The Minotaur Medallion


When I rolled backward off the side of the boat, the difference was instantly obvious. It was like diving into a martini. If there’d been an olive on the bottom I probably could have seen it.

It made me wonder what kind of muck I’d been swimming in over the past few weeks, when I could barely see to the end of my arm. Actually, I guess I didn’t want to think too much about that. Surely it was just tourists’ sunblock and hand cream that clouded the water of St. Paul’s Bay where I had been swimming; not oil spills, or bilge water from boats, or worse…

In fairness, the European version of The Weather Channel on the TV in my hotel room had been reporting for most of the last two weeks that there was a fierce storm in the eastern Mediterranean. Though we hadn’t seen the storm here, we’d seen the effects. The surfers loved it. And it was probably the roiling surf as much as the pollution that was responsible for the poor visibility I’d been struggling with since I arrived.

But I was now diving about a hundred yards off a beach roughly a half mile south of St. Paul’s Bay, on the east coast of Malta. Malta is a flyspeck of an island about 500 miles south of Italy, smack in the middle of the shipping lanes between Europe and Africa. It was a beautiful beach, but if it had a name, I didn’t know what it was. There was no bay at all to protect this spot from the Med, but there was a pile of rocks jutting from the sea just north of me; and what looked like some sort of a shoal or reef connecting the shore to the rocks just beneath the water. A ship lost in the dark might hear the surf hitting those rocks and assume they were closer to land than they actually were. The shoal water behind the rock-pile was clearly visible now, in broad daylight. But in bad weather or at night, that shoal would be a deadly menace to an unsuspecting sailor.

There were no other boats here, unlike the crowded harbor at St. Paul’s Bay. Coming south from St. Paul’s Bay to this nameless beach I’d passed another bay which did have a name, but not one I could pronounce. That bay was as crowded with boats as its shoreline was with condominiums. By contrast, the shoreline here was nearly uninhabited. From the boat I could see a coast road at the top of an undeveloped beach fringed by the grays and greens of sea grass and wild shrubs, the occasional car zipping past from St. Paul’s Bay to points south. A minaret due west of where my boat was anchored indicated a Muslim mosque on a low hill above the road, and I was pretty sure I’d seen someone up there in the tower occasionally watching my progress. I suppose it was rare to see someone diving here.

 There was a house a few hundred yards north of the mosque, and another one about a quarter of a mile south. The northern one was a brand new monstrosity straight out of the Salvador Dali school of architecture. The one to the south was more traditional though somewhat the worse for wear. It looked...


Resurrection Day


I came awake all at once. That in itself was remarkable, as I was more accustomed to an extended period of semi-wakefulness, creaking and groaning and trying to decide whether it was worth the trouble to drag myself out of bed, generally trying to justify holding out for a few more minutes of shuteye.

This morning was nothing like that. Instead I was awake, rested, and alert. In fact, I felt like I had just gotten the best night’s sleep I’d had in months, maybe years, and I couldn’t wait to start the day. And I couldn’t remember the last time I’d felt like that.

Thinking about it, I realized that I was not in my own bed…this one was far more comfortable. I don’t normally sleep well on a bed this firm, but I slept great. I made a mental note to check out the brand, maybe see if I could get a deal on one like it when I got home.

Was I not home? No, even with my eyes closed, this didn’t feel like my place. Why not? Where was I? I opened my eyes, but I couldn’t see much, just vague shapes in the dimly lit room. Man, I really did sleep, I don’t even remember visiting someone else, or someplace…was this a motel?

I sat up on the edge of the bed. There appeared to be a curtain in the doorway instead of a door. Most of the light in the room was leaking in around that curtain. There was also a faint light at the ceiling from what looked like a high window behind a valance. I could hear dim music, a long way off, not a song I recognized. Not produced music… it sounded more like one really good musician playing an unfamiliar tune on a guitar.

There was also a wonderful smell of cinnamon rolls wafting in from somewhere. Maybe that high window was open, or maybe the aroma was drifting in from the next room.

“Steve, you awake?”

Yikes! I quickly dragged the sheet over myself. “Who’s that?” 

99 Ways to Fire Your Boss


Put simply, this book is a list of (far more than) 99 real-world solutions for supporting yourself without becoming a slave to a full-time boss.

These are NOT ideas for getting rich. There are a million books on how to become a gazillionaire over the weekend. Some of them might even work – for the person selling the books.

If you’re looking for a sure-fire way to be lazy and get rich quick, don’t waste your time reading any further.

If you’re still reading, you’ll find this to be a valuable reference. It discusses money from two different directions: how you can make the money you need in the least amount of time, and how to reduce how much money you need. We’ll be discussing both of those ideas. 

I’m not rich. Never have been. But I’ve always found a way to get by. Most of the time, when the only way I could find to get by was a five-day, all-day work week, I’ve regretted it. I knew I was doing something wrong. I could think of far better ways to spend those days. And I began to look for ways to get out of the grind.

These ideas I’ve been collecting, some of them literally for decades, offer unique and inventive ways that you can support yourself adequately, not grandly. If you simplify your life, you shouldn’t have to sell off half your life every week to a boss who, if he believes he can save the company fifty cents, can and will fire you in a heartbeat.



February, 1519

Felipe wasn’t worried about dying. Sick as he was at the moment he thought he might welcome it. He felt like he was living through a nightmare.

The seasickness he’d experienced briefly when they departed Havana two days ago was back and worse than ever. The wind screamed through the rigging. The waves pouring over the rail struck like a solid mass. The masts and yards groaned in agony. The world spun; his ears rang; his head felt like it was being squeezed by a pair of enormous, cruel hands. He believed if he threw up again he would start seeing pieces of his insides.

And now, far more worrying, Isabella was showing signs of distress. Until now, the mare had been taking the journey in stride; as if living in a cramped stall on the open deck of a three-masted Spanish ship was perfectly normal.

Not Majesty of course. The stallion continued to neigh and rear and shake his head, trying to pull loose from the ropes that secured him. White showed all around his eyes as if the storm were attacking him personally. Streaks of sweat slathered his slick black coat. It had taken all Felipe’s skill to calm him, to prevent him from hurting himself or kicking down his stall. Again. Each time the ship rose to a new wave he jerked against his ropes.

But Isabella withstood everything. She’d endured with bland calm the sails rattling like thunder above her head and the noise like a gunshot when one of them blew out; Sailors rushing past to take in the flailing rags of sailcloth and the cursing sargentos swinging starters at laggards; The constant thrumming of the wind through taut ropes; And the constantly rolling deck. As long as she had hay and water in front of her Isabella was content. Even the lazy Estefan could keep up with that. But now she was getting sick and Estefan was nowhere to be found. No doubt he’d found a dry place below decks to hole up until the storm was over. Perhaps she was seasick. Did horses get seasick? Felipe didn’t know. If only his stomach would hold still. If only the pain and dizziness in his own head would ease he could think about it more clearly.


 There were six horses on Concepcion, the flagship. Another ten horses were divided among the rest of the fleet… if “fleet” wasn’t too grand a description for the ragged flock of boats that had left Havana two days earlier. Most were small open brigantines, little more than fishing boats; too small to carry a single horse safely, let alone several. But the Trinidad and the Santiago, each of seventy tons, carried four horses apiece. And the wallowing, grandly named Santa Maria de los Remedios, fifty tons, managed not to sink despite a pair of horses in temporary stalls on her open deck.

Ideally there should have been a groom for each horse. Felipe was supposedly tasked with caring only for Majesty. But the rapid departure from Havana had left them with only himself, Pedro and Estefan to care for the six horses. But Pedro’s expertise had been needed on the Remedios to help with a sick horse and, thanks to the weather, he was stuck there. Estefan rarely came around. When he did show up he wobbled and smelled of sherry. The day before, in one of his rare appearances, Estefan had cross-tied Isabella so she could barely move. She couldn’t get her nose away from the dusty hay Estefan had jammed into the canvas manger in front of her. Felipe couldn’t stand to see a horse so mistreated. He corrected her ties to allow her to move her head. He pulled the hay out of the canvas manger, rinsed the dust from it and put the right amount back. How was it possible that he, not yet a teenager, knew to do these things but old Estefan hadn’t learned them?

And now Isabella was sick. Or something. Pedro had taught him horses needed to keep using their leg muscles for their digestion to work properly. An improperly boxed horse could be lost within hours. Felipe again checked the sling under her belly to make sure it wasn’t lifting her legs off the deck. It wasn’t.

Through the fog of his own misery Felipe finally, reluctantly, allowed the thought he’d been trying to avoid to creep in: Isabella, big as an oxcart, was going into labor in the middle of a raging storm...

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