OK. Maybe knowing Tori is going to be in some kind of trouble will bring you back to read more next month.

THE TELEPHONE KILLER
By
Paul J. Stam

CHAPTER FIVE

Vincent Williams sat in the corner of the couch wearing a short-sleeved sport shirt and flannel slacks. He was a large man with broad shoulders and white hair. His arm was around Tori Billingsly who sat leaning sideways against him with her knees folded and her long legs and feet up on the couch next to her. She had auburn hair and soft, brown eyes. She was fifteen years younger than Vince which kept him in a certain perpetual state of awe. She was wearing a blue turtleneck sweater and jeans. They were sitting in front of the fire listening to a symphony. He was not sure this was the right time to tell her, but then no time would be right.

‟I’m afraid they’ve thrown the case of the Telephone Killer in my lap,” he said.

‟Telephone Killer?”

‟That’s the name he’s gotten around the department because he calls before he kills. It was not a case I wanted.”

‟Then why did you take it?”

‟You can’t just refuse to take a case. They think I have some kind of knack for solving puzzles.”

‟They call this ‘solving puzzles’?” she said pulling away to turn and look him in the eye. Continue reading

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Telephone Killer – Excerpt 4

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]Things are going from bad to worse for poor Ralph. First of all he and his wife, Jessica, are not getting along; haven’t gotten along for years. Now the killer who likes to tell people ahead of time who is going to kill next has told Ralph to get his threats on TV. At the same time the police have gotten a court order preventing the station from broadcasting the killer’s threats. Understandably, Ralph doesn’t want to make the killer mad at him. What to do? What to do? – Jessica has an idea.

Following is a short excerpt from The Telephone Killer published by Second Wind Publishing.

THE TELEPHONE KILLER
By

Paul J. Stam

CHAPTER FOUR

‟My God, Ralph, you’ve been sulking around here all evening. What the hell is wrong with you?”

‟I got another call from him today. He told me what he was going to do and he wanted me to be sure and get it on the air, but the cops are tapped into our phones and they got a court order stopping us from broadcasting what he said. The station is fighting it, of course, on the grounds of the public’s right to know. The police are saying broadcasting what he said would just make people frantic and that would create a ‘clear and present danger’.”

‟And exactly what did he say?” Jessica asked.

‟I don’t know if I can tell you. The court order says the station and anyone connected with it is prohibited from disclosing the information.”

‟For crying out loud, Ralph, I’m your wife. That court order doesn’t apply between husbands and wives. You are such a wimp. Now what did he say?” she asked and he knew he would tell her because he would not have any peace until he did. Continue reading

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