Time Lines

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The forest floor cushioned their steps. She inhaled the scent of tree and sap and hidden wet. She had forgotten the caresses of fallen leaves and ancient bark under her feet. A flash of sun painted a memory – a small girl running barefoot in the woods, knobby knees peeking under a faded calico dress. Oh, how she had loved that dress!

“Here.”

Albert’s voice called her back into the present. He’d grown old and grumpy. It made her wonder what others thought of her. Eccentric? Obstinate? Silly? Dumb?

She followed her brother’s pointed finger and her heart quickened. A dark line circled a tree.

“Here, too.”

She turned. A fainter line hugged another tree.

Albert faced the first trunk and lifted his arms. His fingertips grazed the line.

She did the same with the second tree. Perfect fit.

Their birth-marked trees had grown exactly as tall as they.

 

 

 

For Crispina‘s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

A Heart of Stone

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“All you have is this little wheelbarrow?”

Marsha nodded.

Shelly shook his head.

“I don’t mind how long it takes,” the despair in Martha’s voice was overshadowed by determination. “And anyway, this won’t be too heavy.”

Shelly shrugged. “You’d change your mind after you make a few trips pushing this rusty thing uphill against the wind.”

In the weeks that followed Marsha wondered more than once if her brother had conjured the wind just to spite her. Dust and grit found purchase in her eyes and throat. Her palms grew red, then raw, then rough.

And still, she pushed the loaded wheelbarrow through gravel and scrub brush and small canyons of cracked earth that manifested overnight upon the path she forged across the steppe.

Slowly the grave-marker took shape.

“I’ve brought the stones from our creek, Mama,” she whispered as she placed each carefully. “Your heart will never again thirst.”

 

 

 

For Crispina‘s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

Self Employed

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“This is not what we invested all that tuition money for, Robert.”

His mother’s voice remained soft, even pleasant. One may think she was but mildly annoyed.

Rob knew better.

It was the same voice that had sent his boyhood self to the attic without dinner for the slightest infraction. That left a small child to shiver there through endless winter nights. That told his father to retrieve the paddle and “do what needed to be done to make a man of an ungrateful son.”

“I am sorry, Mother,” Rob bowed politely in her direction. Bowed just enough to let her know that he no longer cared nor feared her. “I had made it clear that your plans did not fit mine.”

“Your father expects a partner,” she stated. Ordered.

“That ship had sailed, Mother,” he replied. “I bought the farm. I’ll be my own man. Chart my own course.”

 

 

 

For Crispina’s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

 

The Creek Don’t Rise

 

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“Tomorrow, God willing and the creek don’t rise!” Mama smacked the rug one last time, stepped back to admire her handiwork, nodded to herself, and shouldered the beater.

“But Mama,” Marlee whined, “everyone else is going!”

I watched the exchange from the safety of a leafy fork on the big tree. If Mama didn’t see me, she could not call on me for chores.

Mama stopped. “Everyone?”

Marlee straightened. Hopeful and suspicious.

“Every. Single. Person?”

Marlee’s shoulders dropped.

“Thought so.” Mama’s dress swirled prettily as she turned toward the cabin, and for a moment I could see the lass she’d been before Bobby and I and Marlee came and brought with us gray hairs and wrinkles.

“But …”

“But nothing. The creek is swelled with rain and more may be coming. No swimming. And,” she added, “You come down from that tree. I need help with the washing.”

 

 

 

For Crispina‘s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

 

Dream Come True

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It only took him 300 years. A breeze, considering.

Many took longer. Some – like Olives and Redwoods – required a millennium to achieve Elder. No fault of theirs, of course, but still … many times longer than he’d had to.

His from-seedling brother had thought him nuts. Literally. “Wait and wait to reach Elder and all you get for your trouble is being bent out of shape, your roots hanging out, and critters crawling in your innards.”

His brother had other aspirations. “Sail the world, I would. Ride the ocean. Move on the wind.”

Elder hadn’t had the heart to tell him that he’d be just as likely to end up planked as some dark closet, with no fresh air or birdsong or butterfly-kisses. Or worse, chopped to burn.

It’s been centuries since lumberjacks carted his brother away.

He was Elder now. Guardian of the path. Home of many.

 

 

For Crispina‘s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

The Longest Walk

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The dappled path grew arms of shade to shackle her so that her legs refused to move.

Earth’s gravity cranked itself up and higher.

It needn’t be so hard, and yet each cell in her begged an excuse.

She couldn’t.

She had to.

She shouldn’t.

She must.

She wouldn’t.

She better.

Or else.

The tree-lined corridor – so outwardly calm, so beautifully straightforward – was but a hall of mirrors.

An amplifier of her agony.

For who would see it and believe her, when none had yet, and perhaps no one ever would?

The careful greenery imposed a form of blindness on others.

A willingness to only selectively see.

Appearances, she already knew, could become everything.

It made the manicured life into a wall beyond which no one saw. Or wouldn’t.

Leaving her to take.

Again.

As in every day.

The longest walk.

Home.

And its unspoken of.

Relentless,

Tortures.

 

 

 

For Crispina‘s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

Dedicated to all who live behind the veils of appearances and are kept hidden in plain sight under a mirage of perceived privilege. Abuse knows no socioeconomic boundaries. Torment knows no race, no age, no god, no faith, no intellect, no education, no level of income. May you be heard. May you find a way to be safe.

 

 

Blue Sentry

 

“Can you see them?” Lizzie swayed with anticipation. The waiting has been endless. Endless. Endless.

There was no response.

“Blue!?” she prompted.

“Hold your horses,” Lily soothed, always one to keep the peace. “He takes time to formulate and produce.”

Lizzie knew that, and that it wasn’t proper to press others to do what they physically could not. She tipped her head in guilty acknowledgement.

Still, she wished someone else was standing sentry. Not that Blue had any say. They were each placed where they were placed, and had to make the most of it. Slow as time, Blue would have to do.

And yet, it was so hard to wait.

Especially when she was finally dressed in all her finery and wanted to show it off before any got wilted.

“Car,” Blue said.

Finally! Lizzie wriggled.

“Such Impatiens,” Petunia rustled. “No finesse. All is hurry hurry hurry with them.”

 

 

 

For Crispina‘s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

Refusal

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“Not all orders ought to be obeyed.”

The old man’s head was bent over the leather, but Owen read more than concentrated focus in the bony shoulders, in the jab of awl then needle bearing sinew through the holes.

“They said ‘Everyone’, Grandfather,” the youth fretted.

The fingers stopped moving and rheumy eyes met his in shared cornflower. The hue used to comfort him. A confirmation of family and familiarity. Now Owen wondered whether it also reflected the age he may well not live to be. Especially, he thought, if he did not obey …

“Look up,” the elder’s chin bobbed.

Owen squinted against glare. White sun on milky skies and swift-moving darker clouds of gray.

“You can no more change the sun’s course than a moral compass,” Grandfather noted. A cloud blotted the sun and a chill traveled down Owen’s back. “Do not obey evil. Fight it, or hide.”

 

 

 

For Crispina‘s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

Horsing Around

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“Did she see you take Butter?”

Hailey chuckled, “Nah.”

The stable dame was notorious for imbibing at lunch and for the sprawled-in-chair-nap that followed. If you timed it correctly, you could saddle a horse, enjoy a ride, and return before the woman stirred awake.

“What if she found out?” Dora squirmed on Rocky’s back, and the gelding raised his head in admonition. “Sorry, Rocky,” she placed a palm on the equine’s neck.

Hailey shrugged. “Not like Butter will tattle. Right, Butter?”

The horse neighed in return, and the girls giggled.

Rocky snorted.

“Nor you, Rocky. You ain’t a snitch,” Hailey agreed.

The mare trotted languidly. She had to be just as happy for the outing, let alone with Rocky. If it weren’t for Hailey’s family’s recent trouble, and the sale of Butter to Mrs. Jolly’s stable, the horses would still be grazing together, as they had from colt and filly.

 

 

 

For Crispina‘s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

 

Water Line

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She took herself onto the cliff each morning. Obedient. Observant. Obeisant.

Obscure as her faith seemed to those who did not understand, she nonetheless kept fast to her beliefs. To her practice. Those who shook their head did so due to limits in their vision. Their blindness did not diminish the veracity of what was, to her, as real as the rock she sat on.

She did not belittle other people’s inability.

As she wished they did not deride what they declared her “foolishness.”

To her, it was a line she drew. Of kindness. Or on harder days, of patience.

A mirror to the line that stretched across the water to reflect the passage of the Glories. The empyrean beings that took pain to skim the water in her favor.

In all their favor.

As protection.

From the monsters of the deep.

The ones she knew. The one she’d seen.

 

 

 

For Crispina‘s Crimson’s Creative Challenge