A Matter Of Scope

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(Photo: Anna Sullivan on Unsplash)

“It was never a matter of reach, but of scope,” Morris mouthed the words around his pipe.

Ethel harrumphed under her breath, but gently. She had to take care to not move the petals or she would have to restart the lot, and there was nothing she disliked more than having to redo tediousness. Be it in business or in marriage.

“Cannot see what you find in him,” her mother had criticized her daughter’s choice of man.

“Perhaps we look at him through the wrong end of the long telescope of Time,” her father had chuckled in knifing disapproval.

“Too long a telescope it must be,” her mother had deadpanned.

Her parents were both gone now. To the shorter end of cholera. Left Ethel and Morris the house. And a failing botany business which they were slowly but assuredly pressing into sought after art.

 

 

Prosery quote: ‘We look at him through the wrong end of the long telescope of Time’ (Hummingbird, D.H. Lawrence)

For the dVerse prosery challenge

 

Another World

Photo prompt: © CEAyr

 

“See the lamppost?”

Nick nodded.

“See that reflection?”

Another nod.

“You walk into that store and you’ll be in another world.”

The younger boy shook his head, hair so severely cut it almost looked shaven. Ruben fed him, but everything had a price. True in the orphanage. True on the streets.

“Your loss,” Ruben shrugged. “If you prefer life as it is now …” he drew the last word out.

Nick tried to see through the window. It was like a mirror. He didn’t like what he saw.

“I’ll go,” he said.

“Hat on. Bring out something good. Don’t get caught.”

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

 

Brief Impact

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Photo: Esperanza Algaba Davila on Unsplash

 

They didn’t think they’d leave such an impression. After all, they were only passing through, a transient band of transients in a town built on foundations set in stone.

And yet, as they left, colored wagons clattering on paved roads not made for wooden wheels or tender hooves, they were followed by a line of children.

Like a piped piper for the unloved. Seeking a better home.

 

 

For Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt: Impact in 67 words

 

 

 

Everything She Needs

shadowed-me CrispinaKemp

 

She took one last look around, another in the mirror.

Waterproofs. Umbrella. Boots. A change of clothes tied around her waist. A utility apron with ration-filled pockets. Some necessaries. Her pen and notebook. Basic first aid. Matches. Tarp. The photo. And her courage, tightly wound into the center of her chest.

She was ready.

There were no roads or maps where she was going. She’d hike up then use her wits and hopefully the scent of memory, awakened, to find the place. She didn’t know how much the faded photo would help, with the quarry and the landslide and the decades passed since the plate was exposed. Still, she took it. Her soul told her that the photo did not wish to be left behind.

She walked into the dawn. She had everything she needed.

If fates smiled, she’d find the ruins of Witch Wilma’s home. Her great-great-grandma’s tomb.

 

 

For Crispina Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

 

Clara Of The Clock

fantasy SueVincent

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

There were bells above the clock in the tower. A tiny room above that, with blue shutters that could close themselves to everything or open to the four corners of the world. A taller turret still above it, its naked windows whistling in the wind. And over that a peaked roof with a metal creature perched wide-winged, inviting lightening.

To Clara, this was home. The keeper of the hour and the minder of the rectory below, she was forever scaling spiral steps and ladders.

Up and down the narrow stair that spun inside the tower to the clock-room, then up and down the ladder that hiked along the breezy bell balcony to her room, and up and down again on the metal rungs that climbed the room’s wall to the turret and the vast horizons beyond.

Father Brown used to climb up and down, too, though thankfully he’d grown too corpulent to lift his body up so many stairs or hoist himself up the ladder. She did not think he would even fit through the entrance in her room’s floor anymore.

Good.

For he was never meant to fit into any of her entrances anyway.

She was better off with him too fat.

Fearless, they said she was, to live so high above the village, buffeted by winds half-way into the sky, not to mention, in total loneliness. Unnatural, they called her, to prefer the company of birds and clouds to that of other people, or a man.

They were right. About the latter.

Birds did not raise a hand to her. The clouds did not box her ears or pull her hair or force themselves inside her.

There was solitude in the small room where the air was clear and the noises of the village did not reach. Just the swish of the wind and the clarion sound of the bells and the heavy heartbeat of the clock, ticking like the heart she’d almost forgot, the heart inside the chest she must have laid a head on in the first weeks of her being and before her mother – and her life – turned cold.

Through years of misery in the orphanage, with cruelties of every kind meted by the nuns and priests and older children who sought to repay their own experienced agonies onto those smaller than them, she gazed at the part of the clock-tower she could see, and dreamed of heartbeat.

When Father Brown came to the orphanage to pick a new housekeeper to “serve God” in the rectory adjacent to the church (and tower), they lined up the girls for him to choose from. She trembled with both hope and horror.

Perhaps he liked seeing both feelings warring in her, for he let his eyes travel the length of her body before curling his finger in her direction and telling Mother Superior that “this one would do.” She had just turned thirteen.

She kept house and cooked and cleaned and tried to keep away from his fondling hands and pinching fingers and the parts under his robes. She wondered if the former housekeeper had wished to ail and had welcomed the opportunity to die.

Then again, perhaps the previous girl did not know of the tiny room above the bell-tower. She herself only found out about it when Father Brown twisted an ankle and she was required to complete a few tasks there on his behalf. She was immediately entranced. By the openness. By the freedom. By the possibilities.

The next day she went to see Mother Superior under the pretense of needing salve for Father Brown’s leg but with the real aim to have someone clothe her request in piety. “It is but a small room, but I feel nearer to God there,” she told the nun, hoping to mask her awe as faith.

“And,” she whispered, “it could be more proper for Father Brown, too, to have me in separate lodging.”

The head nun frowned in reproach then tented her fingers to consider. The rectory had only the one sleeping room, and so housekeepers slept on a pallet by the kitchen stove. Even the most pious man may need a drink of water in the night. Best to put away any Eve where she could not lead a man to sin.

“You are wicked to even have such thoughts,” Mother Superior admonished. “Perhaps it would be best to remove you to the tower.”

Clara lowered her eyes in relief.

Father Brown was farthest from enchanted with the new arrangement, but he could hardly argue with Mother Superior’s suggestion. Nor could he claim that a woman should not scurry up and down the tower ladders in her skirts when he himself had sent Clara to do so.

Oh, he made sure to let her know there was no sanctuary from him in the tower. But she focused on the heartbeat of the clock and let it speak louder than his thrusting, and she bade her time, and fed him.

He grew fat. And old. And rheumy eyed.

She grew taller. And confident. And limber in her climb. She became the sole caretaker of the timepiece, the sorter-out of the bell’s ropes, the heartbeat of the tower.

Clara of the clock.

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto

 

 

Teaching Without Telling

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

If only she could get there …

The mist and tears obscured her view, but she trod on, insistent and desperate for the safety of the circle. It had saved her ancestors. It had become a thing of lore.

But if the magic still held, she would be helped. The spirits that guarded the stones would weave protection over her. Bar the weapons. Shun the anger. Ward off those who wanted to do harm.

She tripped twice, the cold air breathing malice on her nape. She fought the urge to curl upon the damp ground and give up. She gathered up her tattered courage and wrapped the threads of memories around her shoulders. The incantations of her grandmother, sang softly into the cauldron, stirring soup and stories, teaching without telling, showing without spelling out what was forbidden to be known.

In the darkening damp she mumbled some forgotten fragments. “Help me, Nana,” she sobbed when her knees skinned on a stone and her breath caught.

“Rise, Child,” she thought she heard. She wanted to believe.

She rose. She stumbled on.

If only she could get there, she would be saved. The spirits will protect her in the mists of old.

The pitchforks. The firebrands. The mobs in their lust and calls for blood in smoke? They would not be able to see her. Not once she crossed into the circle. Once there, she would be scooped up, sheltered, danger gone.

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto

 

 

The Hidden

green-shed-in-trees CrispinaKemp

Photo: Crispina Kemp

 

It had been their favorite place to play as children. Filled with old tools and lopsided shelves. A leaky roof that hindered the rain from soaking them when the weather turned and they had misjudged the time.

She never would have thought that the shed would become a shelter from a lot worse than the rain. And without end. For there was no place to return.

There will be no welcome in the farmstead. Not anymore.

No warm soup waiting. No blanket. No fire to steam wet clothes as fingers thawed. Instead of comfort, they’d likely send the dogs.

She still could not quite understand how quickly times had changed. How she’d gone from part-of to pariah.

Was she the same? How could she be, when the patch she was made to wear now defined her?

A jew, she was their plague. How long would the shed conceal her?

 

 

 

For Crispina’s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

Flecked History

wadi a dawasir M.Bin HMQ

Photo: M.Bin HMQ; Wadi ad-Dawasir, Saudi Arabia

 

“He is an infidel,” Abdul grumbled about his employer. “Ad-Dawasir history shouldn’t be fouled by non-believers.”

“So were your ancient ancestors,” Umm Habib noted, her fingers flying as she shaped the dough with the practiced moves of innumerable meals prepared.

The adolescent startled. Such accusation would’ve necessitated a fist-fight if it hadn’t come from his grandmother.

“Many Taghlibi remained Christians well after The Prophet came,” the old woman’s face remained placid. She didn’t need to look up to sense the anger flashing in the boy’s hereditarily flecked eyes. But youngsters’ dark moods and opinions were like moving water. Truth remained.

She plucked freshly baked bread from the earthen oven with bare fingers, tips hardened by life’s constant flames. “That history is long passed, but it bears remembering some of our ancestors even fought against Muslim, and many stayed Christian …” she paused, considering. “Before finally embracing The Prophet’s teachings and Islam.”

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Wadi-ad-Dawasir, Saudi Arabia

 

 

Perfect

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Photo: Sue Vincent

 

Finally, the light was right, the water mirrored what it ought, the sky spread silk above her head. Even the dotted white of sheep lent the necessary movement to what might otherwise feel a specter of a time too soon or too late.

It was perfect.

Stella pressed the sole of one foot against the trunk and leaned into the tree behind her, balancing the rest of her weight on the other leg. All through her childhood, this preferred pose of hers had driven her mother to distraction.

Though long passed, the memory of a particular exchange about it was yet to fade.

“God gave you two feet to stand on. Use them!” Her mother had demanded.

Stella must have been six or seven years old then. “I am,” she had countered, exasperated with the constant admonitions of what felt to her a perfectly reasonable way to stand. “God also gave me a knee that bends. I’m using that, too.”

Her mother had made her “use her bending knees” to kneel on dried peas for most of that evening, punishment for using God’s name in impertinence. Apparently God also gave children the gift of parents they were not supposed to talk back to.

Stella had carried the bruises of that evening for weeks thereafter, and the ache for longer. She learned to keep quiet when reprimanded, and to adjust her posture and compose her face and straighten her back and never slouch or run or climb or get mud on her skirts or expose her legs. But she still found ways for small rebellions. And whenever she was out of her mother’s line of sight, Stella never did stop planting one sole against a tree or wall when standing. Not even when her brother, whose maleness allowed him liberties that would not be tolerated in a girl, gave her secret away by calling her “Stella Stork.”

And a kind of stork I indeed am, she thought to herself, and pressed her foot into the tree in a sigh of freed determination.

Midwifery did not quite pay the bills. Nor did her artistry through painting. However, between the two callings she had found a certain kind of balance. Granted, she often got paid for the former in apples and hens’ eggs, and while those filled her belly they did not translate into peat or cloth or rent. However, the commissioned illustrations for “Country Ladies” magazine did compensate in some coin, and she had recently been asked to provide a “pastoral series.”

Stella gazed at the scene, adjusted her easel, lifted her brush, and leaned further into the trunk behind her. The past receded. The future waited. The present moment lingered, perfect, as the hours rolled.

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s Write Photo

 

 

Bauble Bob

tolhouse CrispinaKemp

 

His father declared him hopeless. His mother bemoaned his daydreaming. His brother called the boy a fool. His teachers rapped his knuckles, dressed him in the dunce’s cap, slapped his head. Nothing helped. His mind continued meandering and his pockets remained filled with bauble nonsense.

By the time Bob turned sixteen, the village elders had resigned themselves to him becoming one who loitered by the stream, carried water for the old, and attracted the cruelties of the young.

The last thing anyone expected was that Lord Bailey’s new wife, who hired the young man for the price of bread and ale to repair some fallen stone in her abode, would so enjoy the river rocks and pebbles utilized as repairs by Bauble Bob, that she’d have him adorn her gate, her walls, even her door.

Soon enough there wasn’t a manor around he hadn’t been called to restore.

 

 

For Crispina’s Crimson’s Creative Challenge #66