WE’LL WORK ON THAT

WE’LL WORK ON THAT

The place was dark. Very dark, all things considered. The whole house seemed closed off into small compartments. However there was still light streaming in from a full moon by a window to the right of the room.

Precisely why Steinthal had chosen this night. He knew that because of the full moon his night vision equipment could make good use of the available ambient and residual light and he could operate “in the dark” without giving himself away.

Time to put on my googles he thought.

He heard a small creak.

Instinctively he ducked low but something still hit him from behind and from his left. It had struck the top of his shoulder, the backside of his neck and the base of his skull. It was wide whatever it was. And it had only been a glancing blow but Steinthal saw a flash from the impact, heard a ring in his ear, and stumbled forward a few feet. Then as he caught his balance he ran forward another five or six feet and swirled as fast as he could recover.

Someone stood there. A big someone. Big and dark. If it had growled Steinthal might have taken it for a bear. As it was Steinthal thought it might be even more dangerous.

The thing seemed to just pause there as if considering what to do next. Steinthal’s head cleared completely and he started to make for his gun when the shape charged. It came in close almost instantly and surprised Steinthal, not with a jab or a horizontal swing, but with a ferocious right uppercut. Steinthal barely had time to react but twisted some and got his left arm stiffened and intercepted the shot down low. That took most of the punch out but the guy was still so strong that he lifted Steinthal onto the balls of his feet just from the sheer momentum.

Steinthal counterpunched furiously with his right. Hit the guy solidly on the left side of the front of his neck. It should have rocked the guy on his heels, caused him to splutter and choke. He hadn’t hit the trachea but it still would have stunned most men.

As it was the only two things that seemed to happen as far as Steinthal could tell was that it made a sound like the guy had been hit with a wet fish, and the man stepped back one step. He hadn’t even bent over.

Realizing fully what he was now facing, Steinthal swiftly backtracked three or four feet and grabbed his revolver with his right and his combat knife with his left. He had only glanced down for an instance to retrieve his weapons but when he looked up the guy already had a semiautomatic in one hand and a shiny machete in the other. Where the machete had come from Steinthal had no idea but it did impress him.

The guy was now closer to the moonlight. You could partially make him out. Steinthal decided he wasn’t big after all. He was monstrous. But he didn’t look stupid. No, there was a kind of set to his face and a sort of light in his eyes that Steinthal took for real and raw intelligence. Even more dangerous.

There were several moments of tense silence while they pointed their weapons at each other.

“That kind of hurt for such a little fella,” the big guy suddenly said and spit. There might have been some blood mixed in but it was too dark to tell. “What’s your name?”

“Huh?” Steinthal said.

“I said, ‘what’s your name.’ I don’t like having to repeat myself.”

Steinthal cleared his throat.

“John,” he replied. “But most everyone calls me Steinthal.”

The guy seemed to mull over the answer.

“Yeah, you’re the one,” he said as if mentally verifying a fact-sheet.

“What one?” Steinthal asked.

“The one I’m meant to kill tonight,” the big guy said.

“Well then,” Steinthal said. “You’re one up on me. I usually know nothing about most of the people I kill until it is all over.
“Why is that?” the big guy asked.

“Because they tend to ambush me,” replied Steinthal.

The big guy chuckled quietly.

“Well then, are you going to shoot me?” he asked.

“I’d rather not,” Steinthal said warily. “But at this point anything seems possible.”

Seemingly to spite himself the big guy chuckled again.

“I like you.” The big guy said. “You’re funny.”

“Trust me,” Steinthal said. “I’m not trying to be, but if helps any then let’s just go with that.”

The big guy seemed blithe. “Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to snap your neck, but now I sort of like you.”

Steinthal noticed that despite the relaxed and easy going tone of the man’s voice his aim had remained absolutely fixed and his breathing so steady that he seemed motionless. Even while he spoke.

“Yeah, well,” said Steinthal “We all do what we can.”

The guy laughed again. If not for the circumstances then to Steinthal this would have seemed ridiculous.

When the guy finished laughing he said, “Seems kind of a shame now though.”

“Don’t it,” said Steinthal. “But, you know, the guns and all…”

The big guy looked at Steinthal’s revolver.

“I’ve been shot before you know,” he said. “By a lot bigger and more powerful weapons than that. Never killed me.”

“I’ll bet,” said Steinthal. “But there’s always that first time. And I’m pretty damned determined.”

“Also I’m armored,” said the big guy, as if he hadn’t noticed Steinthal’s reply.

“Thanks for the heads up,” said Steinthal. “Now I know where not to aim.”

There was silence again. But no movement.

“Say,” Steinthal finally said. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but I get the distinct feeling you’re not just playing for time here. Do you get the idea that there might be something else going on with this whole affair that neither of us are quite square on? And that maybe we should skip the strangulations and compare notes about in private?”

More silence. But then the big guy shrugged nonchalantly and holstered his gun. It kind of disappeared entirely into the huge black mound that was his chest. But the machete remained. And the guy had never even shifted his gaze.

“Maybe… Probably… Yes. I’ve had that idea for some time now,” he said. “But I didn’t want to make any snap judgements.”

“Yeah,” Steinthal said. “It’s one of the things I appreciate most about you.”

“People think I’m stupid, you know. Because I’m so big,” the big guy said. With a kind of sad resignation that seemed almost fatalistic.

“Well fella,” said Steinthal. “I’m not most people. And whereas you are stupefyingly big, you are most definitely not stupid.”

The guy chuckled again. Then sighed softly.

“You going to lower your gun now?” the big guy asked.

“I’m thinking about it, but, you know, I’m not exactly stupid either.”

The machete clattered to the floor.

“Very nice. Now can you do that with your hands, arms, and most of the rest of you as well?”

The guy smiled in the dark. And it seemed completely friendly.

“Probably not. I come this way,” he said.

“Alright then. I’ll just take your word for it.” And Steinthal holstered his gun and knife.

“Say,” Steinthal said relaxing a little. “Since you know so much about me what say you tell me your name?”

“You’ll laugh,” the big guy replied.

“Well, if I do, then don’t take it personally. I have an excellent sense of humor.”

“Okay then. It’s Maugham,” said the big guy. “William Somerset Maugham. But my friends call me Angus.”

Steinthal whistled. “Well I’ll be damned. I’ve read all your books!

“Yeah,” the big guy looked sheepishly at the ground. “My mother was real big on literature.”

“Nothing wrong with that,” Steinthal said. “But say, you’re a lot bigger in person than you look in the papers. Or the history books.”

“Yeah, I hear that a lot. Well, not a lot. Not recently anyway. Most people don’t read anymore.”

“Yeah, that’s a real shame, ain’t it? But that being what it is I’m not calling you Angus or Bill either,” Steinthal said.

“Well then, what are you going to call me?”

“I’m gonna call you Maugham,” said Steinthal. “Because you remind me of W. Somerset Maugham. If, you know, he had been as big as a damned Angus.”

Maugham nodded.

“What say though we get outta here now Maugham?” Steinthal asked. “Before they send in a troll?”

Maugham shrugged. “Okay. I’m game if you are.”

As they were sneaking out Steinthal said, “Say, what you said back there. Is that true?”

“Is what true?” asked Maugham.

“Do you really have friends?”

Maugham stopped in his tracks and seemed to mull over the question quietly in his mind before replying.

“You know, I’m not really sure.”

“Well,” said Steinthal. “The night is still young. We’ll work at it awhile. Then see what we can come up with. One thing’s for sure though.”

“What’s that?” asked Maugham.

“After tonight I owe you one. If you’ll take friendship as payment then I’ll sure call it square.”

(This is the first meeting between Steinthal and Maugham.)

From The Detective Steinthal.

AND THEN THEY ATE

AND THEN THEY ATE…

“You know what I’ve always loved most about you?” she said reaching for his hand across the table. “You never judged me. You always just accepted me as I am.”

He accepted her hand, and held it gently but shook his head dubiously.

“No, my dear,” he said flatly. “You are entirely wrong on both accounts, and could not be further from the actual truth.”

She withdrew her hand in surprise, a deepening frown creasing her puzzled brow.

“What do you mean?” she said nervously.

“I mean I judged you constantly,” Steinthal said. “I still do. That is what I do. I watch people. I study people. I come to understand a person, and then I judge them. In a brutally honest fashion. I judge everyone this way, including myself. You are certainly no exception to the rule. As a matter of fact there are no exceptions to the rule.”

“Oh,” she said hollowly.

He looked at her intently, staring relentlessly into her face for a moment, and then continued.

“I am no modern man,” he said, as if reading the barometric pressure on a gauge before a storm. “I do not believe in the ‘man without judgment.’ The man without judgment is simply another term for an absolute fool. I am no fool my dear, and when it comes to judgment I attempt to do something far braver and much more vital than avoid judging people, I seek to judge them accurately and in truth.”

She looked down at her plate as if suddenly uncomfortable, or in shame. There was a long pause while she tried to think of what to say. Not knowing how to respond she whispered out loud and to herself,

“What must you think of me then?”

He nodded slightly, though she did not see it. He waited a moment to see if she would say anything else or look up but she did not.

“Since you asked I will tell you precisely what I think of you and how I have judged you,” Steinthal replied, accepting her unintended cue. “I adjudged you in this way. I never accepted you as ‘you were,’ and I will not in the future. Furthermore I judged you not for what you were, but for what I fully suspected you could be. I did not take you for how you appeared, but for how it appeared to me that you could be, if you ever decided you would. And as far as I can see, you did. And did rather well at it. Does that really surprise you?”

She looked up again and stared at Steinthal, but whether more in shock or gratitude neither was certain.

This time he offered his hand across the table.

“I like to think of myself as a very good judge of character,” he told her. “And of potential. I would not waste my time or effort with or upon anyone who did not demonstrate an aptitude for both. So, do not prove me wrong and I shall not have to judge you otherwise. And that will be more than enough for me, assuming it is enough for you.”

She looked into his eyes and could find no hint of guile, or of misdirection. He seemed perfectly sincere. And it occurred to her, maybe for the very first time, just how perfectly sincere he usually was.

She reached back across the table, took his hand, smiled, and said softly, “I think I love you.”

He gently squeezed her hand in reply.

“I am aware of that,” he said.

She kept smiling but sighed with a deep resignation.

“Though you truly can be something of a real bastard.”

“I am aware of that as well,” he said, smiling in return.

Then he dropped her hand and took up his fork. He pointed it at her.

“But how bout we eat now and save the romance for later? After all we have the entire evening, and this meal is hardly the limit of my current ambitions.”

She laughed and took up her own fork.

And then they ate.

from The Detective Steinthal

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Note: this was not the scene I had intended to write tonight, but my router blew out and that delayed me working on the other scene and since this one seemed to flow kinda nicely I just worked it instead.

WHY WOULD HE?

WHY WOULD HE?

“I should think the answer would be self-evident, even to you. Why would I wish to have adventures only in my mind when I should have them with my body and soul as well? In his own mind a man is always but an unchallenged and untested king upon an imaginary golden throne of plenty. But to thrive in the world about him he must be something far greater, far more cunning, more dangerous, and far more wise – a Wizard of Many Things.”

Alternaeus the Wizard

(from The Wizard and the Wyrdpack)

ONLY GREAT NEED – THE KITHARIUNE

IN ANSWER TO MARSIPPIUS NICEA, COMMANDER OF THE BASILEGATE

“Oh, I understand you well enough. Lord and commander of the Basilegate. For you see I once was you. You believe that man must be ruled by other men. Strong men. Kings, emperors, imperators. Commanders given rank and title, tithe and sway. Men who give commands so that others may meekly acknowledge, bend the knee, and thus obey. This kind of life is well known to the world. It is the ancient and unquestioned way.

But it is not my way. Not, at least, any longer. For I know well enough now of men who will not bend to summons, who will not submit to commands, who seek no orders, obey no demands to speak and live as others will, no matter how strong the strong man be. For I have learned in countless, hidden toils that man should be strong enough, with God’s help, to rule himself. That all men should be strong enough to rule themselves, even when they do not wish to do so, even when they are too cowardly to try. And trust me, many are those too cowardly to try. Orders given and taken are easy to discover and trade like treasured coins in the many markets of the open world. But courage is earned in private, and a labor of many great losses. Failure to be afraid is its only profit, yet still, that profit is rare enough and high enough for me.

In truth, my friend, you know only of the smallness of man. The smallness of ‘go here, and do that,’ regardless of virtue, and heedless of vice. But I do not speak of the smallness of man. I speak of man as he could be, as he was always meant to be, even as he should be when he will not be. I speak of man as a thing far greater than citizen, or subject, or soldier. I speak of man as Man. And I speak as a Man. A man who needs no king, who obeys no emperor, who short of God has no master and desires no master, for God is no master of man but Lord only of his True Nature, of what Man is at his best. Of what man should be. I can live with that Lord, and gladly so, and he can order me as He will, for that Lord obligates me to my highest self. He demands of me not obedience, but that rarest of all ranks – Real Manhood. Perhaps my refusal is to you but insurrection, perhaps my reply cryptic, and perhaps you know nothing now of what I truly mean but I hope and pray one day you shall. As for me I no longer have a country in this world, though I would not see it undefended. Either country, or the world. But I can give no service to you short of Truth. For I have but one Lord now, and he sits no throne in any city of man. Thus all other lords, all other kings, all other commanders, all other basils can go bray and bid and howl as they wish, but I will not serve them, and they are not my lords.”

Then Rhorric, despite the moonless and unnatural blackness, stood and strode to his horse at the edge of the firelight and mounted it smoothly like one long experienced and free of all doubt.

“If you have need of me commander,” he said placing his spear across his right leg so that the point pierced the gathered dark beyond him, “then I will come. Because I am your friend. Because it is my duty. Because I am unafraid. But I will not come because I am ordered to do so. And you will never speak to me in that manner again.”

Turning his horse northwards Rhorric rode out into the troubled night and disappeared from human sight.

Then the entire party murmured at his words and some found them hot and overwrought, and some questionable and rebellious, and some, like Suegenius and Vlachus nodded surreptitiously to each other and smiled secretly to themselves.

     Marsippius, though, was at first very angry at Rhorric’s insurgent answer and he stood slowly and carrying his sword with him walked to the edge of the camp where no one else could see him. Then the Roman looked up into the dark sky and saw glimmering there a strange and distant light such as he had never seen before. A bright light, yet fast moving, varying in color but shaped like a small egg. He wondered at it as he watched – what it could mean? Was it an omen of the moment, favored or ill, or merely some unknown celestial light he had never earlier noticed? For although it was easily visible to him and seemed to move across the sky more like a meteor than a star it did not dim or burn away as it moved. He observed it closely as it crossed the heavens, bright, and cold, and lonely, until it was lost behind the horizon or perhaps shielded by some distant range of mountains not visible to his sight. And suddenly it seemed to him as if this wandering star in the darkness was alone like Rhorric, and reminded him somehow of the man. And like the Cappadocian Vigilant it too was unafraid to be a light unto itself. Seeming to pass well beneath the height of the other stars in its peculiar path it was nevertheless not bound by a fixed and otherworldly orbit, not set to move slowly and forever upon the same sure course. Rather it was a thing unbound. Not really a thing of the distant Heavens, but still a thing far above the Earth. A fire of its own will, free to go where it wished, to do as it found best, to live as it would. Then the anger of Marsippius was gone as well, out like the fleeting star beyond his sight, and he found he was no longer upset by Rhorric’s words, but rather all the more curious, and even envious, for he realized that he had never heard a man speak like that in his entire life. And now he wished to hear more. But Rhorric was already gone and only great need could entice him back again.

Rhorric of Cappadocia (the Vigilant) in answer to the commands and summons of Marsippius Nicea, Field Commander of the Basilegate
from my novel The Basilegate (first book of the Kithariune)

YEAH, SO EXACTLY HOW DO YOU DO THAT?

YEAH, SO EXACTLY HOW DO YOU DO THAT?

“It’s a question of precisely what is the most ethical possible practice,” Termkin said, apparently annoyed by Steinthal’s relentless and unswerving line of inquiry.

Steinthal stared at him intently, but unreadably.

“Is it?” asked Steinthal.

Termkin seemed puzzled by the question.

“What do you mean?” Termkin said.

“See,” said Steinthal twirling the brim of his hat in his hand, “that’s where I think we both know you’re wrong.”

Termkin furrowed his brow, his expression a mixture of ongoing annoyance and a genuine struggle to understand.

“I still don’t perceive your exact meaning?”

“No, I don’t think you do,” said Steinthal. “And I really didn’t expect that you could. But let me simplify the matter for you. You see I have this theory that everything is always really about morality. And that ethics is just something that lawyers and other no count types like you employ as a cheap legal substitute.”

Termkin seemed to follow Steinthal’s explanation at a slightly slower pace than it had been enunciated. But when he finally caught up he suddenly flushed red and showed his ire.

“Why you smart mouthed son of a bitch!”

Steinthal laughed good humoredly.

“Probably,” he said. “But I noticed you didn’t bother to refute me.”

Termkin mulled on that for a moment before his snappy comeback finally came to him.

“Oh yeah, well exactly how is one supposed to refute you smartass types?” Termkin demanded. “You think you’re always right.”

Steinthal stood up and put his hat on his head. He smiled to himself as if Termkin wasn’t even in the room though he was still staring right at him.

“See, that’s the part about this whole thing that’s easiest to resolve,” said Steinthal. “We are always right. Even when no one else knows it yet. Like you. As for the thinking part, well now, if you ever really bothered with that then I presume you could figure it out for yourself.”

Steinthal tipped his hat at Termkin in a peculiar gesture. “But I’m not gonna lay real money on it.”

Steinthal walked across the room, opened the door and then looked back at Termkin.

“I’d like to say it was nice to meet you Termkin. But, we met anyway. So at least we’ll always have that.”

The he left.

Still full of questions, but certain he finally crossed the right man.

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A bit of dialogue involving my Detective Character Steinthal. I didn’t really get a chance to do a Tuesday’s Tale this week. Too busy. So I’m posting this today instead.

My youngest daughter read it and I asked her what she thought of it and she said, “Dad, Steinthal talks pretty much just like you.”

Which made me laugh.

“Yeah, funny how that works, ain’t it?” I told her…

HIGH AND LOW FORTUNE – HAMMER, TONG, AND TOOLS

HIGH AND LOW FORTUNE

“You ask me how I know this and I can only tell you what I’ve seen.

High Fortune came upon me like a silent serpent, slithering from behind in such a stealthy manner as to conceal his true intent and to scarcely warrant my attention.

Low Fortune approached me like a titled lord, resplendent all in showy pomp and decorative circumstance, attired in the lofty regalia of finely whispered shadows spun from venomous spider silks.

Low Fortune is, you see my friend, the King of Seeming and the Prince of Cunning Craft yet I advise you eschew his long seducing and ever seductive company. For his court is all fantastic façade and fraudulent fashion and his manner and his manor are both estates of ruin.

High Fortune, on the other hand, wears no glittered crown of kingship nor rankish robes of high office nor encrusted jewels of state, he is as plain of face, as rough-built by effort, and as quiet in nature as if stable bred. Yet if on turning round by chance or calculation you find him standing nearby then reach out your hand quickly and grasp him in so firm a hold that he cannot escape, and never let him go until he promises to bless you as his friend.

Leave Low Fortune, brother, where he dwells, even if he home in temple renown or palace grand, for he is the sure slum-lord of soon-to-be sad misdeeds and the master of all unenviable fools.

Instead set your watch and wait patiently for High Fortune, for one day he will approach you in sly disguise, silent and unannounced, to see what can be made of you if you will ever dare. For he is your steadfast, stalwart, and subtle Friend and the Maker of that Fortune you truly seek.

Low Fortune churns like stormy waves, he ebbs and flows and never settles ought. High Fortune stands alone and trembles not, he shelters and secures all Men of Enterprise.”

from the Kithariune  (link)

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Since the beginning of this year I have been in one of the most productive periods/phases of my entire life as far as the creation of poems, songs, short stories, novels, scripts, and other literary works are concerned. I have recently produced hundreds of pages of new works.
 
Above is a section of my novel series the Kithariune. In this passage the Welsh Bard Larmaegeon is trying to explain the difference(s) between High and Low Fortune to his friend and companion, the Spanish Paladin Edimios. And why he should wait upon the one and avoid the other.
 
Anyone is welcome to comment upon it, of course.

CROSSING OVER – HIGHMOOT

CROSS OVER WORK

Lately I have been doing a lot of what I call Cross-Over Work.

In this case I mean by saying that I have been doing a lot of work that cross-fertilizes itself in other works I am simultaneously creating. For instance I might be writing one novel and a particular scene or bit of dialogue I create will inspire another scene or piece of dialogue in another book or novel I am working on.

Though such things are not necessarily related to or limited to my various fiction writings. I might be drawing a map or making a sketch, designing something, working on a start-up project, developing an invention, writing a poem or song lyrics, or writing a novel or a non-fiction book and all of these things, or others, might give me an idea for another work I’m currently pursuing.

So today, and below (and in allusion to my previous post on actors), I am posting some of my latest Cross-Over Work. Little vignettes, or to be more accurate, often just little snippets (bits of dialogue, sections of scenes, sketch notes, etc.) of various Works I am creating and pursuing at this time.

Does your Work cross over in this way, from one work to another?

If so then feel free to comment below.

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NOT A FAIR FIGHT

“Again I don’t get it. Take one shot at your actual target and three at yourself… don’t seem like much of a fair fight to me.”

From my Western The Lettered Men

 

A CLUE

“Not every possibility is true, that’s certainly true, but every possibility is always a clue – to something other than itself. If you keep forgetting that then it’s very possible the Truth will entirely escape you. And if it does then what other possibilities really matter?”

From The Detective Steinthal

 

TRUE DARKNESS

“True darkness obscures. Few things can thrive in perpetual shade but those things that can definitely always wish to remain hidden. That is, until they are ready to be discovered. For reasons of their own.”

From The Detective Steinthal

 

ALWAYS BEST

“It is always best to hunt in silence.”

The Detective Steinthal

 

YOUR TRAINING IS OVER

“What are you training for kid? To train forever? Now who wants that kinda shit anyway? Only officers and politicians, that’s who. No, you get your ass in the fight. You’ve trained long enough. Time to be somebody.”

From Snyder’s Spiders

 

IT BLEEDS

“And how now is your wound?”

“It itches fiercely, it hurts mightily, it swells darkly, but it bleeds freely and cleanly. It is good that it bleeds so and thus I will not complain of the other things. But if you have any more of that strange brew you drink then I will not complain of a skin full of that either.”

“I have not a skin, but I can manage a cup.”

“Then so can I…”

Suegenius describing to Fhe Fhissegrim the condition of his wound

From my fantasy The Kithariune (The Basilegate)

 

A RARE AND WONDROUS FEAT

“If you cannot stand up to your own old man then you will never stand up to anyone. If you can stand up to your own old man then you can stand up to anyone else, and everyone else.

If your old man ever forces you to rebel against him then do not hate him for it, respect him for it. He has done more for you in that regard, as regards the development of your actual manhood, than any other thing anyone else could ever do for you in the world. That man who forces his son into rebellion has bred a man. You owe such a father an enormous and generous debt.

That father who always insists his son obey him, right or wrong, has bred a mere and helpless and fearful slave. You owe that father your utter disdain and yourself nothing but shame for your own endless submission.

Drink to your father Edomios. Drink long and deep. He has bred a man in you. A man who can stand upright and unafraid. A rare and wondrous feat in our age.

Maybe in any age.”

Marsippius Nicea the Byzantine Commander of the Basilegate explaining to Edomios the Spanish Paladin why he owes his father a debt of manhood

From The Kithariune

 

THAT WAY YOU SPEAK

When Michael first lands in Thaumaturgis he is met by Harmonius Hippostatic
who makes fun of the way he speaks and tries to explain to Michael where he is, and what life is like in the Lands. Michael does not at first speak in verse, but speaks in prose, but as he stays longer and longer in the land of Thaumaturgis he also comes to speak in metered, rhyming verse.

Harmonius: That way you speak, it’s quite a feat
But it will never do,
No meter, rhyme or rhythm,
It’s really quite obtuse.

Michael: Where am I?

Harmonius: Why this is Thaumaturgis,
Don’t you know your lands?
It’s one of the three countries,
Not earth, not stone, not sand.
No one’s ever figured
How it got this way
Tomorrow is the same as now
It’s always been that way.
If want you life miraculous
Or supernatural,
It’s really quite so marvelous
And never, ever dull.
But one thing in this country
You really must avoid
Speaking words in plain old prose
Is what will most annoy,
So put on your best rhyming
Your metered rhythm too
Don’t dally up a worthwhile speech
Without so much ado,
Be mannered in your speaking
Poetic when you talk
Or everyone will soon declare
Your words taste just like chalk

From my children’s book, Three Lands