The Starving Activist is the sometimes-home for words. AR Neal (that’s me) finds them, cultivates them, and leaves them here. Enjoy.

November 8: The Girl who could Stop Time

Jeremy, 37, smiled at Anastase, 4. She smiled back, showing an incomplete row of baby teeth. "Why are you smiling like that, little one?" he asked.She shook her head, allowing the plethora of dark ringlets to fall like rain, and laughed. "You always call me that. Will you call me that on our wedding day?"Jeremy laughed with her and at her. "Our wedding day, eh? And when will that be?"Anastase looked at the calendar above her father's large oak desk. "When I turn 20.""You do realize I will be quite old by the time you are 20, don't you?"The curls did their dance as she shook her head again. "I will stop time today and you will wait for me.""What are you saying, girl?" The baron's voice echoed through the room as he entered. "Leave Mr. Jeremy alone." He shooed her out, shut the door and turned to Jeremy. "I hope she wasn't too much of a bother. I was detained with some outdoor matters. What was she talking about?"Jeremy's eyes twinkled. "Our wedding. Will you give it your blessing, Baron?"The child's father rolled his eyes. "If you can help me make sense of these business records, I'll make sure there is a sizeable dowry in my will for the two of you."The men laughed, that day.The years passed and the baron grew old. He continued to watch as his daughter developed into a wild beauty. She was unlike the others of her age -- she did not pester him for permission to go to the spring dance. Instead, she dutifully took her lessons, watched the goings-on around the estate, and sat at his knee to learn all there was about his business. Having a baroness run things was not typical, but he knew Anastase could handle it.He did not let on, but he also watched Jeremy, who never seemed to tire or grow older than he had the day they had joked about the dowry.The week before her 19th birthday, the baron took to his bed with illness. Anastase insisted on caring for him. Each day, she brought his soup and emptied his chamber pot. She stood in the shadows as the doctors came and went, pronouncing somber news.As he struggled to sit up, she fluffed his pillows. "Father, what do you think about all the doctors are saying?"He rolled his runny eyes toward her. "My lovely, I believe my time is at hand. I have left documents, there in the drawer, for you to take to the attorney on the day I leave this mortal expanse. All that I have is yours. All the servants will obey you, as they have obeyed me. You will be a true baroness and I trust that you will take care of this family estate as I have, if not better."Anastase shook her head slightly, the curls now well down her back shaking in a torrent. "Is there provision for the dowry as well, Father?"The baron frowned, remembering what he had told Jeremy so many years before. "Foolish girl, are you still thinking of Mr. Jeremy? Why, he must be --""He is still 37, Father."He was 37 then, making him 52 now, the baron thought to himself. "How is that possible?"Anastase looked at him intently. "Best you not worry on that." She straightened the coverlet. "Will you tell me how much it is, or must I wait? I know we aren't to marry until I am 20 but if you believe what the doctors are saying, I would like to know before ..."She trailed off and began again. "I'd like your blessing. Oh, Father, Jeremy has been one of your most loyal associates. He knows everything about this estate and will be an asset. I knew that, even as a child. If we marry, think of the powerful alliance we will make in this region! Your grandchildren, and their children's children, will go on to hold power the world has never seen before."He blinked at her. Who, what, is this girl?Anastase tilted her head to the side and smiled at him. Her eyes were full of love as she read his thoughts. "Oh, Father, did you think Mother didn't tell me before she died? We are the Nephilim, those of renown, children of men and angels. We each have a gift. I knew when I was little that Jeremy came from the Nephilim as well. His connection to our past is not as strong, but his genes are. I will need to teach him, and I will. I've loved him since first I sat on his knee as a wee babe."As the baron's eyes grew wide, she continued, "I claimed him then. Have you never wondered why Jeremy did not take a wife all these years? Did you not notice how he always has made a point of asking after me, dancing with me at our holiday cotillions? How he escorted me to Mother's funeral? It wasn't to stay in your good favor. It is because I am she who stops time. "She leaned closer and took his hand in hers. "I could do it for you, Father. Do you want to see your grandchildren? Their grandchildren? Say the word and I'll stop time again."A tear slipped down the baron's cheek as he pulled his hand away gently. "My dear Anastase. I prayed that you would never learn of your history, but alas, your mother revealed it against my wishes. I am just a man, destined to go back to the dust from whence I came. I cannot venture into this area of the spirit realm where none are welcome."He looked her in the eyes. "You are my one and only. Yes, I have always had a dowry in place for you, my dear one. What I said to Jeremy that day was said in jest."She placed her hand on his chest and his breathing became more labored. "Will you give us your blessing?"He swallowed as he prayed."What are you saying, Father? I can't hear you." Anastase sounded desperate."You are of the Nephilim, Anastase," he whispered as his eyelids grew heavy. "You have powers beyond my understanding." His voice faded. "Do ... what ... you ... will ..."He was gone.The girl stood, walked to the door of her father's bedchamber, and called the physicians who waited outside to tell them the baron had died. As they attended to him, she went to the desk, opened the drawer, and withdrew his will. Clutching it to her breast, she ran outside. "Bring the carriage round," she ordered the stableboy. "And send a messenger to Mr. Jeremy at once."

I mentioned that Turner Classic Movies had a great line-up on Halloween night. There is a regular segment called 'The Essentials', during which films of particular interest are shown. That evening, the selection was 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' from 1945. While the commentators admitted that it may not have been an essential -- as in a must-watch film -- it was a very good one. I agree! out the young Angela Landsbury and Donna Reed! I'm not sure if the version available for rent through Youtube has the painting in color, but the version that played on TCM that night did. It was a wonderful work.Our story's Anastase is no Dorian Gray, but the film inspired this little tale. I'd been thinking of it for a few days but did not have a name for my girl who could stop time. It came to me today and here we are.Oh, and if you aren't familiar with the Nephilim, check out the Old Testament Bible book of Genesis. Chapter 6, verse 4. Ellen White, a senior editor at the Biblical Archeology Society, offers a unique perspective of who the Nephilim were (are?) as well if you are interested. I've read other accounts that suggest each of the offspring of men and angels had a power, so I thought what an interesting ability it would be to have someone who could stop time.As another aside, I wished for this power (in hindsight): when I was quite young, I was convinced I would grow up to marry pianist Horace Silver. Here is one of the album covers that helped me make the decision:This 1954 hard bop album sold me on the handsome piano player, born in 1928. It mattered not that when I was about five -- which is when I remember first hearing this album (I was an early adopter of jazz, thanks to my dad) -- he already had me by a few decades. I figured he'd be this man, the one on the album cover, the one seated at the piano on the liner notes, when he married me.Oh, to stop time ...

November 9: Five Minute Winter

November 7: A Day with Hitler and Elvis(es)