Daniel looked up and his eyes met mine with that same twinkle he nearly always had, “Ready to begin cleaning?” he asked. “Absolutely,” I replied hurriedly, “and I want you to know that I'm pretty good at it. I used to clean my grandmother's house regularly before we moved. She even had a maid service come once a week when I was younger and she always said that I did a better job than they did.” “Really,” Daniel said with apparent interest. “So what do you think made you so good at it?” “Well, my grandmother used to say that the reason I did such a good job was that I paid attention to detail,” I replied. Daniel nodded his head in agreement, “I've noticed that about you while you watched the class practicing. You don't know this yet, but the ability to pay attention is your greatest asset. The cleaning up that I've got in mind for you is going to be very different than the cleaning up your grandmother had you do but we're going to work on improving that ability even further while you're here.” “Well,” I said, “I promise that I'll do my best.” “That,” Daniel said as he stood up, “is good, because that's all that's required in order to succeed here. In fact, I truly believe that if you give it your best, you'll far exceed my accomplishments. Now let's take a walk and get started.” I was taken aback by this latest comment and had to ask, “What belt are you?” I knew that Sensei Li was a black belt and that he was Daniel's student so I was expecting Daniel to be at least a second degree black belt but was secretly hoping for higher. I mean, if he expects that I'll exceed his abilities then I was hoping that he was a fifth or sixth degree black belt, or even higher. “We'll talk about that after school during your first lesson,” he said, evading the question. We walked to the back of the dojo where those Japanese room dividers were, and walked behind it. It kind of looked like a Japanese room. Actually, having never seen one, maybe it would be better to say that it looked kind of like I’d imagine a Japanese room looking. There were lots of plants and cushions on the floor, apparently for sitting on because there were no chairs anywhere. There was a fountain and what looked like an altar of some sort that had some incense sticks on it, as well as a bunch of stuff that I didn't recognize. “This is my sanctuary; welcome. Go ahead and take your shoes off and take a seat on one of the cushions,” Daniel said as he placed his shoes on a mat to the side. The cushions sat on top of some sort of pad or small rug; in fact, if you've ever seen a horse blanket, it looked almost exactly like that all laid out. The cushion itself was about volleyball sized if someone was sitting on it. It was round but a little flattened out. I sat down and it felt a little weird like it was filled with unpopped popcorn kernels or rice. Daniel sat on the other cushion facing me about four feet away. “What do you know about meditation?” he asked suddenly. I had heard of it before but little else. I knew that at least some monks meditated but that's about all. “Not much,” I admitted. “Good!” Daniel exclaimed, “then you won't have to unlearn a bunch of bad habits and preconceived notions. Most people have certain serious misconceptions about meditation. For instance, some believe that mediation is some arcane religious practice, but it is not. People from all religions and backgrounds meditate; in fact, even many atheists and agnostics meditate. I nodded, “I guess I'm gu...
[ Continued ]]]>
I looked up and suddenly mom and Daniel both came into view. They were walking together toward the dojo. I flew outside to meet them; the door to the dojo slamming shut louder than I would have thought possible. I grimaced apologetically as I saw Sensei Li look up and towards me, but he just gave me a knowing smile and turned back to his class. Mom saw me and interrupted a laugh to wave to me. Daniel had her laughing. “What a fantastic sign,” I thought and waved back. “Hi honey,” she said a few seconds later as we came into hearing range. “Hi mom! Hi Daniel!” I called. Mom raised her eyebrows a bit at me referring to Daniel by his first name but he was right on it, “First name basis is at my request,” Daniel said, “as long as it's okay with you, Bobbi.” Apparently, she had already introduced herself. Mom's name was actually Alberta but not too many people knew that; everyone just called her Bobbi. “Um, you guys know each other?” I asked, suddenly feeling a bit uncomfortable. I had to park a couple of blocks away,” she said. “Daniel was walking by as I parked and guessed it was me.” “You look like your mom,” Daniel offered, taking the mystery out of it. Mom beamed. She always said that I took after dad, but loved it when someone said that she and I looked alike. This was a good start. “How about we grab something to drink across the street and then, if you like, I can give you a tour of the dojo,” Daniel asked her. Mom glanced across the street toward Starbucks and grinned. I already knew her answer and that Starbucks would soon be down one venti Caramel Frappuccino. “Try to keep up boys,” she said and started to cross the street by way of her answer. I shot Daniel a look but he ignored it and simply smiled innocently as we tagged along behind her. A couple of minutes later we're all sitting at a table with our drinks and mom is just chatting away like she's known Daniel forever. Finally, the topic got around to the job. “Josh told me that you've offered him a job cleaning up around the dojo in return for lessons. Is that correct?” mom asked, suddenly all business like. “Well, it was a provisional offer, on the condition that it's alright with you,” Daniel said. You'd have to know my mother to know what a great choice of words that was. I figured that if Sensei Li, who was fantastic, was Daniel's student then Daniel must be truly great. On the other hand, if for some reason the martial arts lessons didn't work out, I could always take 'how to talk to my mother effectively' lessons from him. Then he continued, “There’s one more thing. Josh tells me that his grade point average is a 3.6. I'll be insisting on a 3.8 by the end of the school year if I'm going to continue working with him.” My mouth dropped. “What?” I began, but Daniel cut me off, “That's the deal, Jo...” he started to say firmly and then it was his turn to be cut off. “Deal!” said mom with a self-satisfied grin. “Let's go see the dojo.” I grinned back in spite of myself. I can't say that I was pleased with the whole 3.8 thing, but the truth of the matter was that I was pretty much just skating by. Mom knew that I could do better and wanted me to, but it's hard to complain about A's and B's, so she let it go. Now she was going to get what she wanted, and I was going to get what I wanted. I probably would ...
[ Continued ]]]>
I took off running for school. No attempt at a personal best this morning; I was going to make the bell even at a fast jog, so I decided to take it easy. I don't remember if I told you or not, but I'm in seventh grade. My school, Madison Middle School, is just for seventh and eighth graders and so this is my first year here. Mom had put in for a transfer from another hospital last year but waited until Summer to move so I wouldn't have to switch schools twice in one year. It may not be cool to say but I don't mind school that much really. I like learning, I just wish we could learn things we're really going to need to know once in a while. I'm guessing that the year the first person sailed around the world, or what year the Spanish American war was fought isn't going to be of much value to me unless I end up on a game show some day. I ran through the front door of the school just in time to see the resident school bully, Charlie, knocking some books out of the hand of some seventh grader I didn't know. Charlie is in the eighth grade and he's a class A jerk but he never really paid too much attention to me. Unlike that kid who was picking up his books off the floor, I'm pretty big for thirteen. If I had been in school with Charlie last year he probably would have tried to mess with me too, but I grew like eight or nine centimeters this year and put on almost that many kilos. He was still bigger than me but I guess it was too close to an even match up for his liking, especially when there were kids a whole head shorter than he was around. I made it to first period with plenty of time to spare – almost a full minute. Getting in the door was the challenge though. Morning rush hour was exceptionally heavy in the hallway as Christmas and New Years were over and it suddenly dawned on everyone that the next major holiday was Valentine's Day. It seemed that everyone was busy trying to hook up so they wouldn't be the only loser without a boyfriend or girlfriend by their side for the Valentine's Day dance and I guess they decided that the best place to flirt was at the door to class. Perhaps they figured that they could spend every second until the bell rang sucking face and still not be late that way. I suppose, if I'm truthful, I wouldn't have minded going to the dance but there wasn't really anyone I liked enough to go with. When the school year first started I had a thing for this girl, Alicia. She seemed cool and all and she was certainly cute enough, but she just turned out to be a major game player. While I was watching her and working up the nerve to ask her out, I found myself getting sick of seeing her string guys along while flirting with someone higher up the social food chain. You know, to see if she could score there while keeping the second string on the line. I hate that kind of game and quickly lost interest. Anyway, first period came and went and the rest of the day went pretty fast. Ms. Gallagher, who taught computer science, gave us a project that would be due at the end of the semester. It was so ridiculously easy that it probably could have been started and finished it during lunch but I decided to knock my pre-algebra homework out instead. After all, there were an entire five months for me to find a half hour to do the C.S. Project. My last class of the day on Tuesdays and Thursdays was study hall and that got used up finishing the book we were reading in English class. Seven minut...
[ Continued ]]]>
I've been staring at this page for a half hour now and have no idea how to begin. My name is Josh and I'm about fourteen years old. Typically, a guy knows how old he is and he doesn't have to guess, but here's the deal: I turned fourteen years old yesterday. I also turned fourteen years old six days ago. My girlfriend, actually she's quite a bit more than a girlfriend, was thirteen years old yesterday. Unfortunately, she's fifteen years old today and, unless I can figure out something pretty quick, she's going to die of old age before my fifteenth birthday. One of my mom's favorite songs, one that she often plays while she's cooking or cleaning around the house, has a line in it that says, “What a long, strange trip it's been.” That, both literally and figuratively, pretty much describes these last couple of months for me. Usually I don't much care for mom's music but that particular song has grown on me as my life has gotten increasingly strange. How strange you ask? I'll let you be the judge. It began with me stopping by a dojo on my way to and from school. The dojo was in a decrepit, old, stone building with a huge, street side window that allowed me to watch as the students went through their early morning workouts. The sign above the window simply said, “The Dojo” but they specialized in mixed martial arts, something that I'd been interested in for as long as I could remember. My father died when I was too young to remember him, but he was a third degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, so maybe it's in my blood. In my room, over my desk, I have a picture of my dad in his gi and on my dresser are three trophies that he had won in competition. I had just one picture of him in his military uniform – but it was a good picture. He was decked out in his dress uniform and he was holding two-year old me who was all dressed in camouflage. My dad had been sent overseas the day after the picture was taken and never returned. There wasn't any huge or famous battle; it was a simple, homemade, roadside bomb. I know that I was too young when my dad died to really remember him, but sometimes it seems like I can. Mom has always told me stories about him, especially stories about things that we did together, but it gets confusing. Am I remembering time I spent with him or was I remembering the picture in my head that forms when mom tells me stories about the things we did? I honestly don't know and though I'd like to, a part of me doesn't care; I have memories of my dad and they're good memories so what does it matter? But I'm getting off track. Once at the dojo, I'd watch through the window and try to pick things up. Mom worked hard and we had everything we needed, but martial arts lessons were expensive and she said that we simply couldn't afford them. I was disappointed, but you'd be amazed how much you can pick up just by watching carefully. Too, Mr. Li, or Sensei Li depending on whether you were on the sidewalk side of the front window or the dojo side, was pretty loud and I could usually hear everything he said to his students through the glass. I'd been stopping by to get my free lessons for about three weeks, when I had a strange encounter with an even stranger guy. For all the things I had noticed through the dojo window, I failed to notice that I too was being watched. This was not the first time. Across the street, sitting at an outside patio table of a corner coffee shop, sat a man who had been watching me very carefully for weeks now. You're probably wondering how I knew about this guy since I didn't notice him, right? Trust me; I'll get to that. Anyway, if you hadn't been looking for him, your eyes would pass right over him. The man sat with his back to the coffee shop facing the dojo and sat neither too straight in the chair, nor too hunched over. He blended in: wearing faded blue jeans, a nondescript sweatshirt, running shoes an...
[ Continued ]]]>
Book 1 Journey to the Tindi Homeworld
by Josh Danielsen
To Son-see-a-rae, my constant companion and teacher. Thank you for encouraging me to write this book and and more importantly, for leading me to my greatest teacher, best friend, and wife. This book is dedicated to you both. I love you.
There are a few things you should probably know before you begin reading. First, Daniel is the coolest guy ever. I know that I don't start out making that perfectly clear as I tell this story, but if you find yourself having reservations about him as I did in the beginning, you can save yourself the trouble. The second, and I'm sorry about this, is that you'll find no references to the actual fight training that I went through. Daniel and I discussed it at length when I told him that I wanted to write this book and we agreed that I should leave it out. We both decided that it was too important to have a competent teacher to train you and to share that knowledge in a book would be irresponsible. Third, this was tough to write in some spots. I mean, there were parts where I was kind of embarrassed by some of my thoughts and feelings, and I didn't always like the way I came out looking. The stuff with Anadia especially; often I ended up looking like a tweeny-bopper at some boy band concert or something, but the truth of the matter is, that's exactly how I acted. After thinking about it and talking to Daniel, I decided that I was more interested in being truthful and accurate than I was in looking cool. I omitted something in the book that I would like to rectify. I never knew the Yaja's name while he was alive, but it deserves to be spoken. In honor of his life and sacrifices, before he accepted the role and title of Yaja, he was known as Asekha. Let's see, what else? Right, Vajatindi has no written language and so, I had to do a lot of guesswork to include it. I worked with the Keeper to better understand and transliterate the words to the best of my ability. We agreed that it was as close as possible and conveyed the essence of the language accurately. She's also responsible for me using the word 'transliterate' cause I had no idea what it meant before now. Lastly, any errors or inconsistencies in this book are my fault. Daniel and Son-see-a-rae are awesome teachers, as are Anadia and Nash; but as you'll soon discover, I got a lot of information in a very short period of time and I might have screwed some of it up. I did the best I could however, and as Daniel told me when I first started this journey, my best is good enough. I hope that when you're done reading, you'll agree.