Ruby Rudder

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Photo: Cosmin Serban on Unsplash

 

The boat was old and holey, but that did not matter. They never intended for it to be sea-worthy. Haruto didn’t like to get his feet wet, and Miyu had seen enough leave for the waves who did not return. Neither one of them had a hankering for sea-sickness or for gutting fish or for seaweed tangling the rudder and weighing down the nets.

They had a different goal instead.

The neighbors raised collective eyebrows when the couple hauled the vessel, hull protruding in the air, baring barnacles and showcasing slime.

Haruto and Miyu just nodded, plopped the boat against the workshop’s wall, and disappeared into it without a word of explanation.

They didn’t owe it to anyone and they didn’t know how well the end result would be. Better to keep mum until they saw for themselves how well the idea translated from a dream to action. And the neighbors’ bafflement was fun.

For days they sawed and sparked and banged and nailed. One morning the boat got swallowed by the workshop with only a small bit of the aft sticking out. The next day it was the other end. The smell of primer and varnish and paint permeated the air.

The neighbors mused and wondered. A few doors down the street, Mrs. Adachi placed bets with Mr. Chinen.

Holes were dug in the backyard. A mixture was poured. Poles wedged in.

Mrs. Adachi’s bet went up. Mr. Chinen raised his.

Then one early morning there was a new commotion. Ropes and pulleys, a few curses, far too many bangs.

The neighbors came out. Offered a hand.

By the time breakfast was ready, the boat was securely perched like an awning over a diamond of poles. A hammock strung below, shaded but for a dapple of golden strips of sun. The rudder, painted ruby, pointed to the stars.

And for the next year, Mrs. Adachi was going to have the benefit of Mr. Chinen washing her car. …

 

 

 

For RDP Tuesday: Ruby

 

 

 

The Light On

Photo: Sue-Z

 

They left the corner light on at night.

A habit.

A ritual.

An understanding.

The stone path had been there before they bought the property, and the remains of a lantern post. It was right where they’d wanted a vegetable garden, and so at first the plan was to plow the area clear and remove the slabs and pebbles.

But then the hoe broke.

And then the belt on the mower.

And then there was the matter of their daughter’s bellowing every time they tried to work on that part of the yard.

She was barely two at the time. Not quite talking. And yet she managed to throw “No! No!” tantrums and pull at their clothing and plop herself in utter-toddler-dejection right onto where they aimed to work.

“You best give up,” their neighbor nodded her warty chin, sage eyes not unkind in understanding.

It was the Fair Ones, she explained. They had their own paths. Their own energy highways.

“The ancients had marked it. To hold space and to deter the mischief. It is easier. And the young ones can still see.”

They left the light on.

Repaired the path.

Moved the vegetable garden.

Life was better calm.

 

 

 

For Sunday Photo Fiction

 

 

Hide And Go Seek

memory SueVincent

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

It was the best place to play hide and go seek.

At least, that’s what they wanted him to think.

It was also the best place to go missing.

Not that they’d tell him. …

He had no reason to suspect anything was amiss. Not when the whole troop of them had ran together all the way to the weathered monoliths that dotted the small glens by the ancient cliffs. Not when the game had ensued with much merry running and grabbing and stone-circling. Not even when most of the children had headed back home for supper as dusk neared, but he was invited to stay “and play a bit longer” with a handful of the most popular kids.

He was new in town. He felt included. He felt welcomed.

He should have felt scared.

“He just disappeared,” they later said. “We thought he’d gone home with the others.”

“It has happened before,” their parents nodded, wrapping arms around the shoulders of their feet-shuffling children and forming a united wall against the ashen faces of the boy’s parents, the newcomers who never should have come, who never could belong. “The boy must have wandered away in faded light and fallen into a sinkhole.”

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto

 

 

The Joneses

 

“Did you see what the Joneses got?” Marco gazed out the window.

“Don’t tell me you are falling for this nonsense!”

Marco swallowed a retort. His wife often yelled first and considered second. Getting into an argument in ‘phase one’ only delayed (or destroyed any possibility for) ‘phase two.’

“So?” her hands left wrinkled wet spots on her kitchen apron.

“I’m considering it,” he allowed. Silence tended to increase her ire.

“And for what Godawful blasted reason?”

He shrugged and tried for his one-sided smile. It used to work like magic in the past. Still did, sporadically. Worth a try.

The corners of her eyebrows shifted slightly away from each other. Good or bad, he wasn’t sure, but it was now or never.

“We could tie our Blimp to it, Dear. It is all the rage to have one’s own anchor. Makes it so much easier to unload the groceries.”

 

 

For Crispina’s Crimson’s Creative Challenge #64

 

 

Relative Loudness

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Photo: Jessica Lewis on Unsplash

 

“It’s way too loud!”

Maria smoothed her skirt. Her mother’s sense of what wasn’t “too loud” was limited to washed-out grays, faded pastels, and the kind of drab that would put even a hyperactive child to sleep. “I like it.”

“You can’t possibly think you’ll get the job dressed like this.”

Her mother always went for the jugular.

Maria shrugged. She’d learned the hard way that to show her wounding only meant that more of it was certain to be dished out.

“Don’t come crying to me when someone more professional gets the position,” her mother added.

“Thanks for the support, Mom,” Maria sighed. She grabbed her bag, checked to see that the bus card was in her pocket, and walked out, deliberately ignoring the foyer’s mirror. She’ll give herself a final once over later, against a store’s window or parked car if she needed to. Any reflective surface would be more forgiving than her mother’s eye.

Some days the anger churned inside her like a witch’s noxious brew. A dash of fury, an evil eye of newt, a cup of resentment, a clump of shame, a fistful of sorrow, all stirred with the bone of a dog left to die in the street under a full moon.

“She can’t help it,” Sam, when he was still around, would try to soothe her. He was spared the worst of their mother’s tongue-lashings, being a boy and therefore less intrinsically prone to disappointing her. But he was well aware of how their mother’s wrath was doled onto Maria, and he’d even take blame where he could, knowing he wasn’t likely to be punished for the same misdemeanor, and that he’ll get off lightly when he was. “Mom sees in you everything she wants to be and cannot.”

It was truth. It was also small consolation.

“I can’t help it that she had less opportunity,” Maria would pout in answer. “It’s not my fault she was kept home to raise her siblings and never got to finish school. It’s not my fault she feels unable to try anything, or that Dad liked pointing out how uneducated she was.” And still … more often than not Sam’s reminders of where their mother had learned criticism toward daughters, and of the inordinate amounts she’d had to put up with, did help awaken a measure of empathy.

Some days less than others, though.

And on this particular morning Maria had very little of it to spare.

She’d worked hard to prepare for this job interview, and she’d put much thought into the clothing she selected. The turquoise top and a the splash of magenta in the beaded necklace were meant to put a bit of color in her pale complexion. She coupled that with a dark blue skirt with a banana-yellow belt. A matching silk scarf was tied around the handles of her rather overtired bag. She wore a single turquoise bangle on her wrist, and the dark blue pumps she’d kept for special occasions. Her hair was pulled back from her face behind one ear to reveal a single studded earring, and fell in soft curls over her cheek on the other side.

She thought she looked nice. Till her mother’s acid raised welts of doubt.

A whistle sounded and she turned around fully prepared to frown, only to have her lips turn up when she saw the whistler.

“You look glam!” Her eighty five year old neighbor leaned onto his rake and grinned at her through few remaining teeth. “Big day?”

“Hi Mr. Green,” she smiled back. “Yes. I mean, I hope. Job interview.”

“Ah,” he nodded sagely. “And you sure do look the part! Go get ’em! And don’t you let yourself worry none. Tell them all the good things that you are and can do, and don’t you be shy about it, either. It’s is your time to shine, so you go ahead and speak up as loud as anything. Show them who you are so they not miss the chance to employ you. And swing by on your way back to tell me how it went, will you now?”

She nodded. She did not trust her voice …

But her heart felt warmed and her feet were lighter as she walked toward the bus, every window reflecting rosy cheeks and a sparkle in her eye.

 

 

 

 

For Linda Hill’s SoCS challenge: Loud

 

 

Momma Jean

Photo Prompt: © Jean L. Hays

 

“Don’t you go spendin’ no money!” Momma Jean announced.

In a whirlwind of industrious determination, she began rummaging through shoe boxes and ancient suitcases, closets, and plastic bags, flinging this or that onto the table.

I didn’t dare to offer help. Once Momma Jean got like this, it was best to keep out of the way.

“Now!” She finally straightened, hair askew and dust-bunnies clinging to the edge of her house-dress. My inveterate neighbor was out of breath and in her element. “You tell me what that costume look like, and I make it for you. You win first prize.”

 

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

 

 

The Bag

Photo prompt: © Ted Strutz

 

She stopped by to check on her elderly neighbor and saw a bulging bag on the curb. Odd. Trash-collection was two days away. Ethel could get ticketed.

She grabbed the bag. The thing was heavy! How did the ancient women lug this? She carried it up the path to the door.

“Ethel?” she knocked. “It’s Belinda.”

Silence. Was Ethel sleeping? Belinda knocked again. Waited. Rang the bell. Used her key.

There was no one home. All personal effects gone.

Heart pounding, Belinda rushed to untie the bag.

A mess of photos spilled out, scattering Ethel’s life to the ground.

 

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

 

Hold My Spot

Photo prompt: Na’ama Yehuda

 

The rain swelled and lessened, as did the line of people, standing dutifully in the raw, spitting day.

“How long?” A woman asked, leaning heavily on her cane.

“They’ll let you in,” I said, pointing. “You don’t need to stand in the long line.”

“What if they won’t? I don’t want to lose my place,” she fretted.

“Don’t worry,” a young hooded man motioned in direction of the building. “I’ll hold your spot.”

I smiled at him.

“Come,” I linked my arm in hers, round sticker prominent on my jacket “I’ll show you. I’m so happy you’re here to vote!”

 

 

 

For Rochelle’s FridayFictioneers

Note: Thank you Rochelle for using my photo! 🙂 Yay hurray! (It was, indeed, taken during an election day, where people stood in the pouring rain for over an hour, as the line stretched along sidewalks and around the corner in my neighborhood. The above is a depiction of real events). If you are in the US and aren’t registered to vote yet, please do! And, when elections come – any election – Vote! Your voice matters. Don’t let anyone convince you it does not.

The Instructions

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Photo: Luma Pimentel via Unsplash

 

“I’ve written it all down,” she’d said.

“Anything you need to know is there,” she’d promised.

“It’ll a breeze,” she assured me, one hand already on the door handle. “I won’t be too long. It’s just a short gig. A few hours at most. He’ll likely sleep right through to my return anyway.”

But the baby slept through about five minutes and then would not stop crying and I had no idea what half of the terminology for baby-brand stuff meant or what “up to the spoon line” was supposed to be when I couldn’t find any spoons with lines, and no clue how to “keep a hand on the baby at all times” while also needing two of them just to untangle the tabs on the darn diaper and another two to keep the baby’s feet from kicking it away … And the clean bottles came separated from nipples, which had multiple unrelated parts that needed assembly like an Ikea cabinet from hell … And what on earth is a spit-up cloth and how is it different than a towel or a blanket?

Speaking of, how does one swaddle a baby without dislocating something in the process of making it into a mummified burrito?

And did I mention the baby would not stop crying?

 

“You’re a saint, Rick!” she’d said. Even kissed me on the cheek like I was some long lost brother and not the neighbor who happened to live next door and perhaps smiled a few times at the baby on the elevator.

“I know it is last minute but I’ve been waiting months for the opportunity … I’ll make you dinner,” she’d promised, and her relief at having a solution for the baby was so palpable that I felt guilty extricating myself from what she’d misunderstood as “yes” when at the very most I’d meant “maybe, but not really.”

 

“It was a breeze,” I said.

“He woke up but is now sleeping like an angel,” I assured her, ignoring the baby’s heft on my desperate bladder. I hadn’t dared to move, lest the baby woke again.

She looked tired and worried and sad and a little worse for wear, and I wondered how the gig went but didn’t want to ask after she appeared to hold back tears when I’d asked if she had a good time.

“Did the instructions help?” she asked instead.

I nodded. “Perfectly.”

 

 

 

For the SoCS Prompt: Instructions

 

Waterproof

Girl on Bank CCC25

 

“How come she’s not wet?” Ricky whispered.

Tim shrugged, but his own eyes were round.

The two were lying on the bluff above the pond on damp bellies, and passing a pair of miniature binoculars between them. Tim’s Nan would have his hide if she found out he’d ‘borrowed’ them, but Nan was dosing after an early toddy … And anyway, they needed the binoculars to spy on Gertrude, their new neighbor, who they suspected was a covert operator, or a witch, or both.

“She’s been sitting there forever,” Ricky groaned. Spying was a lot more glamorous in movies. And less muddy. “I’m soaked. How come she’s not wet?”

Tim fiddled with the binoculars. The dials didn’t work much but it made him feel important, if only because he forbade Ricky to touch them. “Must be she used spells. To make her waterproof.”

 

 

For Crimson’s Creative Challenge: #25