Owning It!

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Photo: Keith Kreates

 

 

She was owning it.

In a city packed with cars for hire, she always got a second look from other drivers and passersby. Not always the business, mind you, but a second look. And … that meant they remembered her the next time they needed a car.

Not that everyone dialed for hers.

I could see how it would require a certain level of self-confidence to not be unsettled by being seen entering or emerging from her vehicle.

“Which is fine by me,” she chuckled. “Weeds out the weirdos and overly judgemental. I don’t need them in my ride.”

Her phone rang.

“Moron Taxi,” she answered cheerfully, “where and how far?”

 

 

For Keith’s Kreative Kue #247

 

 

 

Dogged Dobbie

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Photo: Keith Kreates

 

“What’s he doing?”

Martha shrugged.

“What’s in there?”

She tilted her head at him, and he demurred. She was clearly occupied. She had a bone to pick and he knew that if he pushed her with one more question she’d snap his head off. Or try.

He wasn’t going to let her try.

He moved closer to his friend.

“Dobbie?” he asked the headless figure. Did she snap his head off already? No, there was a tail wag. He didn’t think Dobbie would wag his tail if he didn’t have a head. He’d be too sad. No sniff. No lick. No yum.

“What’d’ya doin’ in there?”

The tail paused, then gave a halfhearted, one-sided sway. A sign?

“You stuck?”

Hesitant then enthusiastic wag.

“How’d you get stuck there?”

There was probably no way to wag an answer to that. Not to mention that Dobbie found a way to get stuck just about anyplace. Between the legs of a chair. Under the bed. With a garbage bin over his head. …

Max sniffed. There had to have been some food up there. Dobbie never could resist anything gobbleable. Max sniffed again. Traces. It’d be all gone by the time Dobbie realized he should’ve planned a way out before he stuck his head in.

Dobbie’s tail wagged in half-regret, half-plea.

Max sighed.

“Hold on, Dobbie! I’ll get Com’eer!”

 

 

 

For Keith’s Kreative Kue #246

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

Walk The Line

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“He’s never going to make it,” Benji declared.

Shelly shrugged. “I think he can.”

Benji twitched in irritation. “Mark my words. He’s never gonna make it. Not after all the eggnog he’d snagged.”

Shelly sniffed. Eggnog? There was eggnog? He wanted some!

Tilly wriggled between them and squeezed herself onto the couch. “What’cha doing?”

“Nothing.” Benji huffed.

“Ignore Benji, Sis, he’s just being his grouchy self.” Shelly scooted over a bit to make room for their sibling, who was younger by whole two minutes and by that officially the baby. Well, till the next babies had arrived.

“What is he doing down there?” Tilly squeaked. “If Mama sees him on the floor in the middle of the living room he is toast!”

“He’s trying to walk the line to the other side,” Shelly explained. Toast? Why’d she have to mention toast? Now he wanted toast.

“He’s walking funny,” Tilly noted.

“Of course he is. He’s drunk.” Benji muttered. “Now hush.”

“Sorry, Benji,” Tilly demurred, but true to form could barely keep herself still for half a second. “His tail is droopy. It is all in the tail, you know. He can’t keep to the line if his back-end is all draggy. Hey, Giddy,” she called, her whiskers trembling in excitement, “you can do it! lift your tail! It’ll give you better balance! It’s my turn next!”

 

 

 

For Keith’s Kreative Kue #242

 

 

 

Under The Wire

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One needed a long leash.

One needed to be kept on a short one.

Metaphor for her life, it was.

She adopted both as babies. Whelped at the same time by the same stray dog, they were, and yet they could not be more different. People did not believe her when she told them that the two were litter-mates. Had she not seen it with her own eyes she might’ve doubted, too. She wondered sometimes if it was possible that they were fathered by two different dogs altogether.

A little like her own sons. Who had.

Only that she had survived her children’s births. Unlike the dog, who didn’t.

It had been a cold spell then as well. The roads had become ice-sheets and her breath had hovered so close that it was as if the air itself did not want to leave the warmth of her body for the arctic chill. A storm had been forecast and she’d just returned from the store with extra essentials when she’d heard the whine of something small and vulnerable coming from the crawl space under the house.

The laboring dog did not resist when she’d reached for the writhing pup. Panting and with her head hanging low, she just rose heavily to her feet and followed the pup to the garage. She must have recognized help, or perhaps she was just beyond protesting.

Three pups were born. One large, two small, one of which did not survive. Neither did the birthing mother, who suckled the pups but was dead by morning. Perhaps she bled internally or was too weak or otherwise beyond recovery. With the storm in full force there was no way to call the vet. Or to bury anything. She dragged the mother and babe outside, where the cold would preserve them till she could find a way to properly farewell them. And she took the two mewling wrigglers in. Where they’d stayed. Milo and Martin.

After her uncles. One robust and placid. One short and wily.

She’d padded a box with an old blanket, kept it by her bed, and set a timer. She’d fed them with an eye dropper first, then a turkey baster with a piece of cloth tied on for suckling. It wasn’t till their eyes opened and they’d began exploring that she’d let herself realize that she’d be keeping them.

And that they will be keeping her.

From the plans she’d been making.

Her sons no longer needed their mother. But the puppies did.

So she stayed.

And three years later, they were all still there.

One with his long leash. One with the short. And her, in the middle. Held by both.

 

 

 

For Keith’s Kreative Kue 241

 

 

Rudy’s SOS

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Photo: Keith Channing

 

It was a quiet early hour at Headquarters.

Bernice was doing her nails. Bertrand had a foot perched on his desk and was clipping his toenails. Benny was (as always) squinting into one of his miniature rice grain paintings. Bella was snoring. Bonita was munching on crackers. Bruno was belittling Baron’s game-score. And Brittney, brittle as usual, was cradling the radio’s earphones even as she browsed the internet for interesting short film ideas.

Suddenly the switchboard sounded jingle bells and lit up in flashing green, red, and gold.

A Santa call!

In her fluttery rush to respond, Brittney almost dropped the microphone.

Bruno dove to save it. Those things were brilliant but brutally expensive. None of them wanted it docked from their pay for negligent breakage.

“North Pole,” he breathed into the mouthpiece.

“SOS! SOS!” The reedy voice could only be from one origin.

“Rudolph?!” Bruno rolled his eyes and hit the speaker button. The reindeer’s dramatic flair was brilliantly entertaining. “What are you doing on the radio? You know you’re not permitted.”

The radio screeched as Rudolph must have cranked the volume to its maximum.

“Shut up, shut up!! You moron! SOS! SOS!”

Bernice dropped her polish. Bertrand cursed. Benny’s rice grain rolled off the tray. Bella fell off her recliner. Bonita choked. Brittney fainted. Baron stared.

Rudolph was colorful but he was not prone to cursing.

Bruno’s cleared his throat.

“Sheesh, Rudy. Is it really an emergency?”

“Are you deaf? It’s an SOS!! Code Red. Code Red. Santa Off Sled. The darn temporary ladder that Brenda borrowed from Pottery Barn broke. Santa’s hanging by a thread! Send Feathered Fairy Fred!”

 

 

 

For Kreative Cue 240

 

 

Going to Avalanche

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Photo: Keith Channing

 

The sky was blue when they headed out. Crisp, cold, dry, and sunny, it was the perfect day for some easy back-country skiing.

They planned to be home by lunch.

They did not plan on the weather turning. On clouds so low and so fast that they’d reached zero visibility in almost no time at all.

Joshua could see that Daniel was two steps away from panic. That would not do. Not with the children with them.

“Take the rear,”  Joshua ordered.

If Daniel frowned at his bossy tone, the heavy fog covered it. Joshua stood his ground, literally, till Daniel maneuvered his skis so he was behind the two youngest. Good enough.

Joshua took a breath and tried to get a read from the weather. It was probably best to shelter in place till the fog lifted, but if the weather was about to get worse, it was better they got back before conditions deteriorated further.

There was no way to know for sure, but his gut’s tightening signaled that the latter option was the one to take. His hand tightened around the compass hanging from his pocket. He’d need it.

“Mark! Sally!” he cupped his hands and called for the two older children who, true to form, used any break in skiing for a snowball fight. The wind snatched his voice and he realized that it, too, had gotten worse in the last few minutes.

“Daniel, get them!” he shouted. “Timmy, Ronny, Sid, and Shirley, stay close to me.”

Shirley nodded and clung to his arm. “Are we going to Avalanche?” her voice shook.

“Avalanche isn’t a place, honey,” he replied over the thunder in his chest. “It’s when a lot of snow slides down the mountain. We’re not in an avalanche zone, so you don’t need to worry.”

“But it’s all white,” she sniffled, “and I’m cold.”

“I know, little one. The weather turned on us. We’ll get everyone in line and we’ll get moving and you’ll soon get warm. Timmy, Ron, and Sid, you okay back there?”

The boys nodded unconvincingly.

Daniel herded Mark and Sally closer to the rest and sandwiched them between the younger children and himself.

“Let’s go!” Joshua yelled, his voice barely audible in the whistling wind. “Keep your eyes on the person in front of you. Daniel, use your whistle if you need help.”

Daniel lifted his ski in response.

Joshua concentrated on the compass, on the next few steps. Everything he loved in this world was behind him. The white settled all around and he felt small. Like when he was ten and the world had come down around him in a tumble.

He shook the memory away.

This time he was not going to Avalanche.

He was going to get them — all of them — home.

 

 

 

For Kreative Kue 239

 

 

Middle Child

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Photo: Keith Kreates

 

Her rooms were in the middle of the castle, hovering above the center of the river, sandwiched between two layers of guard rooms, bordered on both sides with sentinel halls.

Her residence, her very life, was perched between the woods on one bank and the manicured gardens on the other, split between one land and another, between a grand promenade entrance on one side and an into-the-wild entrance on the other, belonging to both and owned by neither. It was so by design.

Oh, she was no prisoner. She had the freedom of the castle and the pleasures of the adjacent lands. She could go riding or strolling, hunting or frolicking, visiting or picnicking. As long as she made sure to spend the exact time on either side of the river, as long as she took heed to show no favor, no preference, no prediliction.

Three of her attendants were timekeepers. One from each side of the river. One from a foreign country altogether. All three carried hourglasses and were charged with maintaining synchronicity. Disputes were rare, for they would mean a cease of all outdoor activities till the disagreement resolved, cause a strain on her well-being, tarnish their families, and lead to possible replacement. The timekeepers kept discrepancies to a minimum.

The comparable reality extended to everything: An exactly equal number of ladies in waiting from each side of the river, exactly the same number of servants, workers, soldiers, guards, and tradesmen who were allowed to live and work in, or gain access to the castle. The same number of her dresses had been made on each side of the river. Half the furniture, too.

The constant balancing act was tedious. It was also necessary.

“You are the bridge,” her governess had explained to her when — still a child — she was fed up with being shuttled across the castle mid-activity, so equal play time on the other side can be maintained. She did not want to have two of everything and be required to play with each equally. “You were born to end five hundred years of bloodshed.”

Her parents had defied odds and had sought alliance instead of massacres. They’d built a bridge over the fear and hate that endless war had fed. They’d began construction on the castle. They’d birthed her.

The people had watched and waited.

She was barely toddling when her parents’ carriage had gotten ambushed by some who’d believed that ending the alliance would enliven the centuries-old feuds. The warmongers were wrong. They’d killed her parents, but not the want for peace. People on both sides of the river came for the murderers. People on both sides worked to complete the castle-bridge and ensured the princess could be raised in its center.

It was on that day, cocooned in her governess’s lap, in the room above the river that had for generations divided her people, that she truly understood: After so much distrust, an exacting fairness had to be the glue that would hold peace till lasting trust could grow.

No betters. No less-thans. Not even the appearance of favorites.

The efforts to keep it so were sometimes so precise as to be ridiculous, but she preferred to err on the side of the absurd, rather than risk her people any harm.

She was the princess on the bridge.

Her rooms were in the middle of the castle, hovering above the center of the river, sandwiched between two layers of guard rooms, bordered on both sides with sentinel halls.

Her residence, her very life, was perched between the woods on one bank and the manicured gardens on the other, split between one land and another, belonging to both and owned by neither. It was so by design.

 

 

For Kreative Kue 238

Gone Today

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Photo: Keith Channing

 

They came for the car today.

It’s just a car, she tried to tell herself. It would not make sense to keep it. Not with the fees and with the debt on it only increasing. Oh, she tried, but there was no way around the loss of it.

No way around loss. In general.

She couldn’t bear to go outside to see it off. She stayed indoors, her nose glued to the window, her sweaty palms pressing life-lines into the glass, her heart in shreds.

It’s been his car.

And he would not be coming home to drive it.

 

 

 

 

Note: Dedicated on this Veterans Day (US) and Remembrance Day (The Commonwealth), to all who fought and won and lost and left and returned, or left and did not return, or not in the same way they’d left. And to the many who still are away in uniform. You are seen. You are known. May all come home whole. And may humanity one day learn peace and no more war.

For Keith’s Kreative Kue #237