Middle Child

P1010891a

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

Morning Calm

Morning calm KoSamui NaamaYehuda

Photo: Na’ama Yehuda

 

Soft ripples spread

Like ribbons of

Silk

As morning heads

Toward shimmering

Heat.

 

 

 

For Sunday Stills: Calm

Note: The photo was taken in Ko Samui, Thailand, on an August morning.  It was sublime.

 

The Marianna

 

He did it. He’d pared it all down and tucked it all in and stocked her all up.

He was down to one set of waterproofs, two pairs of jeans, three tees, four pairs of socks, five undies, six favorite CDs, seven books.

He was going for eight apples, nine carrots, and ten bananas, but he ate two bananas walking back from the store. So there was that. In any event, there were many other odds and ends he didn’t count but that counted just as much: sleeping bags, towels and dishes and batteries, the manual pump. All the things that would make it home.

For it was going to be. Home. The first he’d ever owned.

This boat: The Marianna.

His little sister had always dreamed of living on one, and her yearning settled in him after she died.

He smiled at the sky. “Welcome aboard, Marianna. Let’s fly.”

 

 

For Crispina’s CCC #53

 

Gone Today

IMG_0304

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

 

 

The Essentials

 

Finally.

She shrugged her pack off and lowered herself so her back rested against a tree, blessing — for the umpteenth time — the waterproofs she’d splurged on several years ago.  The purchase had meant giving up puddings for two months, but she’d never regretted the trade-off.

Food was essential, but so was heeding nature’s call for spending time in the outdoors. It was required nourishment for her soul.

In any weather, no matter damp or cold.

Soon she’d make the tent, gather wood, and light a fire to cook her oats on. But first she just sat, filling her lungs with air and her mind with calm contentment.

Raised in the city, she didn’t know how hungry she was for the outdoors until friends invited them to join a camping trip. She was ten.

Her parents hated every minute of it. For her, it had been like finally finding home.

 

 

 

For Crimson’s Creative Challenge #52

 

All Caught Up

IMG_0192a

 

She leaned back, took a long look around, and sighed in satisfaction.

He’d love it. She was sure he would.

It took three full weeks and dozens of hours, but now every piece of paper he’d ever owned was alphabetized and catalogued. The photos organized by color, location, and main character. The receipts tagged and ranked by preference: favorite things first, the things he’d never order again, last.

He was due home by nightfall. She could only imagine his delight.

The office was transformed. So was the garage. She even organized the nets and oar for an artistic touch. Bronzed all his mementos so they matched.

No more desk and drawers. No more folders. No more boxes with a mishmash of photos and cards. Goodbye to letters stacked together by arbitrary designations of correspondence, when they could be more logically sorted by zip code (or when there was none noted, ordered alphabetically by addressee’s given name and divided by paper-type).

It had been a Herculean task, but she was undaunted. Who but her would take it on to help him out?

She couldn’t wait to show him how she’d got him all caught up.

 

 

For Keith’s Kreative Kue #236

 

 

Itsy Eats it!

 

She’d had it with replacing the gate five times in a season.

She’d had it with coming back from any length of trip to find her garden in shambles, her gazebo in ruins, and her abode filled with debris. There were always some of her favorite things broken or missing.

Something had to be done.

This might not look like it’d stop determined burglars, but it should at least cause pause to the majority. If any dared try.

It didn’t matter that it was made of bent reeds, or that she’d been advised to seal the opening with bricks. Too much stone felt heavy. And anyway, she found pleasing beauty in the symmetry, in the way light filtered through. It was like a window to the world.

Also, Itsy came with references and guaranteed the work.

“Itsy build,” the industrious worker promised. “And if something break in. Itsy eats it.”

 

 

 

For the Crimson Creative Challenge #51

 

 

Doomed

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

“I will stand here, then slowly scoot in and get us tickets. No one will notice.”

“Are you kidding me?!” I tried to keep my voice low. Fortunately, it wasn’t difficult to do, muffled as it was already.

Doug shrugged, scattering orange and yellow.

It was a bad idea. This whole thing. I never should’ve let Doug talk me into it.

“It will be so much fun!” he’d said. And … anything did sound better than being cooped up in a hospital bed, my face swollen and bruised and covered with bandages after reconstructive surgery, while everyone else went partying.

Doug’s initial idea was to bandage the rest of me like a mummy, but I wasn’t going for it. I had enough of bandages. So Doug ‘borrowed’ his brother’s bike leathers and brought along some plastic ‘armor’, a roll of fake cobwebs, and a helmet that he somehow managed to fit over my post-surgically-wrapped visage. It was a bit too snug in places and as soon as he’d pulled it on I knew I’d regret it when we tried to remove the thing from my poor head. My noggin was five tons of throb.

We’d gotten through the nurse’s station undetected, and were now trying to crash the doctors’ party at the end of a hallway off the lobby. There seemed to be tickets involved. Or invitations. Or IDs of some sort. Now what?

Music crashed against my ears. I was tired. I wanted to be back in bed. I should have gone as a mummy. Preferably in a sarcophagus. At least then I could lie down. It wasn’t even three full days since my surgery. What was I thinking?… Clearly I was not.

“This is stupid!” I hissed.

“You’ll see,” Doug, undeterred, maneuvered his wrapped wheelchair into a corner, shedding more leaves, “People don’t notice trees.”

Oh, I could see already. And more than I wanted to.

“They would notice this one,” I grumbled.

Already Doug’s stick arms and bony torso showed. Someone should have hold him that being a potted tree in fall was doomed to leave him sitting in the nude.

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto Challenge

 

Empty Promises

Photo prompt: © Fatima Fakier Deria

 

He came down to find the kitchen cold. The coffee machine bereft of beans, the range orphaned of the pan that sizzled on it every morning as far back as he could recall. His lunch boxes waited on the table, naked in their transparent emptiness.

He was sure that the vacant orange juice glass was put on them just to spite.

He never believed her that she’d up and leave if he kept ‘forgetting’ her papers. He never thought she’d have anyplace else to go. But there he was. Alone. The servant that had been a fixture for him, gone.

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

Goose-Sitter

vlcsnap-00003a

 

“Do they really think you’re their mama?”

“Yep.”

She stared at the small flock of geese. There were still goslings, in a way, but they no longer looked like anything but full grown, feathers puffed, beaks out to get ya in the soft parts geese.

“They’re quite tame,” Luke chuckled at her wariness.

“Tell that to the bruise that this one over there left on me the other day.”

Luke’s chuckle turned full throttle laughter. “Miles was just trying to establish a pecking order. He’s fairly low ranking and you could’ve showed him his place. Instead, you freaked and he showed you his. It’s normal goose behavior.”

“Normal for you, perhaps. I’m a human. Not a goose mama.”

Luke patted one of the geese in what Darla swore was just a showing off. “Also, they are a little antsy,” he conceded. “It’s going to be their first real flight.”

Darla nodded, unconvinced. She was already regretting her agreement to take care of any stragglers. Luke was going to fly the flock — or any of the flock who were capable — through the whole migration route. Darla was to help with those who lagged behind or proved too weak. Luke already had two in mind that he believed would end up among them, including, of course, Miles de Munch.

She wasn’t sure how she got roped into agreeing. There was, of course, Luke’s contagious enthusiasm. And his charm.

Darla sighed. She’d bail out if it weren’t for the fact that they were due to leave tomorrow and there was no way Luke would have time to find a substitute goose-sitter.

“Hey, I’ve got an idea,” Luke’s face lit up in a manner very much like the excitement that had led her to agree to shepherd biting geese in the first place. “We’re going on one last practice fly today. Wanna come?”

 

 

 

For Keith’s Kreative Kue 235