New Neighbor

 

“What on earth?! Have you seen her?”

Molly looked up from her coffee. The swirl of mocha infiltration on the milk froth in her cup was fascinating. She licked her upper lip, tasting calm and morning.”Seen who?”

“Her!” Abby flicked her head urgently in the direction of the kitchen window.

“Do I have to?” Molly pouted. Her sister was altogether too excitable. Surely there was naught wrong with sitting idly with one’s breakfast. However, she could not recall the last time Abby did anything but gobble down her toast, gulp her tea, and pop right up in search of dishes to wash, counters to wipe, cabinets to put to order, or lists to make.

Abby’s chest rose in what was certain to turn lecture.

Molly sighed, stood, and craned her neck to see. White uniform. Red crosses. Pink rubber gloves. “Oh, her? Sheri. Our new neighbor. A nurse or such.”

 

 

For Crispina’s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

A Long Way Down

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“This place will never do,” Aaron shook his head.

“It’ll have to,” Ella tucked the edges of frustration back into the crevices that practice had made almost foolproof. Almost. One could not get complacent.

She’d seen what happened when one did, and the cost was never worth the temptation of release.

“We’ll make it work,” she added before Aaron could add argument to what they both knew will have to be managed anyway.

The steep plot of thicket-covered land was all they had. A measly inheritance, perhaps, but better than the debtor’s jail … and the ways one had to pay debts with one’s body. Piecemeal. By the hour. By the man. They could neither of them survive it again.

“It is a long way down,” Aaron acquiesced. “The stairs are rotted.”

“A longer way up for those who do not know the path,” Ella smiled. “We’ll do fine.”

 

For Crispina‘s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

Gone Fishing

 

“Where is that boy gone to again?!”

Mama’s head appeared at the open doorway, floured hands held in the air as to not touch the shutters. The afternoon sun chose to appear from behind a mass of clouds and lit the hair around her face. The braid she’d pinned in place each morning was unruly by this time of day, and the hairs glowed like a golden crown. A smidge of white colored the edge of her eyebrow where she must have wiped at it with her baker’s hands.

“I’ll go look for him, Mama,” I tapped my sister’s shoulder and readied to rise.

Mama glanced at the sky and shook her head. “No, Mauve. Stay and finish this while there’s a daylight.”

I nodded. Bethany’s long hair was draped across my apron, with parts already pinned away as I went through it strand by strand to clear it of the unwelcome visitors we had found in it the other day. We would all of us suffer the consequences if my younger sister’s locks were not tended to immediately.

“Perhaps Lena knows,” Bethany mumbled, her cheek flush against my lap.

“Hmm.”

I would almost feel Mama’s eyebrow rise.

Lena lived in the next farm over.

A moment stretched, then the bottom flap of the door swung open and Mama stepped into the yard. She circled around so that Bethany could see her without having to move her head and upset my nitpicking.

“Well?” Mama prompted.

Bethany squirmed. Even at six, she knew a shaky ground when she was on it. Gossiping was tricky. Gossiping about one’s older brother was trickier still. Especially when one may want to stay in the favors of that very brother so he would carry one’s tired self on his shoulders or share a piece of his bravely harvested honeycomb.

“Out with it, Lass!”

Bethany sighed. Being out of Mama’s good graces would be far worse than anything Jimmy could dish out.

I caught Mama’s eye on the sly. She appeared cross, but I knew she was controlling her expression, and I did not trust my giggles (or hers) if our gaze met.

“I saw Lena sneak behind the barn earlier … with …” Bethany hesitated, “with a picnic basket.”

The path behind the barn led to the small meadow that terminated in a small wood on the banks of the stream.

“And?”

Bethany’s sigh deepened. Once Mama had someone on the hook, there was no slipping off it.

“And … I saw Jimmy with the pail and rod.”

Mama’s hands landed on her hips, flour forgotten.

Bethany gasped. I bit my lips.

“So the lad’s gone fishing,” Mama stated.

She turned half-away but I could still see her purse her lips against the chuckle. “He better not become the bait.”

 

 

 

 

For KL’s WritePhoto writing challenge – Thank you for continuing Sue Vincent’s weekly prompt!

Photo: Neptune Image by KL CALEY

 

 

Almost Ready

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She practiced every day the sea was calm and some days when it was not but the waves called her anyway.

“Your lips will permanently blue,” Lucy, her twin, chided.

Leena shook her head and tightened the proffered towel around her shoulders. Her fingers were numb and the damp cloth almost slipped.

Lucy sighed. She used her brooch to pin together the towel’s ends, then rubbed Leena’s back to help the blood flow. She could not dissuade her younger-by-ten-minutes sister from swimming. Leena was all stubbornness once she’d set her mind to something. But Lucy could make sure Leena did not go to the beach alone, and that someone was there to help warm her up and get her safely home.

“I’m almost ready, Lucy,” Leena gasped through chattering teeth. “Next time Cousin Ned visits, I’ll beat him to the logs. He will not get to call me Weakleena again!”

 

 

For Crispina‘s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

 

The List

 

“Are you sure about this?” Raymond wrinkled his nose at the parcel.

“Surer than sure!” Mara squared her shoulders. She will fight him, if need be. This was not something she was willing to back down from.

“It is morbid,” Raymond huffed.

“Yet it says so right on his bucket list,” Mara soothed, recognizing her brother’s retreat. “A coast-to-coast trip.”

“But …” Raymond shook his head in confused surrender. “I don’t think he meant to do so in an urn.”

Mara petted the label. “I’d rather err on the side of caution than be haunted by his restless ghost …”

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

Photo prompt © Ted Strutz

 

Elfie’s Solution

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“Not every elf can be on a shelf.”

Elfie heard this all his life. From his teachers at the Santa Academy. From his parents, Elfonso and Elfinia. From his judgy Aunt Elfisia. And now from his insufferable brother Elfonso Junior (who everyone called EJ), who just had to rub in the fact that he had gotten into the EFS (Elves For Shelves) program, while Elfie did not.

“But what if I want to be an elf on a shelf?” Elfie protested.

“It’s not about what you want,” his mother scolded. “It is about your Efltitude Score.”

“…and,” EJ added with an elfin smirk, “as we all know, you don’t quite measure up.”

If it weren’t for his mother’s presence, Elfie would have tossed EJ under a reindeer.

Thinking of reindeer. And reins … gave him an idea.

No shelf? No problem.

He’d hang out as an elf by himself.

 

 

For Crispina‘s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

Not A Bird

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“Hey! At the bottom of the cliff to the right. What do you think this is?”

Lisa adjusted the focus on her binoculars. “Can’t tell. A bit of junk?”

They were supposed to be cataloguing the different bird species they could find along their stretch of beach, but the seagulls were tiresome, and the sandpipers were too fast, and the wind had whipped so much sand around that she would certainly be carrying another pound of it just in her hair. Lisa wanted to go home. She wanted a nice bath, dry clothes, and a hot cup of tea.

“Perhaps a miners’ rail box.” Deena, binoculars glued to her face and hair tucked under a maddeningly practical cap, seemed oblivious to the stinging sand or Lisa’s rumbling stomach.

“Not a bird,” Lisa tried.

“No, but sure is a mystery!” Deena rose and pointed at the narrow trail. “Let’s go investigate!”

 

 

 

For Crispina‘s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

Sniffers

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“This won’t do,” Tina sighed. “You have got to sniff better.”

Spinner tried, but there was nothing. Or at least, nothing he could make heads or tails out of. And making tails was the whole idea.

He shrugged and spun around. Perhaps he’ll glean a clue from his surroundings. Perhaps it’ll settle the tension that trying to sniff things often awakened.

Tina groaned. “Mama was right. You will never amount to anything.”

“Hey!” Spinner whined.

Tina lowered her head. That had been below the belt. Still, it was true, and someone had to confront Spinner now that Mama was no longer there to instruct them.

“Look, Spin,” she tried to soften her frustration with a bit of guilt. “It really shouldn’t be so hard. You sure there’s nothing wrong with your sniffer?”

“I think it’s broken,” Spinner whispered, shamefaced. “What kind of a dog can’t tell the smell of poop?”

 

 

For Crispina‘s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

Note: Anosmia, or the lack/loss of sense of smell, is a real condition that was made famous by the pandemic but is certainly not limited to the current virus. Nor is Anosmia limited to humans. Like humans, dogs can live without a sense of smell, though for many of them it carries a significantly higher ‘sensory price’, because their sense of smell is 10,000 to 100,000 more acute than that of humans.

 

Watch Out

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“See that thing?” Holly whispered.

“What thing?” Harold mumbled, eyes barely lifted from the miniature screen of his new smart-watch.

That thing!” Holly covered her brother’s wrist with her hand. “Over there.”

Harold sighed and looked around. Old metal fences that once cordoned lines of people. Rotten concrete. Musty dankness. A deserted skating rink. What’s to see?

“Nothing,” he shrugged.

Holly exhaled exasperation. “That bird,” she hissed.

“Oh. A brown pigeon. Unusual coloring.”

His sister’s fingers tightened around his wrist and he grimaced at the pressure on his watch. It was new. She’d ruin it before he could show it off. “Hey, let go! What?!”

“I don’t care about its coloring. It is staring at us!”

“It’s just a bird.” He scrutinized the gate. His friends were very late.

“Yeah? Bet you won’t say that when it calls millions of its friends to dive in and peck us to death!”

 

 

For Crispina‘s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

Going Green

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“No way Jose!” Jessie’s arms were folded in what was half stubborn refusal, half terrified self-preservation.

Derek laughed and wiggled his toes, which were caked with mud and muck and unidentifiable stuff that was best left well outside of sniffing range.

His sister groaned. “Do you have to be so gross?”

“What’s wrong with a little bit of nature, eh?” he teased. He took a step and bent to touch the carpet of green algae that covered the pond. It looked like velvet.

“Are you nuts?!” Jessie looked ready to lunge and probably would’ve pulled him back if it weren’t for the fact that it would require getting closer to the pond’s edge.

“Chill, Sis,” Derek shook his head. “It’s not like I’m gonna be eaten by Nessie.”

“Imaginary monsters don’t worry me,” Jessie’s lip curled in disgust. “Salmonella from those mallards and whatever else in this water sure does.”

 

 

For Crispina’s Crimson’s Creative Challenge