Allegiance

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

They called her Allegiance.

Contract and insurance, she was. Revered and guarded, both.

So well revered and so well guarded, in fact, that with time she became almost forgotten and had turned more a symbol than a soul. She sometimes wondered if she was in that way not too dissimilar to many of her kind through time, even if they had been so for far shorter spans.

Women often were made ornamental. Used as symbolic pawns, utilized as cementers of allegiances, then blamed for those that broke.

It helped her feel less lonely, knowing that even in her immortal isolation she was still in some way a member of a community of others who’d been perched into positions, as she was, without much of a choice. Possessions and producers, keepers of the continuity of power, serfdom and thrones.

They called her Allegiance.

And she sat in her fortified tower, aware of the two rows of guards: One row looking out against any who may get it in their minds to sabotage, the other row looking in against any indication that she may get it in hers to leave.

They needn’t have worried. At least not about her.

There was enough of misery without adding heads to spikes in any kind of rebellion, where those most likely to be harmed were those least likely to have been given part in the decision.

She accepted her place. A figurehead to keep the heads of others firmly on their shoulders and their children’s hearts safer from the sorrows of orphanage and war.

So she stayed.

As centuries passed, those who’d placed her there took less care with guarding her and the promises she’d represented. The tower crumbled. The guards played cards and drank and slept and grew lazy, and she took comfort in knowing that at least this meant they weren’t in battle. Even if she shivered, windowless, her walls crumbling all around.

Perhaps, she thought, as winds whistled and the stories of her had become lore printed onto metal plaques for tourists to ignore, it was all as it should be.

Perhaps one day there will not be a need.

Perhaps one day allegiances will be built-in, rather than built-up and set with guarded fences that time and lassitude and apathy were certain to erode.

Till then, Allegiance waited.

For the moment, the ruins of her tower stood.

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto

 

 

Eden In A Bubble

Photo prompt © J Hardy Carroll

 

They were going to have to move.

Her health. His job.

They were going to miss so many things.

The beach. Their yard. The hours spent outdoors.

He laid in bed at night, awake. Her breath gentle at his side.

She would not complain. Even if she could still speak, he knew she wouldn’t put that burden on him. It broke his heart.

He put the shards into action. Poured his mind into design.

He’d build a bubble. An Eden in the forbidding landlocked wintry ground. A lush oasis where they could both breathe in the memories of better times.

 

 

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

 

On Guard!

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“How long will he be this way?”

“Dunnow,” Plucky shrugged. “But let’s get this done before he loses concentration.”

“I wanna waive something in front of his eyes. He looks so hypnotized!” Shimmer shifted excitedly from foot to foot. This was so thrilling!

“Don’t you dare!” Plucky’s hiss almost made actual sound. He bobbed his head in an effort to contain it. “Let’s get to it! Blue is good but even he can’t keep this up forever.”

Shimmer nodded distractedly.

“Coming or I go it alone?”

“Coming, coming…” Shimmer nodded and sighed in one. She didn’t want to miss anything. She wanted to see everything! She wished she could be in two places at the same time. She tore her eyes off of the dog, whose nose barely twitched and whose eyes never left the cockroach that was held in the blue-gray pigeon’s beak, just out of the canine’s reach. Blue was so courageous!

Plucky was already on the move. Shimmer stepped behind the brown bird’s sparse tail feathers, trembling with suppressed flutter. This was her first heist.

The window was open. The dog had forgotten a biscuit on his cushions. They were going to sneak into the room and steal it.

 

 

For Keith’s Kreative Kue #245

 

Wingspan

 

“I will not have everyone out in the cold!” Mrs. M’s hands were planted firmly on her hips, and when Mrs. M’s hands were firmly on her hips, any who knew what was good for them knew to nod submissively, back up slowly, and give up.

Not Tim.

Sometimes I wondered if he had no survival reflexes or if he confronted the headmistress exactly because he didn’t care to survive.

“We don’t have to be out, out,” he argued.

Mrs. M’s cheek twitched. Oh-oh.

I backed up just in case. If she reached for the switch it would be best to not remain within wingspan.

“We can use the hot-house,” he pressed. “Sunlight and no wind. We’ll be fine.”

The twitch stopped. I held my breath.

“Most panes are intact.”

Mrs. M nodded.

I gaped.

Tim won.

Cramped orphanage or not, he found a way for outdoor play in wintertime!

 

 

 

For Crispina’s Crimsons Creative Challenge #61

 

 

 

Up In Smoke

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Minsk (Photo by Anton Rusetsky on Unsplash)

 

“These stacks look like a hand,” Bella rested her chin on the window’s ledge and gazed at the golden hues of sunset over Minsk. It was beautiful.

“A hand with six fingers.”

Bella scowled into the glass. In her mother’s tone she heard challenge, dismissal, and disdain. It stole the luster off the previous moment’s calm. She resented the coldness with which her mother marred everything during this visit. It felt like a smudge she could not wipe.

So she was surprised when her mother came to kneel on the bed by her, close enough to touch. Close enough to feel the trembling. Her mother rarely cried.

“Six fingers for the six millions,” her mother whispered. “And these clouds like burning souls against the evening sky. Everyone my mother had known. Our whole extended family. Burnt. Dead. Gone. This city will never be free of them, Bella. They speak on.”

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Minsk

 

More Than Well Done

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Photo: Caroline Attwood on Unsplash

 

She mixed and measured, weighed and watched, stirred and sprinkled, steeped and sliced.

She’d gotten every item ready. She made sure she had all the tools. She kept the temperature exact.

This one was going to come out just right.

She double checked each line. She’d compared reviews for different versions of the recipe, to ensure this one worked fine.

The kitchen fan hummed.

Her phone rang.

The house smelled of burnt garlic. She was deafened by the smoke alarm.

The roast was toast.

She could have cried. …

She should have known that her ever-hungry teenage son would devour it as is, as soon as he sat down.

 

 

For Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt: Devour in 108 words

 

 

 

The Parade

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Photo: Mihai Surdu on Unsplash

 

It was partially because they needed to find something to focus on, and the months ahead stretched barren of anything worthy of looking forward to; and partially because they believed they had some yet-to-be-discovered organizational talents and this could be a good way to shine a little spotlight on them; and partially because they knew it was the last thing Mayor Perry would expect. The latter reason alone was worth the effort. Especially when it would be something he won’t be able to admit he was against and may even end up having to endorse.

So they planned a parade.

They enlisted friends’ cars for floats and roped in small sponsorships by neighborhood stores and minor celebrities. They tempted bands and cheerleaders from local middle-schools with free exposure and offered same for the martial arts students from George’s Judo (which, not to be outdone, was followed by the dancers from Teens’ Tap and Ballroom Ballerinas). They raised money (and attention) by holding bake-sales on stoops and organizing a popup donate-your-merchandise shop on the sidewalk in front of the library. They printed flyers and pinned them to bulletin boards then convinced store owners to tape some into their display windows, by telling them every one else already had.

Peer pressure worked.

Most people didn’t ask too many questions about why a “Celebrate Ourselves” parade was necessary, where it had been born or by whom or to what end. The general theme seemed good enough, and it probably didn’t feel right to be against celebrating who one was and what they belonged to and were included in.

They ordered “CO” shirts, stickers, and visors in neon-green, complete with an abstract sketch of a float-turned-banner-turned-thumbs-up to ‘carry’ the letters as the parade’s logo. They uploaded photos of themselves handing shirts to firefighters, visors to grinning grandmothers in the park, and an assortment of the stuff to slightly bewildered parents at the playground. The stickers were a hit with the kids.

They videoed themselves delivering a shirt to the mayor’s office, then sent the video to the local news, who shared it under the title: “The Mayor Celebrates ‘Celebrating Ourselves.'” Social media amplified it.

By the following morning the mayor was accosted by a reporter on his way out of the gym. The insistent young woman shoved a microphone in Mayor Perry’s face and asked whether he’d been asked to be the Grand Marshal.

“Not yet,” he mumbled.

An hour later they were in his office, neon-green shirts on, tailed by the reporter they’d tipped ahead of time for an “exclusive follow-up scoop.”

Soon enough a statement was issued and the news headlined: “Mayor Perry to Lead CO Parade.”

Sponsorships streamed on: The gym the Mayor belonged to. The bank. The local hospital. The Aerobatics Club.

Requests came in for satellite parades in nearby towns.

The national news picked the story. Talking heads nodded and argued the pros and cons.

Mayor Perry marched, neon-green shirt and forced smile on.

 

By the following year they ran for office, with the CO logo strategically in the background.

Celebrating themselves was fun.

 

 

 

For Linda Hill’s SoCS and JusJoJun writing prompt

 

 

Embers Hot As Coals

Photo prompt: Sue Vincent

 

She could feel them.

That’s why she came.

Why she took every opportunity she could to escape the drudgery of sewing and hoeing and weeding and feeding and washing and threshing and mending and tending and all the multitudes of tasks that never seemed to end and somehow only multiplied.

“It’s life,” her mother had sighed, when as a young child Mayra had burst into tears of fatigue and frustration when yet another basket of wash needed to be scrubbed. “We rise, we work, we eat, we sleep.”

Mayra, a dutiful daughter, had just nodded and sniffed and bent to her work. But inside her a restlessness rippled. She was expected to grow up to be like her mother: solid and stolid and capable. The capable part she was on path to mastering, if painfully slowly. But solid she wasn’t, in her wispy willowy frame, and stolid she could not be, when her feelings and thoughts bubbled in her mind like an ever boiling pot that used embers as if they were coals.

She would boil over. She would.

If she didn’t manage to find a chore that allowed her to put some distance between herself and the village and to reconnect with the souls amidst the stones.

They calmed her. They reached around her with fingers as wispy as her hair and plucked the edges of too-sharp words and smoothed rough irritation off of her being.

Most people avoided the stones. “They are haunted,” they whispered, as if that was a bad thing.

Mayra said nothing. Perhaps it was something in her that needed ghosts to sooth the places that she felt would otherwise burst and cause harm. Perhaps her difference drew her to what others knew to keep away from.

Still she came.

In secret. To avoid blame.

It was only when she was about to wed that she realized it had been her mother who’d conjured errands out of thin air for her, so the child could manage some relief.

“For some, this is life, too,” her mother smiled.

It was a rare transformation of the face that often showed so little beside focus on the thing at hand, and suddenly Mayra saw the girl her mother had been, reflected in the sky-hued eyes.

“You, too?” Mayra whispered.

Her mother’s eyes twinkled. The berries. The mushrooms. The bark. The herbs. The kindling that could not wait till the morrow to collect. All those times when her own pot was set to almost overflow atop life’s embers, hot as coals.

“I did, and I do. It is our grandmothers there, helping you.”

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s Write Photo challenge

 

 

Last One In

Photo Prompt: C.E. Ayr

 

“They’ll kick us out!”

Darlene shook her head. “They won’t know.”

“Dad will kill us if we get caught.”

Darlene sighed. Shirley was such a wimp. Never took any risks. Never had any fun. “We won’t.”

Shirley peered out of the RV at the shimmering pool. Darlene never met a rule she didn’t want to break, and somehow both of them would end up punished. “It says ‘Guests Only.'”

“We’re guests.”

Without a permit. Shame rose like hot bile. They were always the ones without, the ones left out.

“C’mon then,” she blinked away tears. “Last one in cleans up!”

 

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

 

Making A Day Of It

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They were going to make a day of it.

Get some fresh air.

“It would do you good,” she’d said. “You’ve been cooped in for far too long.”

And he had. And he didn’t really care if he stayed cocooned indoors for a few more weeks. Or months. Or years. Or till life’s end.

But he also didn’t want to upset her, and she’d been putting up with him, moody silences and pacing through the nights and appetites that came and went in both extremes and often not for what she’d taken the time to prepare.

So he agreed. And washed. And dressed in something less wrinkled than what he’d been living in. And they went.

The air did do him good.

The open space. The light. The breeze. The views.

Until.

She’d seen them first and tried to shield him, but his mother has never been very good at hiding her distress, and he read through it and looked in the direction she was clearly hoping he would not.

His ex. The girl who’d left him at the altar, who abandoned him to do all the explaining and pay all the bills and mollify all the aunties and absorb all the pitying looks and lose face and his dignity and eventually his job.

There she was. Pressed into another man.

His blood rushed into his ears as he remembered: he had the same photo taken. With her. Wearing the same smitten look.

And he wondered if someone had stared at them, too, at the time, and considered him the next man she’d rob.

 

 

 

(Note: This story is fiction. I don’t know anyone in this photo and no real connection between the photo prompt and the content is intended.)

For Keith’s Kreative Kue #244