The Misadventures of Moxie Sharpe Episode Two

The Misadventures of Moxie Sharpe Episode Two

Episode Two: She Only Sees What She Wants To See

When we last joined Moxie Sharpe she was wondering aloud if she had blood on her hand . . .

“How doth it smell? It holds the appearance of the sauce of the Turkey Leg.”

“I am not going to smell it,” said Moxie wrinkling her nose.

“Prithy, how doth it taste?”

“I am not going to taste it.”

“Shall I taste it for thee?”

“No. That’s gross.” Moxie lifted her fingers closer to her nose. It did smell like a sweet barbecue sauce.

Moxie rubbed her hand with her skirt then offered it to her companion. “Okay. Now that I don’t think this lute is a deadly weapon–Hi. I’m Moxie Sharpe.”

He did not take her hand. “Oh, you can call me Nettles as I am known by all in the realm. Simon Nettle is my given name, as was provided in your preparatory materials. I hope you are prepared. The parade piece is rather lively.”

“No worries. I’m a professional.” Moxie went back to tuning the lute.

“Moxie Sharpe is an unusual title. But it seems to be apropos. That A-string is certainly sharp.” He laughed at his joke.

Moxie’s jaw tightened as she held her tongue. She thought the name Nettles very fitting as well.

“My duty to the king extends beyond leader of the Midsummer Minstrels,” he said. “I am also her ladyship’s jeweler. I am the shaper and setter of semi-precious stones. I made the Queen’s crown and necklace. If e’er you want to add some sparkle to that glare of yours, I am at your beck and call. My servants run the booth betwixt the costumes and the hair braiders.”

Moxie ran a hand through her own hedgehog-esque coif while wondering how Nettles thought she could tune and listen to him at the same time.

“Oh, don’t worry. It’s cute. The pixie cut, right? Or is it elfin?”

Moxie’s jaw began to ache. She found herself wanting to slap someone for the second time this god-awful, early morning.

“I’ll leave you to your warm-ups then. Sir Ryan and Lady Megan will meet us at the parade line up in,” he pulled a small watch from his pocket, “twenty minutes. They will undoubtedly be sprinting and out of breath. They have a habit of barely making it, in all things. Don’t forget to take off your watch. Wouldn’t want to frighten the peasants with contraptions from the future.”

“No worries. I don’t wear a watch.”

“Then how wilst thou knowest when to line up for the parade?”

“It’s twenty minutes, dude. I can figure it out.”

“Perhaps I should tarry.”

“I think I’ll be more prepared if you leave.”

“Thus, I take my leave.” Nettles bowed and took his leave.

Moxie figured he was standing directly outside the plywood door, but at least he was no longer talking. She removed her music from the large manila envelope labeled “Midsummer Minstrels Parade Music” in Old English calligraphy. The other envelope, labeled “Midsummer Minstrels Joust Music”, she put on the music stand. As she did so, her fingers ran across something rough in the metal.

She took a closer look at the music stand. Something was scratched into the thick black rectangle (the music stands were probably “borrowed” from the local high school) but only enough to be felt and not seen. She traced her fingers over two letters S and N. She checked the other music stands. None of the others had any marks. This must be Simon’s, she thought. I wonder why the lute player was using it. I guess Simon didn’t want it anymore.

The four selections looked straight forward enough, a lot of A and D, simple repetitive lines. She wasn’t sure which one Nettles had referred to as the lively parade piece. They all looked like dirges to Moxie—not a thirty-second note in the lot. While playing through the liveliest looking bit for the second time, she noticed a very slight incorrect shape to one of the notes. Is this hand written? she thought, now that is obsessive behavior. Oh Nettles, you need to find yourself a ren-friend.

The entrance to the Kingdom of Scandium

Feeling confident the Minstrels wouldn’t be throwing her any musical curve balls, Moxie left for the parade. She opened the door slowly expecting to hit Nettles, but he was nowhere to be seen. The eerie silence of the joust field and lower theater worried her, so she quickened her pace. At the top of the hill she heard the rumbling of parade preparation and relaxed. Nettles waved from the front of the line near the fair entrance. It appeared that the Midsummer Minstrels played directly behind the King and Queen.

Nettles positioned her behind the King and then went back to his conversation with a jester lined up behind them. Moxie stared at the thick textured faux-gold pattern in the long train of the Queen’s gown and pretended not to listen to the heated argument in progress in front of her. Moxie couldn’t help but overhear the angry whispers between the Lord and Lady.

“You can’t keep doing this,” said the Queen. “People don’t respect you or your IOUs in the real world. When they catch up to you, we could all be out on our asses or worse.”

“What the hell do you expect me to do? We’re all in too deep,” said the King.

“You could at least pay closer attention to who you take behind the castle for a little grab-ass. The woods aren’t sound-proof you know.”

“Yeah, I really messed up this time.”

“This time?”

“The show must go on. We’ll talk about this later. No one can hear us once the joust starts. Here we go.”

At that moment people began to stream in the front gate. Suddenly Moxie heard panting. As Nettles predicted, Ryan and Megan barely made it. They didn’t have time to introduce themselves before Nettles said, “One two three, four five six,” and the Midsummer Minstrels started into the “lively” parade music.

Moxie felt incredibly clumsy at first. Playing the lute was bizarre enough, but walking in a long skirt, on uneven ground, while stumbling through new music, was hazardous. She felt she was getting the hang of it when she had played through the melody a couple of times, so she looked up and saw the costume dresser smiling at her. She smiled back.

She heard a scream and turned her head just in time to see Megan falling forward onto the Queen. Megan had stepped on the train of the Queen’s gown causing the Queen to choke and then fall. Moxie bumped into the back of the King. Ryan grabbed her arm in an attempt to stop his own fall and pulled her to the ground. Moxie instinctually held the lute above her head. Luckily, the people behind her were able to stop in time to avoid a catastrophe.

During the commotion, Moxie saw something glimmer through the dust cloud. She thought she saw Megan rush forward and grab the Queen’s necklace and crown and hand them off to Ryan. Nettles had said they were semi-precious stones; they must be worth a lot of money. But when the dust settled, Ryan was helping Megan up from the ground. The Queen stood, dusted herself off and straightened her crown and necklace.

What in the world just happened? Moxie thought.

“One two three, four five six,” said Nettles.

Moxie plucked the strings of the lute and the parade continued its path to the joust.

It seems there’s something sinister happening in the Kingdom of Scandium. Was Moxie seeing things? What were the King and Queen fighting about? What has Pearl gotten Moxie into? Tune in next week for the electrifying continuation of Moxie’s startling, amazing and weird misadventure!

Advertisements

Strange Pleasures and Hedonic Motivation

My feet in my inflatable kayak and an interesting stump in the lake

Hedonic Motivation

Spring has sprung here in the great Northwest and my interests have turned to fun and joy. Last weekend was all about planting the garden and Monday I inflated my kayak and had the lake all to myself. The inflatable kayak, acquired two years ago, suddenly became a brilliant purchase as the lake (actually a humongous reservoir) is still well below recreational levels and to get on the water I had to carry my boat down a hill of rocks and unstable sand. Soon the stumps will be safely deep under water and motorboats will make it difficult and unsafe for rowers, so my adventure crossing the lake to explore the stumps was a unique pleasure.

Yesterday, I planned on continuing to talk about Writing Like The Masters with a discussion of Dostoevsky, but I noticed that I needed to return The Life & Times of Michael K by J. M. Coetzee to the library. I had already renewed it to the limit because I had trouble getting into the story, but I wanted to know why it was award winning (the Booker Prize), so I began to skim it before heading for the library. The immediacy of needing to return it must have finally drawn me in because I read the whole thing before one in the afternoon. I found interesting parallels to Notes from Underground by Dostoevsky. Coincidence? Maybe the timing was just right to see the Dostoevsky in Coetzee’s book and how they both focused on strange pleasures.

From Coetzee:

“There was pleasure in spending without earning: he took no heed of how fast the money went.”

“There was a pleasure in abandoning himself to sickness.”

From Dostoevsky:

“I was rude, and found pleasure in it.”

“–what can a decent man talk about with the greatest pleasure? Answer: about himself.”

“I would feel a certain hidden, morbid, nasty little pleasure in the acute awareness that I had once again committed something vile that day, that what had been done could no longer be undone; and I would gnaw and gnaw at myself in silence, tearing and nagging at myself until the bitterness would finally begin to turn into a kind of shameful, damnable sweetness and, in the end–into a definite, positive pleasure! Yes, a pleasure, a pleasure! I stand by that. The very reason why I brought it up is that I’ve always wanted to find out: do other people experience such pleasures?”

“This pleasure comes precisely from the sharpest awareness of your own degradation; from the knowledge that you have gone to the utmost limit; that it is despicable, yet cannot be otherwise; that you no longer have any way out, that you will never become a different man; that even if there were still time and faith enough to change yourself, you probably would not even wish to change; and if you wished, you would do nothing about it anyway, because, in fact, there is perhaps nothing to change to.”

Each of these statements made me pause. It seemed contradictory for the characters to find pleasure in things that are socially considered wrong or bad, which made me want to research pleasure as motivation.

This reminded me that while I was mowing recently, I enjoyed listening to the Dwight Swain Master Writing Teacher audio book. Mr. Swain mentioned character motivation as following the four wishes from the work of sociologist W. I. Thomas, so I started my research there.

According to W. I. Thomas, people’s desires fall into four categories:

1. The desire for new experience – adventure

2. The desire for security -physical needs, fear of death

3. The desire for response – love, appreciation

4. The desire for recognition – position, power, ambition, vanity

Each one of these categories could be pleasure or pain, but weren’t specifically pleasant or unpleasant, so I kept looking which led me to:

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is similar to Thomas’s desires, but puts them in an order:

human motivation pyramid based on needs

from Wikipedia

Again, each of these motivations could be pleasurable or painful which brought me to Hedonistic Motivation:

From the Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary:

hedonic – adj. 1. of, relating to, or characterized by pleasure

hedonism – noun 1. the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief goal in life.

I think hedonism has become confused with being selfish, otherwise how could it have a bad connotation? Isn’t the true goal in life to be happy? Of course, happiness cannot be defined by anyone but the self, so philosophically happiness is selfish. Ha Ha.

But, think about it, if everyone was happy, life on earth would be wonderful. It is the human instinct to not be happy with what we have that breeds discontent, not pleasure or happiness. It is the idea that the goal of happiness cannot be reached, or that the attainment of happiness is somehow a bad thing that has turned hedonism into a bad word. But isn’t happiness what everyone strives for; haven’t people worked themselves to death for a bit of happiness?

The Theory of Hedonic Motivation is the idea that people approach pleasure and avoid pain. A  basic idea when we speak of ourselves physically, but more complicated when we include emotions. The theory includes the idea that a person’s behaviors result from emotions such as: love, hate, fear and joy. Emotional experience is understood on a scale from bad to good and our primary motivation is to avoid bad and increase good.

So, here’s where we get to the strange pleasures; each person creates his or her own emotional scale of what feels bad and is to be avoided, and what feels good and is to be achieved, based on nature vs. nurture: perception, learning, environment, genetics, chemistry, biology, physics . . . who knows the combination? the eternal joyous question.

Now, to apply all of this to my writing life:

First, I did a cluster of the word pleasure. I put the word pleasure in a circle in the middle of a page and set my timer to three minutes. Then, I wrote all the words that came to mind about the word pleasure. The results: It looks like I associate pleasure with natural energies: wind, sun, touch; and activities (mostly outdoor): hiking, gardening, adventure, jumping, singing and dancing. When the lake comes up, I’m sure I would include swimming, floating, and rowing. I only mentioned a few physical sensations: warmth, giddy, and tingly.

Conclusion: In three minutes of clustering the word pleasure, I didn’t come up with anything very strange.

Second, I wrote down some of my strange pleasures: I like diving into freezing cold water; I pick at scabs and tear at my cuticles even when it hurts and bleeds (I know I’ll scar, but it feels good), I love finding ugly spandex fabric, I like improvising horribly discordant sounds on the piano (and guitar) even though I know how to read music, understand theory, play well and spent my entire youth in lessons; when I have a good day, I tend to stay up all night, even until dawn, because I don’t want it to end, but I get really sick to my stomach about three in the morning.

Strange pleasures may turn the mind to well known fetishes and kinks which can be interesting hedonic motivations (and, perhaps, the reason hedonism can be considered a bad word by some), but not what I’m exploring here . What I’m trying to find, as I turn this study toward the characters of my work in progress, are their contradictions, quirks, and foibles that make each character unique and interesting.

Application to my work in progress:

Anna is a hermit who finds pleasure in certain kinds of pain: pinpricks and tingles–the cold of the lake to the hot of the hot-tub. She finds her primordial scream in the night after playing discordant music on her almost tuned piano. She hates being told what to do and says she really hates humans, but likes to give away what she has and wants to make others happy.

Brittany finds pleasure in being bad; she’s experimenting with her power as a young, attractive woman whose sexuality has power over men. The death of her mother and complete absence of her father due to grief made her quit college to take care of her younger brother. She finds pleasure in being the provider and keeping her brother’s hopes of college alive, but she also finds pleasure in complete irresponsibility.

Rick finds pleasure in the absence of pain. After an injury, he became addicted to pharmaceuticals, though compulsive lying, and addictive behaviors were always part of his semi-adult life. He finds pleasure in manipulating people to do his will and to believe his lies which he believes makes his life easier.

Now that I have strange pleasures for each of my characters, I want to create a couple of concise sentences for each one and find the perfect places to put them. I’ll get into that and more in my next post: Strange Pleasures Part Two.