A World Apart

Yesterday, I found out that the Chapters nearest me is closing.  EVERYTHING MUST GO, 50% off, SALE SALE SALE!  The remaining books huddle together in a disorganized jumble, leaving the outer edges of the building like a ghost town of empty shelves and dust.  On an unrelated note, this morning I (and most of you) lost an hour, but not in the way that indicates that you’re deep into a really great read.  For Master Class this week, I used the prompt Piquant Libraries, partly out of nostalgia, but mostly because the first definition of piquant I think of is flavorful.  And whether I’m reading a hard-cover book, an e-book checked out from the Public Library’s free online database, or an online story, good books, like good food, are filling in more ways than one.

Click the image below to read the rest of the responses or to submit your own!

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Growing up in a small town, Bailey never understood her mother’s love of libraries.  The single small room allocated for books in the town hall was musty and uninspiring.  It had three dog-eared copies of Where the Red Fern Grows, a complete set of Louis L’Amour’s novels, all but the first of the Narnia TV serial on VHS and an assortment of Christian children’s stories.  Not inherently bad, but certainly not the most piquant of libraries.

Her mother had offered up a selection of her own books, Asimov, Heinlein and McCaffrey, the Bronte sisters and Shelley to round it out a bit.  The town council declined, saying there wasn’t much point in overloading the shelves of a government offered service that got such little use.

So Bailey and her mother kept their own library, milk cartons and 2×8’s to support their hodge-podge collection of books.  Angela’s Airplane and Stone Soup from her earliest memories, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys when she first started reading on her own.  A complete set of the Narnia books.  Sci-fi and Fantasy in the kitchen, Romance in the hall, biographies by the TV.  Geography, History and Art by the desk.  Mystery scattered throughout, because a good mystery surprises you.

None of the other kids in her school read much, perhaps unsurprisingly, but when they were required to choose a book to write a report on, they knew who to go to.  Bailey would ask them questions – action? Drama? Love? Space? Cowboys? Knights? Spies? – and provide her friends with a selection to choose from.  Her mother helped her in creating the check-out slips, even going so far as to buy a date stamp.

When the worst came to pass, Bailey and her library moved to the city where her mother had grown up.  Her Aunt Mary helped her set up the shelves and smiled tearily as she recognized old friends from her own teen years.

Bailey buried herself in her books, overwhelmed by her grief and her new surroundings.  The city was too loud, too busy, too chaotic.  Mary suggested an after-school job, made a few calls and gave her an address.

The building smelled a bit musty, but from there it was a world away from that sad room from her childhood.  A winged lion and a gryphon guarded the heavy doors, and light danced through tall windows and down the enormous central atrium.  More than a single room – or even a single storey full of books – the library had storeys of stories, more books than Bailey had seen in her life.

And people – children running down the curved staircases clutching large picture books, people checking books out, dropping them off, standing in the aisles reading the back, and curled up in comfy chairs lost in a book.  The library was so much more than its books, and standing in the quiet vastness of it, Bailey fell in love.

toronto_public_library

“The love for a good story, well told, lies deep in every human heart.” – Lillian H. Smith, Librarian.

As Young as you Feel

Master Class is mixing things up, and doing a somewhat elaborate month-long challenge in which you get to pick and choose from a variety of challenges that will update regularly.  The one-word challenge of the first week is:

Hooligan

It’s such a great word, how could I resist?  click on the link below to go to the page and read the other submissions or post your own!

“Mildred!  If anyone asks, I been out here with you all day!”  Ernie cackled delightedly and pushed the screen door shut with his cane.  He had a newspaper under his arm and two beers.

His wife of sixty-three years was weeding the vegetable garden.  It was a strange garden, with stout banisters  running between the rows.  Their son had patronizingly explained wireless technology to his poor backwards mam when she’d asked how he liked his provider, and, since getting her set up with the device, had received  cellphone calls from across town to ‘help his poor old mamma up from her gardening’. Mysteriously, and entirely unconnected to the fact that he had accidentally made his Outlook Calendar public to his contacts, he was always on his way in for a massage when she called.  He built the fences so that Mildred could pull herself up, and she had thanked him profusely, eyes twinkling.  They made excellent trellises.

Mildred joined Ernie in the shade of their porch.

“Heya toots,” Ernie deposited a sound kiss on her lips and offered up the bottles, “Give us a hand?”

“Your damned arthritis, what good are you anymore?” she chortled, popping the caps off the two beers with a sharp tap to the edge of their cinder-block table.  “What have you really been up to, you old hooligan?”

“Me?  Why, I’m just a feeble old codger.” Ernie took a swig of his beer.  “Not much could get up to, is there?  But might be that the dog walker who called you an ugly old witch and doesn’t pick up after his dogs left his van windows cracked.  And on a completely unrelated note, I cleaned up our front lawn and all down the street, kindly soul that I am.”

“Kind indeed – cheers to being so old that we couldn’t possible have done anything wrong!”

Red Dress Club – A New Road

You can see the prompt from Write on Edge and submit your own by clicking the image below.

I’d also like to mention – I mean no disrespect by using the word Gypsy.  But not using it would kind of take away any level of authenticity from my MC.  After all… what farm boy ‘way back when’ would have known that ‘they prefer Romani’?
  Sam stumbled down the rutted road, shaking in the cold night wind off the plains.

Icy fingers clutched tight at the thin cloth of his coat.  Teeth chattering, he looked longingly back down the road, his entire world out of sight.

The girls would be snug in bed, he knew, their dolls tucked under their arms.  Who’d take care of them now?

He scrubbed at the tears coursing down his cheek and steeled himself.

No going back.  Pa’d always done right by the girls, at least.  They’d be fine.

Sam blew on his hands and broke into a clumsy jog, pain stabbing him with each jarring step.

The moon was nearly set when he saw the fire.  Exhausted and aching, he didn’t try to hide.  They could be murderers as long as they let him die by the fire.

He passed a tree strung up with charms, and even in the thin moonlight, the wagon was brightly coloured and intricately patterned.  Gypsies.

Thieves and murderers, the lot of them, his memory growled in his father’s voice, fetch my gun, boy, don’t dawdle.

Sam shook his head.  Pa’s opinion of good and bad wasn’t very trustworthy.

A branch snapped under his foot and the murmur of conversation around the fire died. One man called out cheerfully,”Ye’re late, lad – what took ye?”

The others around the fire laughed as though the man had made a joke.  Sam sidled forward and smiled cautiously.

“I-you-um…” he stared, wide-eyed, at the motley group and swallowed. “Wha’?”

“She told us to keep dinner.”  a hulking man leaned forward, a wicked scar cutting his face in two, gold teeth gleaming with fire.

A boy about his own age grinned less ominously and added, “Yeah, Shuv’ni shoulda said t’make ye breakfast!”  He nudged the girl beside him, who snorted sourly.

“What do you expect, me reading in a moving wagon?”

Sam blinked at that – Readin’s fer the rich, Pa said.  But what did reading have to do with predicting his arrival?  Magic, his imagination hissed.  He shuddered.

“Come closer, boy, warm ye’self,” an ancient woman with bright birdlike eyes commanded from her rocking chair.

Sam  stepped forward, blushing at the Gypsies’ gasps of dismay.  A woman made a low pained noise, like a kicked dog.  He had a good idea of what he looked like.  Pa never bothered avoiding the face.

The old woman pursed her lips disapprovingly, “Shuv’ni didn’t warn o’ that neither.”

The girl darted forward, grabbing him by the face.  She prodded him everywhere it hurt, making him yelp.

“I need to read the bones,” she muttered, turning away.  Before she disappeared into the wagon she added, “By the by, your ribs’r cracked.  Gran’ll do for ye”

Gran rolled her eyes and said, “Come sit by me, boy.”

“Why… why are you all being so nice?”

The gold-toothed man laughed, tugging a woman out of the shadows.  “We do right by family, don’t we, luv?”

Sam gaped as a ghost from his memories stepped into the firelight.  Wordlessly, the woman hugged him tight.

“Ma?”

This is a pastel and ink drawing by my sister, Doodle. You can see more of her work by clicking the image (it’ll take you to her DeviantArt page). She also blogs over at DrawninandQuartered. I do love having an in-house artist for my stories!

SciFriday 1 – Commute

This piece is called Tracks, by Sandara. Click the image to go and check out more of her work.

Travelling the abandoned byways of this, the ancient home of our foolish godly ancestors, I curse my own foolishness.  The ghostly silence groans with concrete and steel losing to gravity and time.  

The rumbling coo of pigeons  is nerve-wracking.  Massive and wily as they are, my best chance is to take advantage of their poor eyesight – move slowly, steadily.   

My camel’s metal claw rings against buried rail and the birds hone in on the noise.

Next station’s in 2km.  I can see their evil red eyes gleaming.  Too far.

Ducking under the bot’s torso and pulling out my bow, I scan the horizon and pray.

When the first enormous rat bites into my calf, I’m ready with a knife.  Commuting downtown really is deadly.

***

Chris White Writes put out a photo prompt today, more specifically, a sci fi prompt.  I love reading sci fi, but I’ve got to say, it’s not my strong suit.  What better way to improve than by practising, though, eh?

Click the picture to check out the artist, or go to Chris White Writes to submit your own prompt response and read other submissions!

Mob Life

<– Previous story section || Next story Section –>

“Hey, boss, you sure they ain’t on to us?”

“Of course, they’re not on to us, Julius.  How could they be on to something.  I’m just a nice old guy living in his new house, just doing retired guy things.  Ain’t that right, Jimmy?”

The third man looked up from his perusal of the comics, all six feet and two hundred and fifty pounds of him awkwardly curled into a small wingback chair.  “Sure thing, boss.” He rumbled agreeably, “You’re a real old guy.”

Julius snickered from his post by the window.  Tony bristled, but chose to only snap his newspaper straight and go back to reading.  After a few moments of silence in which Julius didn’t move away from the bay window, hand carefully pulling the blind away from the wall to peer out, Tony gave in.

“Why you want to know, Julius?”

“Just that kid, boss,” The wiry man stepped aside to allow Tony access to the wall beside the window.  “I don’t like the look of him.  Or the dog.”

A teenage boy in jeans and a Blue Jays T-shirt stood on the sidewalk in front of the house, holding the lead of a cartoonish dog.  The boy was staring blankly up at the house, and the dog was unnaturally still, like it was a statue of itself.  The boy kept waving his closed hand in the air in front of the dog, like he was reminding it to do something.

As the two men watched, the dog abruptly reanimated, lunged for the boy’s hand, and started walking.  The boy’s eyes became more focused, and he looked right at Tony’s hiding spot behind the blinds.

Tony stepped back, out of the line of sight to the sidewalk.  “Huh.” He said.

“See, boss,” Julius exclaimed, “see, he’s watching us.  I saw him by yesterday, too, twice!”

“He’s just some dumb kid walking some dumb dog,” Tony said, trying to convince himself of it.  “Ain’t nobody caught on to what’s goin’ on here, ain’t nobody gonna.”  He hesitated a moment before resuming his seat for his after dinner snack and added, “Find out who he is, Julius.  Just don’t let on that you know anything.”

***

This is a continuation of the Rhododendrons story.  I’m working on it, along with assorted short things, working towards the goal of 50000 words for Camp Nano.

An Unlikely Team

The Master Class has started making submissions every two weeks for the summer.  This round, the phrase is:

And it could be placed at the very beginning or ending of the piece.

Feel free to let me know what you think, and definitely follow the link (in the picture) and check out the other submissions!

***

“Hey!  You!  Mister!  Mister?  Hey, Mister, sir, hey!  Mister, wait!”

Daniel ignored the uncouth youngster right up until the brat had the audacity to reach a grimy hand towards the sleeve of his charcoal trench coat.  He barely caught the movement out of the corner of his eye in time to whirl and confront the desecrator of outerwear.  He hardly even appreciated the subtle swish of the military style wool gabardine as it fell around him.  He glared down his nose at the urchin with hard eyes and a curl to his lip.

The urchin standing before him seemed entirely un-fazed.  The level of filth the boy was coated in made Daniel’s skin crawl.  Were all children so grubby?  They all seemed somewhat sticky in his limited experience.

“What,” he said, voice razor-sharp, “do you want?”

A sly look crossed the painfully thin face – in dire need of soap, or maybe some kind of industrial cleaner, Daniel mused – and the child said, “Well… a sammich’d be nice, I suppose.”

Daniel reined in his temper as well as he could.  “You chased me down, groped at me with your filthy little hands… for a… a… sandwich?

“What?” the child widened his eyes in false confusion.  “Nah.  You just asked what I wanted, didncha?  I hollered at’cha ‘cause I got sunthin you want.  Leastwise, if yer that poncey PI what’s lookin’ into the Morningside murder.”

The PI – the only PI with a lick of fashion sense in the whole damned city, and, yes, he moisturized, but was that a crime?  And for god sake, could none of the others gather the will to shave on a daily basis?  Was that so much to ask?  And he got plenty of action from the ladies, thankyouverymuch – held the urge to box the brat’s ears in check by a hair.

He settled for saying, “If by poncey, you mean, ‘that PI who doesn’t look like a homeless booze-hound’, then yes.  What do you know?”

Thumbs stuck cockily in the front of his suspenders, the boy smirked.  “Well, now, mister, I recon I’ll remember a bit better with a sammich in my belly… and a spot to lay low for a few days.  Bit of security, eh?”

“Protection from what, exactly?”  Daniel found himself intrigued in spite of himself.  Despite the off-the-cuff seeming request, the boy couldn’t entirely hide the fear behind the façade.

“From who, more like,” the boy replied with a shrug.  “Don’t expect I was supposed to see what I done seen, now, was I?”

**

Everything the boy touched gained faint brown fingerprints. Front hallway, leather sofa-back, kitchen table and chair, all of the washroom, Daniel mentally enumerated the parts of his apartment that would need a good cleaning while the boy devoured a second ham on rye.  Perhaps he’d just throw out that plate and cup.

The boy guzzled back a tall glass of milk, wiping his face with an equally grubby coat-sleeve.  He leaned back with a contented sigh, and Daniel took that as a cue, shifting forward in his own seat.

“What do you know of the Morningside murder?”

“Banker shot dead in ‘is bathroom- onna toilet, hah, what a way to go, eh? – door locked from the inside, and no way anyone could have escaped through that tiny little window.  Police says it’s suicide, but the wife – real looker, big – “ the boy stopped midway through a crude gesture at the look in Daniel’s eye and hastily said “… er… assets… says it’s no suicide, hires you on.”

“If I wanted a news blurb, I’d have gotten a newspaper – would have left a hell of a lot less mess in my house.”

“Newspapers know there weren’t no gun in there with him?”  The boy looked smug when he saw Daniel’s tense reaction.

“Now how would you know that?”

“I saw how it went down, didn’t I?  Know where the gun is too.”

Daniel sighed, seeing that business-like expression return to the boy’s face.  “And you want more than just a few sandwiches and a bunk for a few days.”

The boy’s smile grew predatory.  “I wants me a, whatchacallit – a ‘prenticeship.  With lodgin’s.  And food.”

Daniel frowned at the feeling of indefinite dread rising in his stomach.  “An apprenticeship in what?  With whom?  And what on earth gives you the impression I’ve got that kind of connection?”

“With you, a’course!”

The dread coalesced into a terrible form.  He pinched the bridge of his nose between two fingers and closed his eyes.  The case had been going bloody nowhere, but the boy was so very… filthy.  The thought of him hanging about longer than was absolutely necessary was repugnant.  His entire apartment already smelled a bit like the fisherman’s wharf.

“If you’ve really seen something that can wrap this case up for me, get Mrs. Whytham-Jones off my back…”  Daniel struggled to tamp down his trepidation.  Damn, he hated children.  “Then I’ll give you an apprenticeship.”

The boy let out a whoop of glee, and Daniel added sharply, “On a trial basis – and if you give me any trouble, you’re out on your ass.”  He wondered if ‘ass’ was considered a swear word… wondered if he was allowed to swear around children, uneasy that there was some kind of rule about it.  He’d bring it up with his landlady tomorrow.  Mrs. Scheffield had once had children, he thought.  A long time ago, maybe.

“Hell, yeah!”

“And you have to bathe.  Every day.”  Daniel glared at the grinning boy.  He couldn’t even take the young con artist’s words seriously in the state he was in.  The boy was better suited to sewer maintenance than PI work, that much was clear.  “In fact… now.  Go run yourself a bath and I’ll find something for you to wear, and then I want to hear everything you know about that bloody bathroom.”

“Sure thing, Mister.”  The boy jumped up and trotted towards the washroom.  One grubby hand on the door-frame – leaving yet another smear to decontaminate later, Daniel noted grimly – he twisted back to Daniel, eyes sparkling.  “And they call me Scrapper.”

Winning

This week’s Master Class was Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.  This week it’s being reader-judged, which means, I’d imagine, that the responses of the other people participating will be even better than usual.  You should head on over to  participate or to read some of the other responses, and vote!

I’m not much into sports, but it’s kind of hard to not hear about football lately, or so it seems.  I’m not talking about that in the sense of

“The Grizzlies creamed the Wombats in a double or nothing showdown, and won with a home-run in the final seconds – what a play THAT was, Bob.”

“It was, indeed, Stan – the Grizzlies have really upped their game since that one time when one of their players shot the puck into his own basket!”

… or whatever.  More along the lines of “People who should know better let terrible things be done by football players, or people in the industry, so as not to ruin the game.”  It made me think of how extremely violent people watching sports can become – the kind of aggression that makes some people willing to turn a blind eye to terrible things.

On a completely different note, it seems that I’m doing a terrible job indicating the sex of the characters I write.  Please, if you comment, tell me which you think this character is.  No pressure.  And feel free to leave tips to improve the clarity of my storyline in that regard, and any other.

storch-badge

We slept in what had once been the gymnasium.

I was surprised that the parents agreed to it, but they’d agreed to a lot since the new Coach took over.

Coach always got his way, and he said his Heroes had to be in peak condition.  He said you couldn’t expect a bunch of paunchy and unfit middle-aged losers to know how to look after athletes.  He called them losers to their faces and they still worship him.

You don’t realize during the day just how echo-ey a gymnasium is.  It took me a while to get used to sharing a room with the rest of the guys from school.  Not to mention Coach’s surprise midnight runs.

I like it, though – I think the special high-protein diet he’s got us on is really improving my performance.  Like Coach says, I want to be the best that I can be.  And slaughter the enemy, too… I guess.  That’s usually the emphasis of his pep-talks.

His eyes glowed with a manic light that caught us up in his words as he paced back and forth in front of us, a commander addressing his army.

“Football?!  Football’s for pansies!  Winning is everything.”  He said the same thing about college.  He had the grass ripped up in the stadium, had us training on the hard-packed clay, under the burning sun, day in, day out.  We were in the best shape of our lives.

I’d always found sports easy.  This isn’t easy, but I’m definitely having a better time of it than some of the guys.  The gym at night is full of the muffled sounds of crying.  I’d feel bad for them, but since Coach stopped football, I figure this is my best chance at greatness.  I don’t exactly have the brains to get into college based on my grades – but as the star quarterback, I stood a good chance of getting scouted.  With the new games, I’m not so sure about College.  Greatness, though… greatness is doable.

Coach says that immortality is within reach of those who crush the enemy.

The town might have complained a bit about the loss of football – we had been all about football, here – but only until they went to that first game.  That won them.  If I hadn’t already seen them at football games, I’d have been surprised at their blood-lust.

It won all of us, I think.  At least, all of us who stand a chance of winning.

I remember the silence as we walked out into the stadium.  The spectators didn’t know what was going on, couldn’t grasp the significance of the new uniforms, the modified protective equipment. They protected our vitals in new, yet familiar ways. The sun beat down on hard-packed earth, the smell of grease and sweat heavy in the air.  It gleamed on our oiled skin, our equipment, and on that of our opponents, across the field.

I don’t think I really understood what was supposed to happen until that moment.  He had changed up the training schedules, pulling us out of classes and filling our days with hours of laps, weightlifting and protein shakes.  Then he’d started us in sparring, hand-to-hand combat, knife drills, spears, swords, and chains.  It was kind of unreal.

The two teams faced each other in tight formation across the wide expanse of sun-hardened dirt.  Us and them.  The enemy.  My body felt wound tight with adrenaline.

The whistle sounded.

I didn’t hesitate, I ran.  We all did.  The clash as we made contact with the other team – brought in from gods only know where – was deafening.  Even over the clamor of noise in the fray, I could hear the panicked screams of the crowd as they realized what was happening.

There was hardly a change when those screams turned to pleas for it to stop, and then to encouragement. My Mom and Pop were almost as obsessed with winning  at any cost as Coach was.

I parried, lunged, hacked at any and every piece of exposed skin.  I didn’t hesitate in taking that opening, going in for the kill. My sword caught for a moment on the edge of his armor before it slid in deep.  He let out a bubbling sigh as he crumpled on top of me, but all I could focus on was getting around him, getting back to the fight.  I’d have nightmares about it later, in the echoing darkness of the gymnasium.

The  next one came easier.  Poor sucker didn’t even bring up his staff to block me, and his head flew off, spattering everyone nearby with scalding blood.  His face still held a rabbit-like look of absolute terror.  Easy prey.

After that first game, after the parents of the dead found out just how much their dearly departed had earned them in just this one game, everyone was on board.  Even if your kid isn’t a winner, you’re a winner in the end, I suppose.

I’m one of the best.  War-matches, one-on-one combat, lions, rabid dogs, two-on-one, three, four, I was winning them all.  Living in the gymnasium took some getting used to, but I definitely got used to being treated like this, a god of the arena.  The cheerleaders certainly made sure we felt appreciated.  Coach saw to everything.

We weren’t the only ones to have our lives turned upside down.  The gods were back, and with a vengeance.  It’s pretty obvious why we were chosen by Ares – who else would we worship after spending the entire district education budget on a 20 million dollar football stadium?

Property Lines

This week, we’re picking up with Agata.  You can probably read this one alone, but I’d suggest reading Crush, the previous one in this series of stories, just to be clear on how things got to this point.  If you want to read the entire series, click on the Fiction Tab above, and you’ll find all the links to the story under Which Witch.  As always, let me know what you think – and how you think it ought to be improved!

I’m using the prompt from Trifecta, and from Write on Edge for this.

Trifecta’s word was

MOUTH

1a : the natural opening through which food passes into the body of an animal and which in vertebrates is typically bounded externally by the lips and internally by the pharynx and encloses the tongue, gums, and teeth   b : grimace <made a mouth>   c : an individual requiring food <had too many mouths to feed> 2a : voice, speech <finally gave mouth to her feelings>   b : mouthpiece 3: something that resembles a mouth especially in affording entrance or exit: as
This week on Write at the Merge, the picture of a crumbling castle was what I took as inspiration.
I highly recommend checking out both sites, to submit your own prompt response or to read some of the great responses other people have submitted.

Agata rolled painfully to her feet, scattering debris.  Dust swirled through the maelstrom of berserker barbarians.  Agata caught glimpses of the ogre, green-gray skin covering boulder-like muscles, eerie catseye gleaming yellow in the dimness.

The battle wasn’t going well.  She sighed, narrowed her eyes, and, with intense focus, shook out an imaginary blanket.

As the barbarians painfully clambered to their feet, dazed and confused at their sudden fall, Agata strode purposefully towards the now-frozen ogre.

“Gragh, is it?”  The creature stared down at her, dumbfounded.  “Yes, you.  Gragh?”

Its voice rumbled thunderously.  “Ya, me is Gragh.  Who you?”

“Agata.  What do you want here?”

“Gragh-”

“It wants to eat us!  Kill it!”

Agata whirled and glared them into silence.

“GRAGH CRUSH!”  The ogre snarled at the barbarians, fighting the invisible bonds.

“But why?

Gragh’s brow creased in thought.  “Gragh want…”

Agata found herself nodding encouragement to the hulking creature.

“Gragh want No Bother GRAGH!”

“You came here.

“Dey is come first to Gragh sleep place and try hurt Gragh!”

At Agata’s accusing glare, the barbarians broke into a cacophony of denials and explanations like children caught with their hands in the mouth of the cookie jar.

“It took the castle on the mount!”  A blonde-haired hulk in a skunk-fur loincloth stepped forward.

“Did he kill the owner?”

“It’s, um, been abandoned for centuries, actually.  Terrible location, no water, no trees…”

“So what does it matter where he lives?”

“It eats people.  And sheep.

Agata turned her scowl on Gragh, who shook his head in denial.  “Gragh no eat animal-things.” He curled his lip in disgust.  “Gragh vegetable-arian.  And rocks.  Rocks crunchy yum.  Fuzzy Baaas no yum.”

“Here’s the deal – you leave people alone, and” she turned to scowl at the barbarians, “people stay away from your castle.  Shake on it,” she barked, commandingly.

Agata watched and spelled every hand-shake before approaching the ogre with a proposition.

In short order they were headed off, a witch and her ogre-guide through the mountains.

Dirty Dishes

storch-badgeI’m trying out a new writing prompt, from Sinistral Scribblings.  The Master Class takes the first sentence from a book as your first line, unlimited word-count.  This week, the book is Dodie Smith’s “I Capture the Castle“.   Having never read the book or seen the movie, I hold out hope that my version of the story won’t be a complete rip-off (albeit less well-written) of the actual story.  It’s on my to-read list, now, though.

Hearing what I planned to write, Doodle’s first response was that she’d draw me a picture of it.  I think she did a fabulous job of capturing the scene that I had in my mind’s eye.  Not that there’s any nepotism here at Goneforawalk, but have I mentioned that she’s my sister?  And she’s pretty darned good – you should check her out at her blog, or on DeviantART.  She doesn’t post new art nearly often enough, so feel free to head on over and badger her on my behalf.

in case you can't read it, the mug says "Don't Trust Turkeys".

in case you can’t read it, the mug says “Don’t Trust Turkeys”.

I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.

I lost my oar, the heavy teaspoon slipping, slick with soap, from my hands.  I tried to grab for it and nearly tipped my Tupperware.

Bamboo pattern was an excellent choice,  I muse, watching the spoon slowly and majestically settle on the bottom, like the titanic does in remakes of its last hours.  I suppose something with a rubber handle or tiny holes in it would have helped me more in this situation.

Hindsight is 20/20, and I never imagined this when putting things on the gift registry.

Frankly, I can’t see what exactly I ought to have done to avoid this mess entirely.  Not get married.  Apart from that, though, there are too many variables.  Every alternate beginning I run through my head finds me here, leftover stroganoff smeared on my knees, awash in a sea of dishes that are ‘just soaking’.

David.  I want to curse his name – primal scream out all my rage.  I want to throw things at his head.  My loudest holler can’t even fill this sink, though, and I have limited ammunition aboard-ship.

I guess I should consider myself lucky that he didn’t even bother to scrape the stray pasta and bacon into the garbage before flinging my boat into sudsy oblivion– I could be here for a while, and that torso-sized piece of pasta could be the difference between life and death.

I really thought it would be romantic, marrying an inventor.  I pictured a less-platonic Wallace and Gromit thing.  Cute, until you pay more attention and realize that Gromit gets zero recognition for all the crap he has to put up with, all the messes he has to clean up.  And, really, David is definitely the Wallace in this relationship.

His lack of attention to detail doesn’t bode well for a resolution to my current issues.  Neither does his habit of leaving dishes to sit until they become science experiments in their own right.

I hold out hope that he’ll notice I’m gone.  He finally managed to make something work – that proves that he’s at least got brains.

Figures, really.  10 years of marriage, of junk that doesn’t do what it’s meant to do, of him salvaging parts off my dishwasher, blender and hair-dryer, and finally, there’s something to show for it.  Apart from a sink full of dirty dishes, a dearth of smoothies and perpetually frizzy hair, that is.  I loved that dishwasher, dammit.  Most of his inventions go off randomly and unexpectedly, lots of flash and bang with nothing to show for it at the end.  It wasn’t really surprising that a quick trip into the lab to dust elicited a hum and flash from his latest work.

That nauseous dizzy feeling as the sink grew rapidly bigger and closer after I’d filled it was certainly unexpected. Shrunk, daybook and all – dishes still unwashed.  He told me he was working on a solution to our dishwashing problems.

What I really want to know is how a Shrink Ray is going to do that?

A Light in the Darkness

Write On Edge: Red-Writing-HoodWrite on Edge’s Red Writing Hood prompt this week was a combination of a picture and a song.

Candles and Iowa

Follow the link to see the picture, hear the song, read the submissions, or submit your own.

Having never been to Iowa, the song made me think of the prairies – rolling low hills and vast expanses of emptiness, and farms, of course, because isolated homesteads are the kind with candles flickering in the window, a light you can see for miles.

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**

She looked in at the flickering candle-light with a kind of longing.

Daddy figured she was probably attracted by the food-smells.  He took to carrying the old shotgun when he went out to the barn in the early morning hours.

Momma stood vigil at the kitchen window, watching her through the chintz curtains.  She had this look in her eye, predatory and ferocious.  Daddy treated Momma like she had to be protected, but I knew better.  Grizzly bears don’t need protecting.

She never came past the fence-line, like she knew she wasn’t welcome.  To me, she seemed worn down by the weight of the world, weary and too-thin.  In a distant way, I knew that a drought-filled dust-bowl summer and an early, bitterly cold winter were to blame.  With her sad golden eyes tugging on my heart-strings, I tied it all back to the things Momma and Daddy talked about late at night, whispered conversations about money, bad crops and our best milker running dry.  Me and Momma had done the canning in half the time this fall – and that wasn’t a good thing.  Times were hard, for us and for her.

An old stew-bone here, a carefully hoarded egg there, I did what I could.  She didn’t exactly fill out, but I could see a new spark in her eye.

Will to live, Daddy called it.

Orneriness, Momma said.  I didn’t tell her that that’s exactly what Daddy said Momma had sometimes.

I just smiled and made sure she got that last biscuit, and a bit of cold stew.  Something to keep the spark alive.

Desperate and starving, men came from the woods when Daddy was two days gone on a trip to town.  We didn’t have much, but it was more than they had.

Momma’s eyes glinted grizzly-bear fierce as she loaded the shotgun, smooth and confident as Anny Oakley.  I hid in the cupboard.  You didn’t back-talk Momma when she had that look in her eye.

She said desperation makes a devil of a foolish man, but her Daddy taught her to shoot.  Men never expect women to put up a fight, and that’s their mistake.

I guess they didn’t expect the wolf, neither.  Between the crack of buckshot and the hair-raising growls and evilly glowing eyes in the darkness, we ran them off.

Daddy came home, wagon rattling with the few things he’d been able to barter for, hopefully enough to get us through the winter.  He was pretty rattled to hear about the incident, snarling about yellow bellied curs, eyes glinting with rage.

I made a nest of blankets for her on the deck, but she wouldn’t stray close.

Daddy said she was a wild animal, and while she liked us, she liked her freedom more.

It was a hungry winter, but she never lost that spark, we made sure of it.  She left with the spring, off over the low hills.

Momma just rolled her eyes when she saw that she took a chicken.