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/

 

Long Way Home

leonards-legs

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slap. Slap. Slap. Slap 

The sound of running feet echoed across the desert.

Slap. Slap. Slap. Slap.

After years of threatening to do so, Leonard’s legs finally ran away with him. And he was suffering for it. His bones ached, his lungs burned, and his blood beat a steady tattoo in his ears. He glanced down at the road and groaned. He had crossed another state line.

Leonard was annoyed with his legs; this was a most inconvenient time for them to leave. He had deadlines to meet–appointments and obligations. Although he felt the burden of his responsibilities, apparently his legs did not. They didn’t seem to understand that if one is a writer, then one has to…well…write! His legs were so unreasonable!

And yet, Leonard had to admit that they had a point. He had grown increasingly distracted, like he was in another world. Well, he was sometimes. Actually, he always was, but lately the occasions that he emerged from his little cottage had diminished. It made contact with the outside world even more challenging; it was like having to learn to speak all over again. He groaned. He had become so disconnected that he recently misunderstood a writing prompt from a blogger. The blogger had asked for three-word titles; Leonard thought he was supposed to write a three-word title story. He wrote a lovely story with a three-word title and posted it on the blogger’s website. He wondered why there were almost three hundred responses to the prompt. Then he began reading them and realized they were all titles, not stories. How humiliating!

It was such a nice story, too, thought Leonard. It really cracked me up. All about that bull moose at Cabela’s. I even included a picture I took at Cabela’s when I visited there with my brother. What a shock that place was! Stuffed animals everywhere! I saw the lion my cousin killed in Africa mounted on one of the shelves. Strange seeing that lion in Cabela’s–I first saw it at my cousin’s house, along with his other trophies. The rhino was the worst; I hated seeing the stuffed rhino head. I love rhinos.

Slap. Slap. Slap. Slap.

Why? he thought. Why are my legs doing this? Was Chesterton right? Must we propitiate the barbaric god of legs with fire and wine?

A few days ago, Leonard’s arms got wind of what was happening, and they wanted a piece of the action. They demanded that the legs stop every hour so that they could do push-ups.

Oh, Lord, no, pleaded Leonard. Not that–I just couldn’t.

So far, the legs had refused to listen to the arms’ demands. Leonard’s arms were not pleased, and to show their displeasure, they waved themselves about as Leonard’s legs ran.

Slap. Slap. Slap. Slap.

It’s just like that play I saw–“The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)”–and the scene with Ophelia, running back and forth across the stage waving her arms. I was in Ophelia’s section of the audience, chanting “Maybe, maybe not. Maybe, maybe not.” I guarantee that if you say that a hundred times, you will remember Ophelia running and waving her arms. Now that I think of it, my arms were with me at that play; that’s probably what gave them the idea. 

Slap. Slap. Slap. Slap.

I saw both versions of the play, one with three male leads and another with three female leads. I wonder which version my arms preferred–or my legs, for that matter. See, this is just the sort of thing my legs are protesting. I never even asked! I should have talked about the play with them. We could have compared the two Hamlets. I loved the female Hamlet; she reeked of sincerity and forthrightness. Did my legs feel the same way? Strange, but I liked the male Ophelia as much as the female one.

Slap. Slap. Slap. Slap.

It bothered Leonard that he did not prefer the male Ophelia; it disturbed his sense of symmetry. He reviewed the two performances, looking for differences between the male Ophelia and the female Ophelia.

“Aha!” he shouted. “I have it!”

The female Ophelia too easily accepted going to that nunnery, Leonard thought. The male Ophelia had just the right touch of resistance. That’s probably because the guy was channeling his personal repugnance at entering a nunnery. I don’t blame him. Nunneries are strange places, housing fierce women. Our fifth grade class met in the basement of the nunnery. We were forbidden to go upstairs. Funny. However curious I was to see where the nuns ate, slept, and had their being, I never entertained the tiniest idea of crossing into the forbidden territory. It was holy ground. I had this idea that if I ever did go upstairs to the nuns’ quarters, I would be lost forever. There are some places that even a child knows are best left alone.

Slap. Slap. Slap. Slap.

Leonard wondered how long before the dawn. He was tired of running and wanted to go home. Suddenly Leonard could no longer feel the impact of his feet slapping against the pavement, although he could still hear the sound. He looked down. No wonder! He was miles above the ground! Somehow his feet were still running, but he himself was floating above the Earth. A slender thread was all that held him bound to his feet. He continued to soar upward, the thread growing thinner even as it grew longer. He was a long way from home.

Slap. Slap. Slap. Slap.

How easy would it be to break this thread? Leonard thought. It wouldn’t take much effort; it’s stretched so thin. Just the slightest pull, the faintest tug, and POOF! I’m gone. My arms and legs can go on without me…but do I really want to let them go?

 Leonard floated in space for a while. Then, with a sigh, he began to reel himself in.

Slap. Slap. Slap. Slap.  

Next town–Albuquerque

~

Writing Prompt from Terrible Minds:

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2017/02/10/flash-fiction-challenge-ten-titles-from-you/

Sailing to Byzantium

nolde-sailing

“I admit that twice two makes four is an excellent thing, but if we are to give everything its due, twice two makes five is sometimes a very charming thing too.”

Fyodor Dostoyevsky Notes from the Underground

The Underground Man writes like an Enneagram Five; he observes Life from the safety of his solitary existence. Sadly for him, he does not enjoy the view. It fills him with contempt for his fellow humans and with even more contempt for himself. Being a Five means living with an elevated level of consciousness, and sometimes, as the Underground Man says, too much consciousness is a disease. (By the way, if that is true, I know some very healthy people.)

I also am a Five so I sympathize with the Underground Man, but I also think that being a Five is a “very charming thing too.” It all depends on your perspective.   I picture myself on a sailing ship. As it moves through the waters, I observe Life passing by. On one side of the ship, there is sunlight and on the other side there are shadows. I see things that are appealing and things that are appalling; depending on which side of the ship I stand. People like the Underground Man spend the entire journey on the shadow side of the ship. That’s why their observations bring them such misery. I spend more time on the sunlit side, observing that which is great and glorious.

I started losing my hearing seventeen years ago. It began with tinnitus in my left ear and then my right ear. At first, it was the constant ringing in my ears that interfered with sound, but then, sound itself grew distorted and muffled. I started wearing hearing aids five years ago to amplify sounds enough to compensate for the tinnitus and the distortion. Yesterday, my hearing took a turn for the worse, and now, even with hearing aids, I can barely hear sounds and distinguish spoken words. It is discouraging because it has increased my isolation from other people. But it has made me thankful that I can still see–I still am an observer, sailing on my ship, only now I am the only passenger.

One of the odd things I have observed about my hearing loss is that the sounds I hear do not match what I see. A wave crashes; I hear a splash. The wind roars; I hear a whisper. Someone shouts at me; I hear them from a distance, their voice barely carrying across the great divide. On one side of the ship, I see a face distorted with hatred and rage, but I cannot hear the words. That’s a good thing. Instead of retreating to the other side of the ship, I can stay where I’m at and smile and wave.

It’s like how Merion, a deaf woman, explains it to a girl in The Book of Rhino.

“So do you ever miss it, hearing, I mean?” the girl asked.

“Some things I do.” The woman replied. “I miss the trill of the lark but not the screech of the crow. I miss the sound of cows lowing but not the bleating of sheep. The chatter and gossip of busybodies, the curses and taunts of bullies, and the fawning flattery of sycophants I am pleased I no longer hear. I miss hearing truth spoken in due season but do not miss the easy lie. But above all, I miss the sound of my brother’s voice. If there is anything I could give to hear his music, his tales, and his laughter, I would. And what about you? If you suddenly found yourself in a world of silence, what would you miss?”

The girl thought about it and then laughed. “I think that I, too, would not miss the bleating of sheep. I wonder why that is. Certainly in the sheep’s opinion, they have a right to express their sheepish thoughts. Their peculiar noises are no doubt pleasing to other sheep. But sometimes they go about it so relentlessly. Perhaps that is why I do not care for the sound; the bleating of sheep reminds me of people that make noise just to hear the sound of their own voice. That is a sound I would gladly forego. However, I would miss the sound of a friend’s voice. The kind word, the tender endearment–these are pearls beyond price, even if the cost means having to listen to the bleating of sheep, both animal and human.”

The girl and the woman surveyed the pastoral scene before them in contentment. At length, the girl turned to the woman. “Not everything needs a spoken word; nonetheless, I am very glad that you allowed me to hear your voice. Thank you, Merion.”

My mother is coming to visit today. She can no longer see well enough to read and write; I can no longer hear will enough to understand what she says. We will have to create another way to communicate. I trust that Love will find a way beyond the written or spoken word. I will bring my mother to the sunlit side of the ship, and together we will taste the salt air, smell the briny water, and feel the wind in our faces.

 

Titled, Untitled, Entitled

moose

The bull moose raised his massive head and surveyed his surroundings. Although he had only arrived yesterday, he was already acting like he was in charge.

“Listen up, all you dumb animals,” he bellowed. “This place is a mess; it’s a disgrace to the animal world. Well, there’s a new sheriff in town and I’m going to fix it!”

The other animals paused in the work, looked at the moose, and then at each other. After a few seconds, they went back to their business.

“I said, I’m the new sheriff,” the moose began.

“Excuse me,” interrupted a deer, “but we don’t understand the word ‘sheriff.’ Is that your name?”

“Sheriff! Sheriff, you idiot! You know, chief, ruler, tsar, king, head honcho!”

The deer shook her head and turned to the other animals.

“Do any of you what these words mean?” she asked. When no one answered, she shrugged her shoulders at the moose.

“Sorry but your words are alien to us. However, if you want to be called Sheriff, that is just fine. We have a Sharif here; perhaps you two could get acquainted.”

The bull moose stamped his feet.

“Sheriff is not a name– it’s a title. My name is Greg and my title is sheriff. You do know what a title is; or is that word alien, too.”

“Oh, no, we are familiar with titles,” said the deer. “For example, my title is Greeter; my job is to greet every newcomer. Welcome, Greg, to our little community. We look forward to getting to know you and to working with you. Now as soon as you tell us what Sheriff does, we will set you up so that you can do whatever is it you do.”

“What do you mean what I do!” the moose roared, his chest heaving. “I DON’T DO ANYTHING! I TELL OTHERS WHAT TO DO! MY TITLE IS SHERIFF! GOT THAT?”

“My, my, you do have a temper, don’t you?” said the deer. “If you want to tell others what to do, that can be arranged also. For example, Nora over there is great with woodworking. If anyone wants to know how to work with wood, they go to Nora and she tells them what to do. So if you will just tell us what you do, we will let everyone know so that if anyone wants to learn how to do whatever it is you do, then they will come to you and you can tell them.”

The deer beamed.

“It’s very simple really.”

At these words, the bull moose became quite incoherent. He stormed; he raged; he flung curses to the sky.  In the meantime, the deer held a quick conference with the other animals.

“He seems to be having a hard time sheriffing,” said the beaver, “whatever that is.”

“Perhaps we should recommend that he give up the title,” suggested the ibex. “Not everyone around here has to have a title–he could be Untitled Greg.”

“Oh, no, I think the title is very important to him, “ said the deer. “The problem is that he wants to be called Sheriff and we haven’t a clue of what that is.” She looked over at the moose.

“…AND ANOTHER THING, YOU MAGGOTY, RUST-INFESTED, ROACH HOTELS…”

“Definitely he needs a title. Let’s see. He can’t articulate what he can do; he says that he does nothing and that he tells others what to do. What title lends itself to that?”

“I know, I know,” said the bear. “Let’s call him Entitled.”

“Hmm…Entitled,” said the deer. “You know, I think that will work.”

So the other animals gave Greg the title of Entitled. At first he did not like it, but the deer recruited a group of volunteers who, once a month, went to the bull moose and asked him to give a speech.  This turned out to be an equitable arrangement. The bull moose was kept busy writing and giving speeches, and the other animals could go about their business.

~

This is a flash fiction from Terrible Minds. It was inspired by “Li’l Abner”, Star Trek, and Cabela’s. http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2017/02/03/flash-fiction-challenge-we-only-need-a-three-word-title/

 

Berried Secret

berry-farm

Mrs. White waited nervously for the others to arrive. Although she knew the meeting was necessary, she dreaded it. She would not have even called the meeting, but her character demanded it of her, and Mrs. White was not one to shirk her duty. She touched her hat to reassure herself just as Mrs. Blue entered the room, followed by her daughter Miss Adeline.

“Mrs. Blue,” said Mrs. White, “how lovely to see you, my dear. Dear Miss Adeline, what a pleasure!”

“Oh, what a lovely hat,” said Mrs. Blue. “The basket is a delicious touch–and so daring. Don’t you think so, Adeline?”

“Yes, Mama,” said Adeline, echoing her mother’s words. “It’s a lovely hat, delicious and daring.”

“Thank you, ladies,” said Mrs. White. “I appreciate your responding so promptly to my invitation, especially as it is not our usual meeting day. But there is something I must discuss with you–a very serious matter. You see…”

“Oh, I knew it!” twittered Mrs. Blue. “Adeline, didn’t I tell you that Mrs. White had a serious matter to discuss? Otherwise, why would she call a meeting for today when we just met last Monday?”

“Yes, mama, it is a serious matter even though we met last Monday.”

“Is it about Mr. Green?” asked Mrs. Blue. “Oh, say it isn’t so? Or is it Miss Yellow? No, it can’t be her because Adeline and I had the book drive with her only yesterday. If it was about her, I am sure I would have noticed it. There is always something about the eyes that gives it away. Don’t you think so, Adeline?”

“No, Mama; I mean yes, we would have noticed her eyes.”

“Ladies, please!” said Mrs. White. “The matter I wish to discuss with you concerns me. The issue is–and here I must demand your fullest assurance, your most solemn promise that you will keep what I say in strictest confidence, no matter how sorely you are tempted to repeat the matter to others–my drawers.”

“Your drawers!” said Mrs. Blue and Miss Adeline in unison. Mrs. White sighed. It was out now, and there was no getting around it. She straightened her spine and looked directly at her guests.

“My drawers are stuck,” she said. “They have been for several years.”

“Oh, Mrs. White! How dreadful! But…but how could such a thing have happened?”

“How could it not happen? My drawers have not been opened for a long time. And what is worse…”

“There is something worse? Oh, how can we endure it?”

“Mrs. Blue, please. Your interruptions only make this more difficult. Yes, it’s worse. My drawers are not only stuck, but they are full of bottles. What’s more, some of the bottles are so old their contents are beginning to smell.”

“Mama, remember you said something about…”

“Never mind, dear,” said Mrs. Blue, looking uncomfortable.   She turned to Mrs. White. “Oh, Mrs. White, words cannot express how deeply I feel for you. Full drawers that are stuck are so…so…well, full! If there is anything I can do, just name it.”

“Yes, there is,” said Mrs. White. “You can help me get them unstuck and emptied. I need my drawers emptied immediately. Now pull. You, too, Adeline.”

“Oh, dear,” said Mrs. Blue, “pulling one’s drawers is such a delicate matter. Are you certain it’s appropriate–I mean, with Adeline present.”

“Adeline is well over forty so I should think it’s appropriate. Now pull!”

The three ladies commenced pulling at Mrs. White drawers. They pulled and strained and groaned and grunted until finally Mrs. White’s drawers popped open. A dreadful odor filled the room.

“Oh, dear,” said Mrs. Blue. Mrs. White was fierce in her embarrassment. She immediately began emptying her drawers; Mrs. Blue and Miss Adeline followed suit. In minutes a pile of old bottles lay on the floor at Mrs. White’s feet.

“There,” she said, “that’s the last one. I can finish the rest of this on my own. Thank you, ladies, and remember that not one word of this must be spoken. It must forever be our secret. I am only sorry that I kept it to myself for so long.”

“We will be silent as the grave,” said Mrs. Blue. “Isn’t that right, Adeline?”

“Yes, Mama, silent as the grave. And, Mama, is this what you mean when you say better out than in?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rebellion at Sea

In former days the heretic was not proud of being a heretic. It was the kingdoms of the world and the police and the judges who were heretics. He was orthodox. He had no pride in having rebelled against them; they had rebelled against him. G. K. Chesterton Heretics

The little rock noticed three, no, four bodies washed up on the shore. They looked battered and bruised; the rock wondered if they were alive.   A few hours earlier, there had been the sound of an explosion at sea; the rock wondered if the bodies were somehow connected to it. At any rate, the little rock realized that if the bodies–alive or dead–were left unattended, the tide would eventually wash them away. The little rock decided to help. It positioned itself between the water and the bodies, intending to protect them.

When the other rocks saw what the little rock was doing, they were scandalized. Rocks did not ever attempt to hold back the tide. To challenge the sea was considered the height of arrogance. The large rocks were especially disapproving.

“We are rocks,” they rumbled. “We stand in our place, firm and resolute, despite the moving of the waters. It is beneath our dignity to notice the sea. To stand openly against it would acknowledge its presence and its power. You are fomenting rebellion.”

The little rock had no desire to be arrogant or rebellious; it merely wanted to help those who could not help themselves. It considered appealing to the sea to halt its progress but abandoned the idea. The rock knew the sea was too old and set in its ways to change. So the little rock maintained its position.

“You radical, you rebel!” The large rocks bellowed. “You will pay for this. The sea will not be stopped. Its many waters will overpower you, and its waves will crash down upon you. It will fling you against our granite hardness, grinding you to pieces. And don’t think that we will move to avoid the collision; we are rocks. Nothing moves us, neither the sea or its storms, nor the mighty ships–and certainly not an insignificant little rock like you.”

The little rock said nothing but remained at its post. It was true what the large rocks said. It would be shattered in its attempt to stop the tide. Nevertheless, the little rock felt compelled to do what it could to help. It prepared itself for the onrush of the sea. Suddenly the little rock felt itself being pushed and jostled. It was other little rocks, climbing over and around and beneath it.

“We are going to stand with you,” said the other rocks. “We will help you protect the bodies from the tide.”

rocks-jeanieThe small group of rocks built themselves into a tower, a determined bulwark against the sea’s mighty power. A huge wave crashed onto the shore, sending streams of water edging close to the rocks. However, one rivulet of water did not retreat back into the sea. Instead it traveled up the beach and encircled the small tower of rocks.

“We, too, will stand with you,” whispered the voice of the water. “We will capture the drops of water from the tide as it passes by.”

The little rock was too joyful to speak, but the sea roared in indignation, furious that any of its waters would defy its purpose. As soon as it could, it would swallow the rivulet into nothingness.

~

A team of searchers stood on top of a cliff overlooking the beach. One of them stiffened and then pointed.

“Do you see that?” he asked. “I swear I saw a flash of light.”

His two companions looked in the direction he was pointing.

“It’s only a gleam of sunlight reflecting off that tiny pool of water,” said one of them. “See? It’s the one around that small pile of rocks.”

“That’s strange,” said the first man. “The rocks almost look like they were placed there on purpose. Wait! Maybe it’s a signal! Let’s go down there.”

The three men picked their way down the side of the cliff. When they reached the bottom, they headed for the rock tower. As they drew closer, they spied the bodies on the beach. They began to run.

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2017/01/27/flash-fiction-challenge-acts-of-rebellion/

Elephant Has Left the Building

Carl was tired.  More than that, he was sick and tired, tired of being ignored and treated like he was invisible.  No matter where he went, no one looked at him, spoke to him, or even acknowledged his existence.

They don’t even know my name, he thought.

“It’s Carl!” he shouted to the afternoon sun.  A nearby seagull was startled into flight at the sound of his voice.

“Ha!” said Carl. “That got your attention.”

Maybe that’s the problem.  Only a birdbrain is be savvy enough to notice me; and here I am surrounded by mammal brains and reptilian brains.  Well, not anymore.  I’ve had enough.

Carl was leaving.  He realized there was no room in other people’s lives for someone like him.  Once he left, people would just have to ignore someone else.  He was going to make a new life for himself. He would no longer be the elephant in the room.  He was going to be Carl, The Elephant by the Sea.

elephant