Don’t Blink

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“Is he asleep?” Andy’s small head spun toward Elisha’s, but only for a second. The boy did not dare, or couldn’t bear, to look away. What if in the one second that he wasn’t looking, he would miss a blink?

Elisha shook his head, and Andy, eyes already on the ice, felt more than saw the movement. He shuddered in part-awe, part-terror.

The last time they met was in summer, when Uncle Morris and Aunt Samantha came with Elisha for a visit. Andy hadn’t quite believed Elisha’s stories about ponds that swallowed giants and ensnared them under icy waters, leaving them forever blinking at the sky.

The eye, however, proved it.

 “Can he come out?” Andy croaked. His throat felt frozen.

“Not before spring,” Elisha soothed, sated by his younger cousin’s fear and feeling a tad guilty for it. “And you’ll be home and far away from here by then.”

 

 

For Crispina‘s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

Times Immemorial

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It was an odd request, but she had always been eccentric and there was no harm in entertaining it. Perhaps even some benefit.

In return she would bequeath a third of her small fortune toward the maintenance of the seawall. The annual expenditure taxed townspeople for more than they cared to pay yet had to: Without the seawall there could be no beachfront properties, boardwalk, no hospitality.

Sure, it would alter the skyline, and for some would block the light a part of each day. But protestations were outnumbered by those who prophesied how the addition would bring curiosity and with it, added revenue.

She got her lighthouse. And the lift inside to help her now-frail body reach the top. In all but the worst weather, she spent hours there each day, white hair whipping in the spray.

“Our Rapunzel,” tour-guides could be heard whispering. “Been there from times immemorial.”

 

 

For Crispina‘s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

 

 

 

Subdued Sacrilege

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“Simply look down instead of up,” Manny pushed his hands deeper into his pockets and hiked his shoulders up against a chill no one else probably felt. It was 99F outside.

“But the basilica is right here, and so beautiful!” Danielle exhaled wonder.

My point exactly, Manny thought, but did not say. Recruiting was a subtle thing.

Instead he nudged the water with his shoe, rippling the surface to distort the reflection of the edifice. Almost spitefully the puddle settled back into the sharpest mirror, and Manny half expected his superiors to appear in frowning disappointment at his dismal conversion pace.

“What it is?” Danielle responded to his sigh, her eyes still gazing in the opposite direction of the Netherworld, and therefore opposite to where he needed them to be.

“Nothing,” he muttered, deflated.

Her softly luminescent hand appeared. “How about we go into the church and pray about it?”

 

 

For Crispina‘s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

 

Watching

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“See there?”

Marie squinted against glare. “The windmills?”

“No.”

David’s finger shook along with his head, and Marie felt the wheelchair’s handles vibrate. The sorrow hit her, unexpected as always. Most days now she managed to surf life without being blindsided, but it was harder to do in this place, his favorite, where everything reflected the losses. His. Hers.

“The bird,” David insisted, his reedy voice robotic with timed inhalation.

His inflection was one of the first things to go, and its absence had robbed away a part of David that she’d adored from the moment he had first looked at her, dewy-eyed from birth, and mewled a symphony of baffled indignation.

“Ah, yes, the bird on the poles! I see it now,” she filled the space with words to compensate for his worsening inability to speak in sentences.

“Watching,” David exhaled, satisfied.

For the end? Marie silenced her sigh.

 

 

 

For Crispina‘s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

Note: Dedicated to all parents and caregivers, and to all who are navigating the throws of progressive illness. May you find peace, and space to breathe in, and may you know moments of joy and an abundance of love through life’s difficult path.

 

Elfie’s Solution

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“Not every elf can be on a shelf.”

Elfie heard this all his life. From his teachers at the Santa Academy. From his parents, Elfonso and Elfinia. From his judgy Aunt Elfisia. And now from his insufferable brother Elfonso Junior (who everyone called EJ), who just had to rub in the fact that he had gotten into the EFS (Elves For Shelves) program, while Elfie did not.

“But what if I want to be an elf on a shelf?” Elfie protested.

“It’s not about what you want,” his mother scolded. “It is about your Efltitude Score.”

“…and,” EJ added with an elfin smirk, “as we all know, you don’t quite measure up.”

If it weren’t for his mother’s presence, Elfie would have tossed EJ under a reindeer.

Thinking of reindeer. And reins … gave him an idea.

No shelf? No problem.

He’d hang out as an elf by himself.

 

 

For Crispina‘s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

Not A Bird

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“Hey! At the bottom of the cliff to the right. What do you think this is?”

Lisa adjusted the focus on her binoculars. “Can’t tell. A bit of junk?”

They were supposed to be cataloguing the different bird species they could find along their stretch of beach, but the seagulls were tiresome, and the sandpipers were too fast, and the wind had whipped so much sand around that she would certainly be carrying another pound of it just in her hair. Lisa wanted to go home. She wanted a nice bath, dry clothes, and a hot cup of tea.

“Perhaps a miners’ rail box.” Deena, binoculars glued to her face and hair tucked under a maddeningly practical cap, seemed oblivious to the stinging sand or Lisa’s rumbling stomach.

“Not a bird,” Lisa tried.

“No, but sure is a mystery!” Deena rose and pointed at the narrow trail. “Let’s go investigate!”

 

 

 

For Crispina‘s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

Sniffers

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“This won’t do,” Tina sighed. “You have got to sniff better.”

Spinner tried, but there was nothing. Or at least, nothing he could make heads or tails out of. And making tails was the whole idea.

He shrugged and spun around. Perhaps he’ll glean a clue from his surroundings. Perhaps it’ll settle the tension that trying to sniff things often awakened.

Tina groaned. “Mama was right. You will never amount to anything.”

“Hey!” Spinner whined.

Tina lowered her head. That had been below the belt. Still, it was true, and someone had to confront Spinner now that Mama was no longer there to instruct them.

“Look, Spin,” she tried to soften her frustration with a bit of guilt. “It really shouldn’t be so hard. You sure there’s nothing wrong with your sniffer?”

“I think it’s broken,” Spinner whispered, shamefaced. “What kind of a dog can’t tell the smell of poop?”

 

 

For Crispina‘s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

Note: Anosmia, or the lack/loss of sense of smell, is a real condition that was made famous by the pandemic but is certainly not limited to the current virus. Nor is Anosmia limited to humans. Like humans, dogs can live without a sense of smell, though for many of them it carries a significantly higher ‘sensory price’, because their sense of smell is 10,000 to 100,000 more acute than that of humans.

 

Watch Out

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“See that thing?” Holly whispered.

“What thing?” Harold mumbled, eyes barely lifted from the miniature screen of his new smart-watch.

That thing!” Holly covered her brother’s wrist with her hand. “Over there.”

Harold sighed and looked around. Old metal fences that once cordoned lines of people. Rotten concrete. Musty dankness. A deserted skating rink. What’s to see?

“Nothing,” he shrugged.

Holly exhaled exasperation. “That bird,” she hissed.

“Oh. A brown pigeon. Unusual coloring.”

His sister’s fingers tightened around his wrist and he grimaced at the pressure on his watch. It was new. She’d ruin it before he could show it off. “Hey, let go! What?!”

“I don’t care about its coloring. It is staring at us!”

“It’s just a bird.” He scrutinized the gate. His friends were very late.

“Yeah? Bet you won’t say that when it calls millions of its friends to dive in and peck us to death!”

 

 

For Crispina‘s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

Blindsided

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“Once you’re out the other side you’ll be one of us.”

Marco hiked his chin to try and eye the larger boy through the slits of light underneath the tight blindfold. He wanted to take the stupid thing off. It was scratchy and smelly and made him feel sad.

But to do so would be to give up and be left out. He didn’t want to be left out. Again.

“What if I crash?” he tried but didn’t quite manage to keep the quiver out of his voice. He was afraid of the dark. And of falling. The others knew it. That’s why this test. To weave a skateboard, blind, through the concrete blocks in the underpass.

“Then,” Roberto replied haughtily, “you will have only yourself to blame for not being good enough.”

Marco blinked. It sounded wrong.

Before he could pull the blindfold off, someone gave him a push.

 

 

 

For Crispina’s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

Not Much Sweeter

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There was not much sweeter than Grandpa Gulliver’s honey. Then again, there was not much that was sweeter than honey. Berries, perhaps, in their short season. Or maple syrup, when they found it. But there were not many maples left anymore, and those she knew of were not particularly generous with their sap now that they had to parse energy for growing.

But there was Grandpa Gulliver’s honey. The slow pouring amber liquid of deliciousness. As valuable and as glorious as gold. The warmth of happy in her mouth.

Grandpa Gulliver had built Hive Homes for the bees. Tiny mansions of industry where workers and queens could shelter from the rain under eaves that shed the snow and cut the wind.

She used to watch the ins-and-outs for hours. The buzz. The promise.

Now they stood desolate.

No bees. No Grandpa Gulliver.

Who knew they’d all be taken, sweetness gone?

 

 

For Crispina’s Crimson’s Creative Challenge