The Joneses

 

“Did you see what the Joneses got?” Marco gazed out the window.

“Don’t tell me you are falling for this nonsense!”

Marco swallowed a retort. His wife often yelled first and considered second. Getting into an argument in ‘phase one’ only delayed (or destroyed any possibility for) ‘phase two.’

“So?” her hands left wrinkled wet spots on her kitchen apron.

“I’m considering it,” he allowed. Silence tended to increase her ire.

“And for what Godawful blasted reason?”

He shrugged and tried for his one-sided smile. It used to work like magic in the past. Still did, sporadically. Worth a try.

The corners of her eyebrows shifted slightly away from each other. Good or bad, he wasn’t sure, but it was now or never.

“We could tie our Blimp to it, Dear. It is all the rage to have one’s own anchor. Makes it so much easier to unload the groceries.”

 

 

For Crispina’s Crimson’s Creative Challenge #64

 

 

Eyes Of Time

Photo prompt: Sue Vincent

 

“Learn to listen,” He-Who-Runs-With-Crooked-Legs told him as they sat to whittle spears and arrows out of saplings.

The old man’s hands moved the sharp bone deftly over the yielding wood, smoothing any bumps that could confuse an arrow’s spirit and send it listening to things other than the direction intended by the hunter.

He-Whose-Smile-Fades-Fast had hands that didn’t listen. The bone slipped. The sticks broke. The tips burned instead of hardening.

“You are still young,” He-Who-Runs-With-Crooked-Legs nodded at the boy’s frustration, his own fingers flying like starlings in a sky dance. “Your patience needs many more moons to grow.”

“…And you face special challenges,” the older man added, and the unexpected compassion softened the lined face in a way that soothed the boy more than the salve where the fire had wounded him. “It is your path to struggle. It is your path to overcome and become One-Who-Knows.”

“Like you?” the boy asked, eyes gliding over his mentor’s legs — one long and lean and straight, one tight and oddly bent. It had taken him months to build the courage to speak to the Shaman, and months more to dare note what all saw but was taboo to mention. The deformity was part of the man’s magic. It lent him awe. It caught the curiosity of spirits so they crowded closer to examine him, bringing hardship but also allowing him to speak and sing and plead and wrangle with them on others’ behalf.

“Yes, like me,” He-Who-Runs-With-Crooked-Legs replied. “A path of pain becomes a path of wisdom. If you let it teach you. If you open your heart and listen to your mind, your eyes, your hands, your scars.”

The boy lowered his eyes. He’d seen the man unclothed and he knew the many scars that crisscrossed the Shaman’s torso and that they were part made in valor, part born of harm.

 

He-Whose-Smile-Fades-Fast still remembered the evening when the old man had tapped the flap to the family’s dwelling, and poked his staff in to let his parents know who’d come. It wasn’t his mother who’d let the guest in. It wasn’t even his brother, who’d since become a man. But his father who had gotten up to greet the healer. His father who’d vacated the best seat and who’d served the steaming pine tea in the whorl cup.

The boy had gone to hide behind his mother’s back while the men talked. He curled his webbed fingers under his thumbs. He stuck his tripping, stubby toes under his mother’s furs. The Shaman scared him, and he felt it in his stomach that it was him the words concerned. He felt it in his mother’s muscles, too, tensing as she listened to a future that she must have known was his, and to the losses that she had to know were coming.

Shamans did not hunt. Shamans did not marry. Shamans did not dangle babies on their knee. They fasted. They prayed. They endured. They traveled worlds of mist and danger to bring back people’s souls. They blessed weapons and fought the spirits of famine and war and ill. They were feared and respected but not often loved. It was not a life a mother would will.

That night had been his last in his mother’s arms. He’d been entrusted to the Shaman since. For days he’d ran in tears to his mother only to have her return him solemnly, her own eyes dripping, to the feathered tent.

“You are fortunate,” she whispered to him once when he clung fiercely and her own hands seemed reluctant to release him. “Some Shamans can be cruel in their training, but he is not. He was my uncle once, in the years before he turned a holy man. He had been raised in violence and he promised he would not impart it on you. Go, my son. He will be like a father and mother to you now.”

 

The moon was born a dozen times since, and his mother had been right. He-Who-Runs-With-Crooked-Legs was firm and exacting, but he did not whip or lash or wound him, not in body, not in mind. Underneath the distancing exterior, the healer was kind.

The boy bent his head to the stick, determined. Still his hands refused to do his bidding and the sharp bone bit deep into his flesh. He blinked and breathed and wept but let no sound escape.

“The sky has a story today,” the old man said quietly. “Use your pain to wipe your inner eye so you could hear what it tells.”

The boy pressed his lips together and looked up through a veil of tears to see the sky ablaze. Darkness hovered near.

“It will be dark soon,” he said, and the echoes of the throbbing in his hand reverberated in his chest with a desolation only matched by the loneliness he’d felt during the first nights without his mother’s tent. “A dark time.”

The Shaman nodded.

“Fires spat by sticks of thunder. Cunning mouths and thieving hands …” the boy’s eyes lingered on his deformed palm and in the small pool of blood that gathered it in he saw the life of his people dissolve like a reflection distorted by a sudden breeze.

“A dark time is coming,” the Shaman agreed, oddly pleased. “Not in my time. Not in yours. But it will come and our people will discover many needs. You have cleared your eye well, and you have listened. You are young but with patience and more moons, you will become a One-Whose-Eyes-See-Time.”

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto Challenge

 

 

 

Wait For The Light

Photo prompt: Dale Rogerson

 

“Can we go to the playground, Mama?”

The woman stroked the small forehead to compose herself and smiled into the over-bright eyes. “It is the middle of the night, Cara.”

“Can I see?”

The woman tucked the blankets under the child and lifted her. The bundle in her arms felt devastatingly like the infant Cara had been a handful of winters ago, and heartbreakingly almost as light again. She turned so her daughter faced the window.

“It’s dark,” the girl sighed. “I’m tired, Mama. Maybe I wait for the light?”

“Yes, Cara,” the mother whispered. “We wait for the light.”

 

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

 

 

Owning It!

KeithKreates247

Photo: Keith Kreates

 

 

She was owning it.

In a city packed with cars for hire, she always got a second look from other drivers and passersby. Not always the business, mind you, but a second look. And … that meant they remembered her the next time they needed a car.

Not that everyone dialed for hers.

I could see how it would require a certain level of self-confidence to not be unsettled by being seen entering or emerging from her vehicle.

“Which is fine by me,” she chuckled. “Weeds out the weirdos and overly judgemental. I don’t need them in my ride.”

Her phone rang.

“Moron Taxi,” she answered cheerfully, “where and how far?”

 

 

For Keith’s Kreative Kue #247

 

 

 

Darn Yarn – Take #2

(You aren’t seeing double, this is a second helping for Crispina’s latest Crimson’s Creative Challenge – jotted in response to Shona, who wrote in the comments to my first attempt: “And there’s your next prompt — to have the alpaca speaking!…” And I thought to myself, Oh, how fun, let’s! So, here it is, Shona — this one is for you …)

 

She never did like the whole thready business. The fascination the two-legged had with locks of her hair.

Yet there they were, shearing it, bathing it, pulling it through nails, spinning it into thin ropes lacking any fluffiness, hanging it on sticks they cluck together to make some form of net to then cloak themselves with and strut about in, reverently wearing what had been atop her skin.

It’s quite uncanny. Then again, they do seem to worship everything about her: They house her. Feed her. Protect her. Cater to her (almost) every whim. They openly fawn over her offspring (not that she could blame them that particularity — the young ones do pull on one’s heart-strings).

Odd beings, are the two-legged, in how they wrap something else’s hair around their bodies, bizarrely mesmerized by fleece.

Then again, perhaps in their nakedness, all they can do is have her reign supreme.

 

 

 

 

A Visit From Paul

ray-hennessy-d_rIw1hircY-unsplash

Milford, Delaware (Photo: Ray Hennessy on Unsplash)

 

“He comes to visit,” a man’s voice jarred her out of her reverie.

She’s been watching a waterfowl in the sparkling water. It’s been staring back, she felt.

“The bird?” she turned. The speaker was a frail-looking man who still managed a bearing that stated “military.”

“If it is that.”

She glanced at the crane. The oldster sounded neither confused nor joking.

“Tell me,” she rose to make room on the bench.

The man extended a hand to shake. “Smith. US Navy.”

“Marcia,” she returned.

They used to build ships in Milford, he told her. Built the four-masted Albert F. Paul, too. Launched it from the Abbot shipyard in 1917.

“174 footer, she was,” Smith sighed. “I would’ve been onboard, you see, if I hadn’t been injured. Would’ve gone down with my mates when the Germans torpedoed her in 1942.”

“The fallen seamen,” he lifted his chin toward the bird, “they visit me.”

 

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Delaware

 

Tyrannical Rex

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Photo: Amy-Leigh Barnard on Unsplash

 

He believes he is perfect,

The Gods’ answer to fate.

And they can all now retire,

For they had taken the bait.

 

He’ll dominate every action,

He’ll defend every crime,

If it’s done to the benefit

Of his imperious climb.

 

He recruits many minions

Who fetch and carry his deeds,

For to him it is given

That they’ll kowtow to his creed.

 

He will squelch any protest,

He’ll ridicule any voice

That dares not speak his glory

Or demands to have choice.

 

He is crass, and he bullies

Lashes out at dissent,

Because to him it is treason

If people still seek consent.

 

He is cruel, he is shallow

He full worship expects,

He will break every branch

To feed his Tyrannical Rex.

 

 

 

For Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt: Imperious at 123 words

Note: The photo of a (small handed) Animatronic Tyrannosaurus (T-Rex) was taken by Amy-Leigh Barnard at the Natural History Museum in London. No offense intended in the poem to the dinosaurs, extinct though they are.

Darn Yarn

https://crimsonprose.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/alpaca-1.jpg?w=1024&h=682

 

She never did like thready business.

Yet there she was, darning holes, patching elbows, sewing up dangling hems and chasing runs on stockings.

How did it ever come to that?

She squinted and held the needle to the light.

The story of her life, it was. That squeezing through the eye of the needle. Barely, barely making do. Struggling to fit another stitch before the end of her rope.

It was all wrong.

She tied the knot.

It slipped.

She tied another, hoping it would hold. Hoping that the hidden stitches she put in will keep things covered long enough to soothe the chill that ever lurked, awaiting exposed places.

Existing really should not be so threadbare.

The thin wrap of life, knit together moment by moment in complicated patterns of dropped stitches and messy mistakes.

Will it come together at the end?

She did not know, but she hoped.

 

 

 

For Crispina’s Crimson’s Creative Challenge #63

 

 

New Born

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

He was born on a blustery night to a woman who huddled on the exposed slopes with naught but the protection of three wide backs to block the worst of the wind. The men crouched, arms linked and heads down, their eyes averted from what was taboo to watch, as they hummed the low sounds of incantations meant to shield the woman and babe from the demons and their own ears from the muffled cries.

There was no midwife.

The other woman had died not a full moon prior. It was a bad omen.

There was no spirit-guide. Their leader, too, had died.

Bad omens, all.

There was only the woman, panting desperately in the dark. And the three of them: One of whom in whose hearth she’d grown, one whose hearth she shared, one who’d preceded her in her mother’s womb. And a girl-child of barely eight winters. Pale and shivering and wide-eyed, she knelt before the woman, one hand on the swollen belly, another cradling the opening for the magic and terror that no man was allowed to look upon. But she would. She was too young. But there was no one else who could.

As the night stretched and the panting shortened, he was born.

By morning, they moved on.

A fresh mound under a rock marked the space where the smell of blood still lingered. The men had dug the hole, even though it was women’s work. A concession to their circumstance. They could not wait till the girl, or woman, gathered sufficient strength for the task. It was paramount that one put distance between oneself and the afterbirth, lest the demons seek to lug the babe back into the dark. The mother, too, sometimes.

They left all that behind.

He lived his first days in almost the same darkness he’d been made in. Cocooned inside his mother’s wraps, lips close enough to her breast to suckle, rocked by the same thunder and gurgle of her heartbeat and innards.

Sometimes, much later in years, he’d remember the indistinguishable. How inside and out did not differ by much other than air and hunger and the momentary cold that blanketed him when he was whipped out to be held above the ground to release his waste.

He might’ve stayed cocooned for longer had they not found the cave.

The old man saw it first. A black tooth in the mountain-side. Large enough to fit.

They waited two days to approach it. Demons have been known to skulk in the back of dark hollows, waiting to pounce. They were too few to risk it. Let alone with a helpless morsel who couldn’t even cling.

When nothing bigger than a ferret emerged from the entry, and when hares were spotted munching languidly nearby, they knew that whatever demons might have lived there once, had since long gone.

They brought an ember to the cave. And stones for a hearth. And moss and boughs for bedding.

The girl carried water from the spring. The woman made the tea and cooked the grain from her ceremonial parcel. They ate. They drank. They slept.

By morning the men came for the baby.

They held his naked, squalling form, indignant in the cold exposure, and passed him from man to man at the entry.

His life-force squealed vitality. His lungs breathed their collective previous misfortunes to the wind. His face, first reddened then purple with rage, summoned the sun to rise and fall. Someplace a wolf returned the howl.

It was a good omen.

They called him New Born. The reincarnation of Born, the spirit-guide they’d lost along with what safety they’d had where they came from. This New Born was a cameo. He was their future. Their hope in this new home.

 

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto

 

 

Last Course

Photo: Na’ama Yehuda

 

“So nice of them to give us ice-cream!” Sheri grinned. It was her favorite brand, too. On a plane! How fun!

“Even people on death row get a last meal.”

She elbowed him. Her friends said Robert was a party-popper. A fuddy-duddy, spoil sport, malcontent. Sometimes she wondered if they were right. Her husband did have a way of deflating. She felt bad for him. Life must be so gray, to experience life his way.

“Well, I’m going to enjoy mine,” she announced, infusing extra-cheer into her voice. “If it’s my last course, I’ll be halfway up to heaven already.”

 

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

(Note: Thank you, Rochelle for using my potentially boring 16 hour direct flight photo from JFK to Hong-Kong from the summer before last … While this is not an ad, the ice-cream sure was a comfort … 🙂 )