Blanket Politics

via Daily Prompt: BlanketBlanket

When two people share a bed, their religious views are laid bare.  There is ritual and tradition attached to the peculiar institution we call sleeping.  The mattress is our altar which we cover with sheets, blankets, and pillows before we lay down our bodies in sacrifice to Morpheus.

My sister untucks the blankets to allow her feet freedom to roam in case they get restless. I like my toes securely tucked in where they are safe from things that go pinch in the night.  I recently witnessed my sister engage in the untucking ritual. It shocked me; I thought she was a toe-tucker like me.  All these years, I had been living in a fool’s paradise.

The question was: “Would our relationship survive?” Could she accept a toe-tucker for a sister? Could I live with her freedom-loving feet? These are essential questions that can lie dormant for years until the night two people have to share a bed when they are visiting their mother who decides to put her daughters in the back bedroom.

When we were children, I did not like waiting for my sister to get up in the morning so we could make the bed together. I had places to go, people to meet, and things to do. So I made my half of the bed in the morning before I left for school. It was something I did religiously.

I can still make one half of a bed. The gods are pleased.

Halfmade Bed

The Deity of Harmony

Harmonyvia Daily Prompt: Harmony

When I decided to visit the glassworks at Harmony, California (population twenty-eight), I had no idea that I would encounter the deity that presides over it.  He is a benevolent soul that has been around for thousands of years.

Glassworks

He first came into being when God said, “Let there be light.”

And the lightening struck the sand, and from the sand came the race of the Fulgurites.  From this humble origin, the Fulgurites multiplied and grew in strength until their descendants spread over all the Earth, some even reaching to the stars.  And now, as the prophet had foretold, “there is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.”

Glass is everywhere, in every home, in every town, in every state and nation.  And their deity–the high priest of silicon–resides in Harmony.

When I met him he was sitting in the sun, reflecting.  He was laughing to himself.  I asked him to let me in on the joke; he said humans are more fragile than glass, and how shattered they would be if they knew that.  I don’t know if he was right, but I did give his words some thought.  After all, he has been around for thousands of year, and I was in Harmony with him.

Carl and the Golden Ball

Upon a great adventure he was bond.

That greatest Gloriana to him gave,

That greatest Glorious Queene of Faerie Lond,

To winne him worship, and her grace to have.

Edmund Spenser ~ The Faerie Queene, Book 1, Canto 1

Waterhouse-Knight Lady

The Gentle Knight rode through the wood, following the sound of someone in distress. His companion Carl walked at his side. Presently they came to a clearing and beheld a Lady weeping by the side of a small stream. So intent was she on her mournful state, she did not hear the Knight’s approach.

“My Lady,” said the Knight. “Why do you weep?”

Startled, the Lady looked up in wide-eyed wonder at the Knight. Then she buried her face in her hands and began weeping anew. The Knight immediately dismounted and knelt as a supplicant.

“If you would but tell me the cause of your tears,” he said, “I will banish it ere this day is done.”

The Lady raised her fair head and placed a trembling hand on the Knight’s arm.

“Good and Gentle Knight,” she said, “you have truly shown yourself to be most noble to stay your journey for a poor maiden’s trouble. I would not delay your high purpose…yet my heart is so grieved that I will forego the usual courtesies and pour forth my tale of woe.”

At her words, Carl rolled his eyes and went chasing after a moth. The Lady continued.

“See yon stream? Early this morning I was playing with my golden ball, tossing and catching it in all manner of merriment. But misfortune stayed my hand on my final toss, and my golden ball landed in the stream. From there, the water swiftly carried down, down, down to a tunnel through with the stream flows. And now my golden ball is stuck like a pig in the mud.”

“The worst of it is the clouds have gathered together in preparation for a mighty thunderstorm. The rain will eventually cause the tunnel to overflow, and my golden ball will be lost forever.”

Having told her tale, the Lady recommenced her weeping. The Knight said not a word but followed the stream until he espied the tunnel. Casting himself on the ground, he reached into the tunnel in an attempt to snatch the runaway ball. When that failed, he grabbed his lance and poked it into the tunnel, trying to push the ball to freedom. But however skillfully the Knight wielded his lance, the ball remained beyond his reach. At length the Knight withdrew from the tunnel and returned to the Lady, defeated and dishonored.

“I am defeated and dishonored,” he cried. “I am no longer worthy to bear the title Gentle Knight!” With a wail of anguish, the Knight began removing his armor. Seeing that her golden ball was still stuck in the tunnel, the Lady joined in the general lament.

In the meantime, Carl, who had overheard the Lady’s tale, started taking measurements and gathering data. He determined that the rate at which the rainwater would flow into the tunnel was modeled by the function cubic feet per hour. The rate at which water drained from the tunnel was modeled by the function cubic feet per hour. It was his intent to use these two functions to determine the time at which the amount of water in the tunnel would be at a minimum and what the amount would be. His biggest problem would be getting the Knight and the Lady to stop their wailing long enough to listen to him.

“Gentle Knight! Lady!” he shouted. “I have a plan for retrieving the golden ball!”

With these and other words, Carl finally persuaded the Knight and the Lady to stop crying.

“Listen,” he said, “I can figure out the minimum amount of water in the tunnel; if it is not too deep, I can go into the tunnel and get the golden ball. Will that work for you?”

The Knight and the Lady were awed by his words and could only nod dumbly. Carl set to work with his calculations. As the minutes passed, and the sky grew dark, the Lady began to fret.

“Oh, Sir Knight, what if your brave companion cannot find an answer? Can there really be a solution to such a problem?”

The Knight groaned in response and began removing his outer garments.

“Whatever the outcome, I have proved myself a knave and a beast.”

Carl ignored the two of them and continued to calculate. After about quarter of an hour, he threw down his notes.

“Done! The amount of water in the tunnel will be at a minimum of 27.9945 cubic feet in approximately 3.2719 hours. Now all we have to do it wait; then I will retrieve the golden ball.”

So the Knight, the Lady, and Carl sat down and waited. At the end of 3.2719 hours, Carl went into the tunnel and found the Lady’s ball. He carried it over to her with a warning to be careful of where she tossed it. The Lady was so thankful that she asked Carl to name his reward–she would give him anything, even her own hand in marriage. This, however, Carl refused.

“Lady, I appreciate the offer,” he said, “but I am a cat.”

Then he told the Knight (who by this time was naked) to put on his clothes and his armor. Carl was thoroughly wet from his excursion into the tunnel and wanted to get indoors to the nearest fire as soon as possible. Because the Knight was a gentleman and Carl was a cat, they took the Lady with them, along with her golden ball.

 

 

 

Long Journey’s End

Fairy LandA Flash Fiction challenge from Terrible Minds. My story was inspired by Phantastes by George MacDonald whom Madeleine L’Engle describes as “the father of us all.”

“Look at him! Look at him! He has begun a story without a beginning and it will never have any end.” George MacDonald ~ Phantastes

Anodos climbed up the stairs, weary beyond thought. He paused for just a moment at the door before entering his room and casting himself on the bed. He was grateful to be home.

I will never go anywhere at any time ever again!

He reached for his pillow and pulled it over his head. It occurred to him that Fairy Land was not very comfortable. To be sure, there were strange wondrous sights to see while one was on the move, but the sleeping arrangements were not at all accommodating–unless one were a fairy. No wonder Pocket was so ferocious about her hammock. Anodos looked at his hands; yes, her bite marks were there even though he never once tried to steal her hammock. On second thought, he did threaten to hide it, but she would not behave herself.

Anodos sat up and leaned forward, with his head in his hands.

Oh, Pocket! Pocket! Will you ever learn? And now that I am gone from Fairy Land, who will keep you from mischief?

He groaned aloud–it was a deep, satisfying groan. Anodos liked it so much he commenced to groan again; however, something on the floor stopped him mid-groan. Anodos inspected it more closely; there was debris on the carpet! It was detritus from the stream of water. Curious, he touched one of the bed posters. Particles of dirt and bits of leaves were lodged in its crevices. He walked over to his dressing table; fragments of real tendrils of dried vines mingled with the carved ones. Fairy Land’s intrusion had left its mark.

Anodos' Room

Anodos was puzzled. He had assumed that just as Fairy Land had appeared in an instant, it would leave without a trace. He never thought that Fairy Land would be messy. It entered his spotless room but did not leave it in the same condition. At first, Anodos was annoyed–Fairy Land should know better! But then he reflected that in his journey through Fairy Land, he had also left his mark.

His footsteps had bruised the grass and had disturbed the soil. His body had crushed the leaves of every bower in which he slept. He recalled breaking a large branch from a tree and swinging it from side to side as he walked. He had not left Fairy Land as he found it.

The thought bothered him. He did not intend to intrude, but there it was. He thought of Pocket. Surely if she heeded just a tithe of what he had said to her, she would also be changed–he had left his debris in her little heart.

Not only Pocket, but the old woman, her daughter…Oh! The woman in the alabaster coffin! I sang her awake, and now she no longer sleeps. I have left my mark on Fairy Land!

Anodos remembered the whisper of the beech tree: “I may love him; I may love him; for he is a man, and I am a beech-tree.”

Is love entombed forever in her heart because of me? Did she even want to love or was she better off without it? Oh, what have I done! I wish I had never passed through Fairy Land!

Anodos groaned again, but not for satisfaction; his soul was troubled and his heart was grieved. There was something familiar about his condition. He had been in this place before. He walked over to his window and stared at the wind, reflecting, remembering.

It was last week at a social gathering. The topic under discussion was technology. Someone had stated that those who influence our culture should be those who share our values. Anodos had disagreed, saying that currently there are people in high places who share our values but discredit them by their words and actions.

My opinion was not well received. A few people argued against my position. It seemed that they were more interested in proving what I said was wrong instead of trying to understand why I said it. I said something contrary to the group consensus that provoked anger and…what was it…something more.

Anodos suddenly recalled what their faces looked like. It was fear! They were frightened by what he had said. Anodos realized that, just as he had done in Fairy Land, he had intruded on their world and had left his mark. He had spoken his truth, and they were left with the scattered debris of his words.

Now he was in a quandary. Another engagement was scheduled for next week.   He wondered whether or not he should attend. He felt he was faced with an impossible choice.

On the one hand, I could keep my contrary opinions to myself, giving the impression that I agree with the group. But if I do that, then I am not only being untrue to myself, but I am deceiving the others. On the other hand, I could express my thoughts and feelings, even when they are in opposition. However, that may cause others discomfort–even fear–which is the last thing I want to do. What shall I do? What shall I do?

“Anodos, Anodos, has Fairy Land left nothing in you?”

Anodos turned, startled, at the voice. There was his little sister, standing in front of him, arms akimbo, with a stern expression on her face.

“What do you mean?” he asked. “I do not know what you are talking about?”

His sister shook her finger at him.

“Is that all the understanding you have gained in a journey through Fairy Land? Truth is much, but honesty is nothing. It is a mere matter of convenience. Well, let me remind you that it is no use trying to account for things in Fairy Land.”

“And I suppose I should learn to forget the idea of doing so,” said Anodos, “and take everything as it comes–like a child.”

His sister smiled.

“Of course,” she said, as she made for the door. “Why else does one journey through Fairy Land?”

 

The next week, Anodos attended a social gathering.

Supernumerary

RHS students

Supernumerary: 1) an extra person or thing 2) Theater a person with a small nonspeaking role

I encountered this word in a Flash Fiction challenge from Terrible Minds. The challenge was to choose a word from a list of ten words and then write a story with that word as the title. I started to pull together a story, but then I put it aside. I was not enjoying it; it felt forced.

However, the word supernumerary reminded me of a few things so I will write about them and shall enjoy doing so.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S. Eliot

No! I am not Prince hamlet, nor was meant to be;

Am an attendant lord, one that will do

To swell a progress start a scene or two.

(A person with a small, nonspeaking role.)

This is one of my favorite poems so it takes very little to bring it to mind–even the word supernumerary.

Note to self: One of the marks of great writing is how many ideas come to mind when one reads it. It has layers of meaning because it connects to so many things.

But Kurt Vonnegut (another connection) stated that there is no meaning in a story–it’s all a Cat’s Cradle. (“See the cat? See the cradle?”)

Political Rallies and Signing Ceremonies

Whenever a politician makes an appearance doing whatever it is politicians do, there is always a group of people in the background. Supernumeraries!

These are people who function as stage props to enhance the role of the politician. They are like furniture, only better, because they have faces. They are like the enchanted objects in Beauty and the Beast (both animated and live action). They are the clocks, the teapots, the candelabras, the wardrobes, and the footstools with facial expressions.

Their small, nonspeaking role is to gaze adoringly at the head of the speaker, although their eyes might wander to his shoulders and perhaps his waist. But butt gazing is strictly prohibited. (This could be somewhat of a challenge, especially if the politician is talking out of his…never mind.)

No, their job is reflect on their faces whatever the politician is saying, to amplify his emotions, to model the appropriate response from the audience–like human Applause signs.

Here is an example of Carl, the supernumerary, reacting to a speech:

“Public education!” (Concern)

“The environment!” (Scorn)

“The economy!” (Fear followed by hope)

“Energy!” (Amusement with a touch of head shaking)

“My opponent!” (Horror, disgust, contempt, dismay, nausea, with emphatic head nodding/shaking)

Note to self: Avoid being cast as a supernumerary if at all possible; I am not that great at role-playing.

Vice-President Al Gore

When he was vice-president, Al Gore visited Roosevelt High School in Fresno, California. I was teaching there at the time and was invited to sit in the audience, to listen to him speak. I was not a supernumerary; no one was. It was just a group of teachers, students, administrators, and mayors (by the truckload) listening to Mr. Gore speak about education. He came at the invitation of a student, which I thought was a very decent thing to do.

I remember thinking that Mr. Gore was very nice and respectful and sympathetic to the challenges we teachers face in the classroom. One thing that stands out is his comment on overcrowded classrooms. He was shocked to learn that “in some classes, there are…thirty-five students!” A titter swept through the room; at the time, a class of only thirty-five students was considered a blessing. My smallest class was forty-two students. No one paid us to titter–after all, we were not supernumeraries–we merely reacted honestly to what Mr. Gore said.

Note to self: If a stage prop reacts honestly, then he or she is really not a supernumerary. As I learn to live my truth, I will shed my supernumerary costume and bow my way off the stage.

Newton’s Apple Tree

Newton’s Apple Tree ~ A short story inspired by the limit, the number zero, Newton, and a favorite Calculus lesson.

The Limit

Isaac wandered distractedly through the town, paying no attention to the people he jostled. His mind was walking around a problem, scrabbling for purchase on its slippery slope. He made his way to the farm and found his favorite apple tree. He sat down and leaned against the tree.

“What can I do?” he asked the branches overhead. “I know that the slope of the tangent exists in theory–I’ve drawn it on paper–but does it exist organically? Does it have a representation in the natural world?”

In response, the tree dropped an apple on Isaac’s head. BONK!

“Ouch!” yelled Isaac. “Why did you do that?”

“Pick up that apple, you dolt,” said the tree. “Notice its curved surface? Now rest that stick in your hand against it.”

Isaac did as the tree commanded.

“At how many points does the stick touch the surface of the apple?” asked the tree.

Isaac looked more closely.

“At only one!” he cried. “This is stupendous! I wonder why I did not see this before? Many thanks, tree! I have to leave now!”

Isaac hastened to his study where he spent the next fortnight making calculations. He worked in a fever, like one possessed, checking and rechecking his figures. His family grew worried about him and wondered at the agonizing moans emanating from his room.

Isaac’s father was on the verge of breaking down his door when Isaac emerged from his study. His parents gasped. Was this pale, disheveled ghost of a man their son?

Isaac stared blankly at his family and his surroundings a few minutes before stumbling blindly out the door. He headed back to the apple tree.

~

“It’s no use,” Isaac groaned. “I shall never find the fluxion that proves the tangent line slope, even though I know it exists. It was almost mine; I had the function, the fluent, and the difference quotient all set up. I was all ready to merge the two secant points into one. So close…so close…”

BONK! Another apple landed on Isaac’s head.

“OUCH! I say; that was uncalled for! Here I am in the depths of misery, pouring out my soul, and all you can do is toss apples at me!”

“QUIET!” barked the tree, “Or I will unload an entire bushel on your head! That’s better. Now, you have your function, your fluent, and your difference quotient.”

“Yes.”

“Well, then, go ahead and find the limit as delta-s approaches zero.”

“But I can’t!” Isaac wailed. “That would mean division by zero. I can’t do that!”

“Why not?”

“Are you wanting in the upper story?” said Isaac. “In the first place, zero is a dangerous number. It does not behave respectably like the other numbers. No reputable mathematician would ever attempt to divide by zero–it’s just not done in polite society. If I tried that, I would be worst than a laughing stock; I would be shunned.”

“What do you care what other people think?” asked the tree. “You have always considered yourself a mathematical rogue, haven’t you?”

“It’s not merely that,” said Isaac. “If I were to actually divide by zero successfully, the rational world would collapse. There would be riots in the streets, dogs with cats, incompetent rulers on the throne–er, never mind that last one, it’s true anyway. The point is, if I prove division by zero, then I could prove anything, whether or not it is real. You see my problem?”

“What I see is a person not willing to take a little risk,” said the tree. “How do you know the limit does not exist unless you actually prove or disprove it? I say, throw off your shackles of caution and bonds of convention! Have faith in your difference quotient and believe in the limit. So you destroy the world–so what? Are you going to let a little thing like that stop you?”

Isaac slowly rose and faced the tree.

“You are right,” he said. “I am a mathematician. They think I’m mad anyway, whether or not it’s true. I will do it. I will find that limit if it is the last thing I do.”

Isaac gently touched the tree.

“Good bye, old friend. We may never see each other again.”

~

A week passed with the tree wondering what became of Isaac. Did he or did he not find the slope of the tangent line? Suddenly Isaac came bounding down the lane. The exultant look on his face said it all.

“I did it!” he said, trying to catch his breath. “I successfully found the limit!”

“Congratulations!” said the tree. “I see the world did not end.”

“No, it did not end–it exploded! Oh, tree, the vision I had of new vistas to be explored. This has opened the door to another world of mathematics! Why, I foresee engines flying in the air, wagons moving along without animal power, strange and unusual food of the gods that heals boils, the pox, and the plague, buildings towering over the city, and…” BONK!

“OUCH! This is really too much! What is the reason for this apple?

“I thought you might be hungry.”

Isaac picked up the apple. Now that he thought of it, he was hungry.

“Thanks,” he said.

The Eternal Spring

Flash Fiction Challenge fro Terrible Minds: Write a story about gods or goddesses.

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2017/03/17/flash-fiction-challenge-to-behold-the-divine/

             “Hurry, Caril, it isn’t much farther.”

            Ceridwen tugged at her companion’s arm, a boy ten years of age, red-faced and sweating. In spite of her pulling, Caril stopped and shaded his eyes from the sun.

            “This had better be worth it,” he groused.

            “Just wait; you’ll see.”

            Ceridwen resumed her hike up the gentle slope with Caril trudging behind her. After twenty minutes, Ceridwen halted and pointed triumphantly to a rock by the path. In front of the rock was a small lawn; Caril could hear the sound of water. On one side of the rock was a tiny spring that trickled into a small basin. The basin was obviously man made. Curious, Caril edged closer to the rock as Ceridwen pushed back an overhanging growth of fern. There was a niche carved into the rock above the basin and resting in the niche was a figure about a hand span in height.

            “Don’t touch it!” Ceridwen said, as Caril stretched his hand toward the figure. “The goddess does not wish to be disturbed.”

            “How do you know what the goddess wants?” Caril asked.

            “Well, if you were a goddess would you want to be handled by a grubby boy?”

            Caril started to protest but Ceridwen grabbed him by the shoulders and looked into his face with eyes glowing.

            “Isn’t this an exciting discovery? Just think of how long she has resided in this rock, year after year, holding court by her spring!”

            “How do you know it’s a goddess?”

            Ceridwen looked at Caril primly.

            “It’s because she has breasts,” she said. “See?”

            Ceridwen pointed at the figure.

            “Now we must give her an offering for trespassing in her sacred place.” Ceridwen reached for something on the other side of the spring and pulled out a wooden cup. She filled the cup with water from the basin, poured out a small amount, and then offered it to Caril. When he had drunk from the cup, she refilled it and drank of it herself, and then shook the remaining drops on the ground. Then they both lay down on the lawn hand in hand and watched the leaves flutter overhead. Presently Ceridwen broke the silence.

            “It’s a wonder that Father Paul didn’t find this altar and tear it down,” she said. “You know how he feels about idol worship.”

            “What if Mother discovered it!” replied Caril. He and Ceridwen looked at each other aghast. Caril’s mother, Lady Irmtraud, was a battle-scarred warrior in the fight against all things non-Christian.

            “Well, then, we will have to cover our tracks especially well and hide the altar so that the goddess may rest in peace,” said Ceridwen. “We must protect her from those who know just enough of God to be dangerous but not enough to be kind.”

 Seigna-Diana

Amalia strolled leisurely among the trees. Her two companions romped on either side of her; all three of them rejoiced in the mild warmth of the weather. Amalia lifted to head to watch the passing clouds.

“AMALIA!” Mole shouted. “Watch out!”

“Too late!” Skunk groaned.

Amalia plowed into a figure kneeling in front of her. She tumbled head over heels and landed on the ground.

“OOMPH!” she gasped. “What happened?”

“I’m afraid that would be me,” said a young woman sitting next to her. “I happened to you–or rather my hindquarters did while I was poking about in this bush. Are you hurt? I did not hear you coming else I would have moved out of your way.”

“I’m quite well,” said Amalia. “It’s my fault for not watching where I was walking. Although I must confess I did not expect to find…Oh!”

While Amalia was talking, the woman rose to her feet. She was tall and beautiful. Though dressed in a simple tunic, she radiated the aura of a queen.

Amalia scrambled to her feet.

“I beg your pardon,” she said, with a curtsy. “My name is Amalia and these are my friends, Skunk and Mole.”

“Well met,” said the young woman. “I am the goddess of the spring–or at least I was. At the moment I am rather springless. I have lost my spring.”

“What!” Skunk exclaimed. “How could you lose your spring? (Don’t shush me, Mole.) I mean, being a goddess and all, isn’t that rather unusual?”

The goddess smiled.

“Not at all. Life escapes, you know.”

“Well, we will be happy to help you look for it,” said Mole. “Especially Skunk.”

“Thank you. That is most kind of you.”

“So, what does your spring look like?” asked Amalia.

“Wait, let me guess–it’s wet,” said Skunk.

Mole rolled her eyes and shook her head. But the goddess nodded.

“Skunk is quite right,” she said. “My spring is wet; it’s about eight feet tall and two feet across at its widest point. It was around here somewhere.”

The goddess got back down on her knees and began feeling along the ground; Amalia, Mole, and Skunk joined her.

For the better part of an hour, the four carefully searched the area for some sign of a spring. Skunk, who had wandered away from the others, spied something in the bushes and pounced on it. Suddenly the goddess sat upright and sniffed the air.

“My spring is close by–I can smell it!”

She rose to her feet.

“And I can hear it!” She looked around and spotted Skunk.

“Skunk, dear, what do you have in your hand?” she asked, running over to him.

Skunk held up a small object. It appeared to be made of wood. He handed it to the goddess.

“Oh, thank you!” she said. “You’ve found it!”

Then she walked over to a rock over hung with ferns. She parted the ferns to expose a small niche and basin carved into the rock. She gently placed the object into the niche; immediately a stream of water burst forth from the top of the rock and trickled into the basin before cascading down the side of the path. The others crowded around.

“What is that?” asked Amalia. “It looks some sort of figure.”

“I am the goddess of the spring, and this is my image.”

Amalia looked more closely at the image and then at the goddess.

“I beg your pardon, Goddess, but this doesn’t look anything like you. I mean, you are beautiful while this image is… well… it’s rather… ‘unfinished,’ to put it nicely.”

The goddess caressed the figure.

“You see me as beautiful; that is because one’s character is revealed by the gods they create. My creator was a person of boundless joy and great integrity.”

She turned to the others, her eyes shining.

“I wish you could have know him, the young man that made this image and carved this resting place for it. But that was centuries ago. He was still a youth then, newly arrived to this country. He was no artist, but his hands did what they could to express his love and gratitude. He knew this figure was merely a symbol. Like all creators, he fashioned his imaginary world out of his inner self, but he did not make the error of mistaking his imaginary world for the real one.”

“You’ve been here for centuries?” asked Mole.

“Over seven hundred years.”

“And in all that time, you’ve never lost your spring?”

The goddess shook her head.

“Unfortunately, it has happened a few times. There are those who see the image as a symbol for something else, something that offends them. When they discover my resting place, they tear down the image and destroy the spring.”

“Then we must keep you safe,” said Amalia. We must find a way to hide you better so that you and your spring are protected.”

“No, my dear, that will not do. I am not meant to be safe.”

“But someone else might destroy your image, and then you would lose your spring.”

The goddess embraced Amalia and smiled.

“Wherever there are thoughts of joy and thanksgiving, I will always find the Eternal spring.”

This Rough Beast

Flash Fiction Challenge from Terrible Minds

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2017/03/10/flash-fiction-challenge-create-your-own-monster/

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? 

~ William Butler Yeats, The Second ComingWaterhouse-Trevor

Trevor dreamed he was on top of a hill overlooking a large city. It was Rome. In the distance he could just make out the outline of the coliseum. The next instant he was inside its arena; the place was filled to capacity. He was on an elevated platform looking down on the crowd. He stood still, mesmerized by the sights and sounds of the throng. There were shouts, cries, laughter, and whistles intermingled with the smell of smoke, food, perfume, and sweat. The crowd lay below him like a restless beast that occasionally raised its great head and bellowed for the sheer pleasure of it. Suddenly its roar intensified as a lone figure stepped onto a stage in the center of the area. It was a young man. He raised one hand and the place fell silent. He hoisted a harp in his arms, plucked a string or two, and began to sing.

Trevor watched in amazement as the singer played the crowd as deftly as he played his instrument. Everyone around him listened in rapturous silence. Their faces were masks of worship, and their bodies vibrated with devotion. The beast lay belly up before the hand of its god. Suddenly the singer waved his arms and yelled and the throng of people went wild. Women began screaming and weeping, waving their arms and dancing ecstatically. Men joined them, leaping and twisting in frenzy. Trevor stared in awe and envy at the singer. His blood pounded in his head, his throat, and his chest. He cried aloud in response to the surging power around him.

Suddenly the singer leaped into the air and was caught by a group of women. They jostled him over their heads, and they tore his clothes. His naked body lay spread-eagle above the crowd. Trevor watched in horror as the women began tearing the hair from the singer’s head. They scratched out his eyes, they raked long claws down his bare chest, and finally, in an orgiastic frenzy, they tore his limbs and his head from his body. With a look of triumph, one of the women tossed the singer’s bloodied head at Trevor’s feet. Its few remaining wisps of hair were long golden waves…

Trevor awoke gasping for air. He rose and staggered over to the window, breathing deeply, trying to calm his racing heart. A mild breeze cooled his forehead.

Knowledge enormous has made a Dionysus of me, he thought. And I am responsible for the monster I create.

 

 

The Boar of Gloucester

“Spider web” by Kari Siren https://www.flickr.com/photos/85314460@N02/32161367144/

 

Everyone knows that for time out of mind, boars are the most irritable, vicious, and hence dangerous beasts in the forest. Many theories have been proposed to explain the reason for their ill temper. Some say that their feet hurt while others insists that their tusks are too tight. This one says that their hides constantly itch and that no amount of scratching brings relief while another says that their bellies are continually sour from the rough diet upon which they subsist. But the real cause of the boars’ distemper is their vision – though they have eyes, they cannot see.

A boar spends its days hiding from the sun and its nights scavenging for food. Its eyes are always on the ground foraging for roots, grubs, small carrion, and insects. A boar never gazes on the blue sky when the sun is at its height or on the brightness of the stars at midnight. It never listens to the song of the leaves overhead as they rustle in the breeze or the call of the water as it rushes over the river stones. Flowers do not entice them with their fragrance and birds do not stir them with them singing. It is all mud and muck and grubs beneath their feet.

But there was one boar that was different from the rest. He was the Boar of Gloucester, a bold, beautiful beast (if a boar can be considered beautiful.) He was a boar, to be sure, with all the characteristics of his kind: stocky frame, grizzled coat, bristling fur, and deadly tusks. The Boar of Gloucester was like the other boars in that he hid from the sun during the day and foraged for food at night. But while the other boars kept their eyes on the ground in their prosaic pursuit of sustenance, the Boar of Gloucester continually marveled at the sights, sounds, and smells beneath his feet. There was beauty to be found in the world on the ground and the Boar of Gloucester had eyes to see it.

Patterns of all designs and shapes, patterns of delicate intricacy filled him with joy and wonder. The spiral of the lichen growing on a tree, the swirl of the mud on a riverbank, and the interlacing of roots all delighted his eyes and nourished his heart. His ears caught the sound of each little beetle and grasshopper making its busy way across the forest floor. He counted all the blades of grass and all the thorns on the briar and was glad.

The other boars kept well away from the Boar of Gloucester; they were bored by his lack of practical attention to the things that mattered. Mud was mud and moss was moss. And if neither contained a bit of food, why bother? Boars by nature are solitary creatures and so the Boar of Gloucester little minded his solitude. But once in a while he sighed and allowed himself to long for another being, another boar, with whom to share his vision.

One day, the Boar of Gloucester emerged from his resting place just before sunset. As he sang his silent song of praise to the vanishing light, the rays of the sun briefly blazed green and purple before slipping into darkness. The colors illuminated the silken threads of a spider’s web close by. At the sight, the Boar bowed his great head and wept. Would that another soul were by his side to rejoice and mourn with him at such transcendent beauty!

“Ah, me,” piped a tiny voice. “It is such a bother that I cannot sit on my web without the bellow of a boar disturbing my quiet and peace.”

The Boar looked up in surprise. A small spider was making its way down the end of its web, clicking and twittering until it sat near the Boar’s nose. The spider looked annoyed.

“Oh, I beg your pardon,” said the Boar. “I had no idea I was disturbing your web. It’s just that I have never seen such a lovely display of colors and light before. It moved me so.”

“Yes, yes,” said the spider impatiently. “That’s what the other one said. But however gracious your apologies, it doesn’t alter the fact that you both intruded on my rest.”

“I only…” the Boar began and then stopped, taken aback. “Did you say…other?” he asked. “Was it by any chance another boar, like me, that disturbed you?” The Boar held his breath waiting for the spider’s answer.

“Of course, it was another boar. When I said other, I certainly was speaking of a boar. Weeping and moaning just like you.” The spider turned and skittered back to its hiding place.

“Wait, please, wait,” begged the Boar. “I must know. You said the other boar was weeping; did it happen to say the reason why?”

The spider did not halt its progress as it called over its shoulder. “Beauty! It wept for beauty.”

Oh, how the Boar of Gloucester rejoiced upon hearing those words! There was another like him, another kindred heart that saw with inner eyes just as he did. But where was it? The Boar decided then and there to seek out and find this noble beast. For days upon days and years upon years, he traveled the length and breadth of the forest, along the rivers and streams, up rocky tors, and down hidden fens. He inquired of the spiders in their webs, the beetles under the leaves, and the ants along their trails. And every time he paused to contemplate the swirls in the mud or the march of the mushrooms, he wondered whether the other boar had passed this way.

The Boar of Gloucester never found the other boar though he sought it diligently for the rest of his life. He ended his days alone in a hidden bower looking up at the stars at midnight. His heart soared at the thought that another boar was also rejoicing in their brightness. Somewhere across the limitless sky, two kindred souls joined together in thanksgiving as the Boar of Gloucester breathed his last contented breath.

Flash Fiction from Terrible Minds http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2017/02/24/flash-fiction-challenge-random-photo-exercise/

Gunslinger Ridge Experiment

The rider stepped away from Jane, moving out with the same slow, measured stride in which he had approached, and the fact that his action placed her wholly to one side, and him no nearer to Tull, had a penetrating significance.

“Where I was raised a woman’s word was law. I ain’t quite outgrowed that yet.”

Tull fumed between amaze and anger.

“Meddler, we have a law here something different from woman’s whim–Mormon law!… Take care you don’t transgress it.”

“To hell with your Mormon law!”

Zane Grey ~ Riders of the Purple Sage

 

The rider made a swift move that left his hat on the ground and his gun-sheaths empty.

“LASSITER!” cried Jane.

Keeping his guns trained on Tull, the rider called Lassiter acknowledged Jane with a slight nod of his head.

“If you know me at all, then you know I always give people a choice,” said Lassiter. “Here is yours: You will come with me to Gunslinger Ridge or your body stays where it is.”

Tull started to protest, but Jane stepped forward.

“Wait!” she said. “What are you going to do to Elder Tull?”

“Ma’am, if you will accompany us, you will find out. I promise I will see you safely back to your home.”

utah-sentinel

Gunslinger Ridge rose before them like a flat-topped sentinel. Lassiter dismounted and motioned for Jane and Tull to follow him. He led them up a switchback path to the top of the ridge. If Tull considered bolting for freedom, he made no outward sign. Lassiter’s reputation bound him more securely than any rope. He scanned the horizon, noting the distant peaks and hints of canyons. The valley below was mottled with purple sage. The sight comforted him. He was still Elder Tull and ruled this land. He turned to the rider.

“Well, Lassiter, I’m here. State your purpose.”

“You hold to Mormon law,” Lassiter said, “and I say woman’s word is law. This day will reveal which one is stronger. Up here on Gunslinger Ridge, I control the elements: fire, water, wind, and earth. To you and to the lady, I will give power over fire, water, and wind. Show me what you can do with them, and I will decide which law is the more powerful. Tull, you go first.”

Lassiter stepped back and motioned to Jane.

“Ma’am, I think it best if you stay close to me over here.”

Jane hesitated. Lassiter! Everyone in Utah territory knew of him. It was said that he left it to others to keep track of all the men he had killed; he forgot about them as soon as breath left their body. Yet a second look at his face revealed lines of sorrow, which Jane perceived was born of compassion. She drew a deep breath and inched closer to him.

“That’s right, ma’am. Over here, you’ll be safe.”

Once Jane was by his side, Lassiter pointed at Tull.

“You got power over fire, water and wind. Let’s see what you do with it.”

Tull stiffened. He felt his neck hairs rise. He lifted his hand. It tingled with warmth. He was afraid that Lassiter was making a fool of him and was about to refuse. Then he remembered Lassiter’s guns. He was more afraid of them.

“Alright then,” he said. “I call forth fire.”

Immediately a geyser of fire burst from the ground at his feet. Startled, Tull jumped back. The fire towered over him like a pillar. Hesitantly, Tull stretched his hand toward the horizon. His action directed the fire over the valley where its flames began consuming the sagebrush, the trees, and the grasses. Tull cast a fierce look of joy at Lassiter and Jane.

“Water!” he said.

The sky opened and waters rained down. It quenched the flames, sending billows of steam to the heavens. Water filled the valley and mounted the walls of the canyons, drowning all wildlife. Tull waved his arms.

“Wind!” he shouted.

A gust of wind swept over the ridge and into the valley, driving back the waters. It swirled on the ground and roared through the canyon walls. It caught birds in flight, scattering their feathers in a whirlwind. Tull threw his hat into the air and caught it, laughing.

Suddenly the wind ceased. Tull looked at the valley below; it was purple with sage. He whirled on Lassiter.

“What sort of devilry is this?” he said. “Did I or did I not have power over fire, water, and wind? Or was this some sort of low trick?”

“It’s no trick,” said Lassiter. “You showed what you would do with power just as truly as you are standing here. But now you have to see what the lady will do.”

Turning to Jane, he said, “Ma’am, you now have the same power as Tull here. What will you do?”

Jane walked to the middle of the ridge and turned in a slow circle. She saw the valley, the distance hills, and the canyons in a panorama below her. The valley was her home; its inhabitants were her people–family, friends, and neighbors. She thought about what she could do to show her power; she wondered whether she wanted that kind of power.

“Lassiter,” she said, “if you give me power over fire, will you also give me a sheaf of wheat, a grinding stone, and a cake of leaven? For if you give me fire, I will use it to bake bread.”

Lassiter shook his head.

“Sorry, ma’am, I don’t have those things at present. You’ll have to wait til you get back to your place.”

“Fool woman,” Tull muttered.

“Well, then,” said Jane, blushing, “I’ll make do with water. Can you show me where the elderberry bushes grow on this ridge? If you give me water, I will dig a channel to water the elderberry bushes. When the elderberries are ripe, I will pick them and make elderberry wine.”

Again, Lassiter shook his head.

“As much as it would please me to oblige you, ma’am, I can’t guide you to an elderberry bush. None grow up here–only in the valley.”

“Ha!” said Tull.

Jane shuddered and looked at Lassiter.

“Ma’am,” he said, “you’re doin’ just fine. You still got power over wind.”

Jane felt him supporting her, giving her strength, even though he made no move to touch her. She felt a slight breeze on her cheek. Wind! She would use the wind.

“Lassiter, I have a field of sunflowers that are ripe for harvest. May I use the wind to turn my mill to press the seeds for oil?”

Lassiter held out his hands.

“Ma’am, you need the wind of the valley. I only control the wind up on this ridge.”

“That’s it!” cried Tull. “It’s plain that Jane has no more sense of power than a child. Lassiter, you are witness. I alone could control the elements–my law is stronger.”

He strode over to Jane and grabbed her by the arm.

“Lassiter, help me!” cried Jane.

There was no response except the sound of a shovel striking dirt. Lassiter was digging a hole.

“Lassiter” shouted Tull. “I’m leaving now and taking Jane with me. You hear? I won! You can’t stop me!”

Lassiter stopped digging and leaned on his shovel.

“That ain’t the way it goes,” he said. “I’m the one who decides who’s stronger, and I still say, Jane’s word is law–over your Mormon law.”

“What!” said Tull. “You saw with your own eyes what I did. I burned up the valley, then I flooded it, and finally I blew the waters away. Jane couldn’t command that kind of power.”

“She didn’t have to,” said Lassiter. “She had the power in her own hand to make the bread, the wine, and the oil just by honoring nature’s own laws. She won. And I’m keepin’ my word to her and seein’ her safe back home.”

“Wait!” said Tull, “That’s not fair. You said nothing about keeping to nature. There’s still one element left–earth! Give us power over earth to settle the matter.”

Lassiter shook his head.

“I’m the only one with power over the earth.”

He pointed to the hole.

“There’s your grave. The only way you’ll leave this ridge alive is to admit you were wrong. All your power is an illusion–it’s not real. You’ll remain here until you realize that.”

~

Lassiter saw Jane safely back home.

“Why?” Jane asked.

“Well, ma’am, it’s a grand experiment I’m doin’,” said Lassiter. “People all have a story about themselves–you, me, everybody. No harm in that; in fact, our story gets us through life. And as life goes on, most people change their story to keep it real. But people like Tull make the mistake of writin’ the ending of their story. Then, no matter what the facts are, they make it fit their narrative, even if it means believin’ a lie. So far, you’re the only one who has ever returned from Gunslinger Ridge.”

Writing Prompt from Terrible Minds

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2017/02/17/flash-fiction-challenge-ten-more-titles-round-two/