Merlyn MacLeod, Author

Merlyn MacLeod, Author

Two wenches writing as one. Named after the falcon, not the mage.

The Straws of Life

This is Thorne. He’s 17 years old.

These are plastic straws. They’re brand new.


Years ago, we discovered Thorne had a thing for straws. If we left one unattended in a cup, he’d steal it and chew it flat over a couple of days.

Some straws we brought home were thick and safe for the Thorney treatment. Most were too thin. They shredded between the power of his enthusiastic molars, and we had to watch sharp and soon separate Thorne from his joy to keep him from swallowing a piece of shattered straw.

At the time Thorne came to us, a Korean couple ran an independent Discount Emporium a few blocks above the place I worked. It was nestled between a wedding rental shop and a check advance shark. Everything was only $1, and the store held all sorts of treasures, like wonderful Ceylon teas from Fortunes and Roya’s Tea Garden,  iron tea-lite holders, and exquisite journals with tissue-thin pages boarded with silk.

Best of all, the Emporium had straws hard enough to stand up to Thorne’s enthusiasm.

I bought four bags when I saw them (200-count each) and wondered at the time if the straws would run out before he left us. Each little darling gave him multiple sessions of unchaperoned chewing pleasure–easy for us, safe for him. They flattened but never shredded, and we’d find mangled plastic worms abandoned throughout the house.

Thorne accepted each straw offering with open joy, lifting up on his hind feet to take the straw between his teeth like a horse takes a bit. Each one seemed to contain an private adventure for him.

These are the straws that are left.


The white ones are backups from Arby’s. Though both are safe for him to chew, Thorne would tell you the white ones are inferior, that no fast-food offering could possibly hold the same tasty pleasure as the Emporium’s. He will always prefer the colorful straws in their crinkly plastic package to bigger, boring, dignified ones in a plain white paper.

Thorne died this week. The straws he left behind have made me realize that rather than rationing his joy to make his favorite stiff straws last in their crinkly plastic package (the sound of which always made him come running), I should have been offering him adventure after adventure as quickly as I could. As soon as he abandoned a flattened straw because all the goodie had been chewed out of it, I should have gone to the kitchen cupboard (too high for him to steal a straw for himself), crinkled the bag, and watched him come running for another adventure.

Instead, I drizzled out his joy so slowly, he had to leave much of it behind.

Thorne’s leaving has also made me realize that I’m also guilty of drizzling out my own joy. I hesitate and hide and save my dreams and goals for tomorrow or next year, thinking I’ll get to it when the time is right. But time never makes things right: we do.

Unless I take my dreams and deliberately make them real in my life, before Death walks up and tells me, “Time to go,” those dreams will still be languishing in the crinkly bag of my psyche, waiting for the perfect moment I never made.

This straw represents my goal of finishing the paranormal fantasy featuring Richard III that I have in progress.


Another straw represents my dream of returning to England to visit Middleham Castle, to stay in the Cotswolds, and forty other adventures I let myself be talked out of having [mumble] years ago.


The straws Thorne left behind are shouting for me to grab the goodies in life — not someday when the time is right, but right now, starting this moment. Pick up a dream, write down the steps it will take to get from here to there, and do them. Because the clock ticks on and neither Death nor any goody will wait for me.

It’s my fault I rationed Thorne’s straws, his chewing adventures.

It’s my fault I’m rationing my own dreams.

No more.

I put the first Thorney straw on the wall next to my computer. Grinning, I sink my teeth into the first step to finishing my novel on Richard. There’s no room in it for an appearance by a furry, opinionated Himalayan, but that doesn’t mean he’s not there with me, page by page.

Straw to Dream → Dream to Goal → 

Goal to Concrete Steps → Do the Steps to Make the Dream Your Reality 

 What straws do you want to do in your life?

Thorne  1996-2013

Thorne — 1996-2013
We miss you, Catty-Man.


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The Man With No Eyebrow

Photo by Alberto P. Viega, Wikimedia Commons.

Photo courtesy of Alberto P. Viega, on Wikimedia Commons & Flikr.

Last night I dreamed of a man with no eyebrow. He was a burly medieval in the service of Richard III. He didn’t wear a little white boar badge announcing his affinity; I just knew, in the surreal way you automatically know things in dreams.

I’ve been doing a lot of research on Richard III lately for a book I’m working on, so it’s not surprising I’d dream of something to do with him. It’s too bad Richard himself didn’t show up in my dream, ready to answer all my questions and solve the mystery of the little princes, but my Muse is never cooperative that way. Like Joss Whedan, she gives me what I need, never what I want.

No Eyebrow loomed over me and put his face close to mine and told me many important things — none of which I can remember. The extremely close encounter revealed to me that his right eyebrow was bushy and black, while his left eyebrow was naked with the exception of a few scattered hairs. Does he pluck? I wondered. His bottom teeth were crooked and thick with yellow plaque. I expected his breath to smell, but I don’t remember ever smelling anything in a dream. (I don’t know why, like a proper writer, my Muse doesn’t know to use all the senses when she presents a scene to me.) No Eyebrow’s face filled my dreamscape, so I don’t know whether I’d been transported to Unmerry Olde 15th-Century England, or if he was wearing lovely Spanish-leather boots. (Why are boots in medieval novels always made of Spanish leather? Why not Portuguese or Italian Leather?)

I don’t usually remember my dreams. When I do, I know how to pour the pertinent details onto paper and analyze the symbolism to pinpoint what my subconscious is trying to tell me about a current situation in my life.

No Eyebrow isn’t letting me do that.

With all the research I’ve been doing at the moment on Richard III’s life, it’s no surprise I’d dream of something to do with him. I’d rather it had been him in the dream rather than some stranger with no eyebrow, but that would be too easy, and easy is something my Muse doesn’t do very often.

Since I can’t plug the symbolism of No Eyebrow into my current real life, I’m considering using him somewhere in my Richard III novel.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could train our Muses into introducing us to a character a night? Each character could tell us their greatest fear, their greatest desire, and what wonderful-horrible things happened to them in the past to make them who they are. Further, they could reveal the best use we could make of them.

Right now, all No Eyebrows has given me is a starkly visual gimmick. He’s going to have to give me a lot more before I can see if he even fits into my world.

Have you ever had someone introduce himself or herself in your dreams? Did you end up using them as a character in your work, or did they help with something in your life? Tell me about it?

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