Ring-a-marole

 

“Why’d they do that?”

“‘Twas needful.”

Sheri twisted her skinny braid around her finger. It was the one benefit of having really fine hair. She could get it to loop five times while Marina only could loop hers twice. Long fingers helped, too. Marina’s were chunky. From Dad’s side. “Needful how?”

“Protect the tree, this does.”

“From what?” There was nothing in their end of the park.

“From whom, more like.”

Sheri unwound her braid and stuck the edge of it in her mouth.

“Mom doesn’t like it when you do that.”

“Mom isn’t here,” Sheri stated. Besides, her sister was just jealous because her own hair was too short to suck on. “Protect from who? And why?”

“‘Tis for me to know and for you to find out,” Marina regarded the ring of metal stakes, the tree, her sister’s face.

“You plain don’t know,” Sheri stomped, frustrated.

Marina smiled.

 

 

 

For Crispina’s CCC challenge #55

 

 

Roundabout Waiting

Photo prompt: © C.E. Ayr

 

“He’s still there.” Morty whispered, his nose to the window.

“What’s he waiting for?” Bella pushed Morty over to make room, pressed her head to his.

“I dunnow.”

“You’re not even allowed to stop for pick-up on roundabouts,” Bella noted.

Morty sighed. Since she’d found a driver’s-ed pamphlet, his twin had turned an insufferable source of traffic trivia. Never mind it’d be a million years before she could drive.

“Should we go ask?” Bella fidgeted.

Morty shook his head. “Dad said wait here.”

“But it’s been eight hours!”

It had. And almost as long since the old man showed up.

 

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

 

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

 

Unspoken

rosalind-chang--Cu2Zd37ytU-unsplash

Photo: Rosalind Chang on Unsplash

 

It was a thing they would not utter. Ineffable. In their home, at least.

So much that it baffled them to see how others in their own homes — and often without a moment’s hesitation — did.

To them it felt impossible. Dangerous … though they wouldn’t dream admitting fear or conflict.

Those, too, were taboo. As was to contradict.

Their parents’ word was law. Speak “No”, and you would certainly be whipped.

 

 

 

For Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt: ineffable in 70 words

 

Dressed Down

marjorie-bertrand-eyzzqAQhcjI-unsplash
Photo: Marjorie Bertrand on Unsplash

 

He eyed her twirling in her tutu and his heart squeezed with longing.

He wanted to do that, too. It was not fair that it was not allowed.

That only girls could.

Be princesses.

Wear dresses.

Put on make up.

Play with dolls.

Paint their nails.

He’d tried, of course, but he could tell that even those who did not outright take things from him or forbid him or call him hurtful names, didn’t really feel comfortable with his choices. There was that look they gave, the forced smile, the way they inevitably ran out of patience and gave him “other suggestions” or directed him toward “trying other things.” He was given gifts that made it clear that what he’d asked for was not acceptable and therefore required others choose for him.

He could tell his parents were ashamed.

They loved him. He knew. But they didn’t quite love that part of him. The part that he loved in himself the most. The part that he hated. Sometimes.

It wasn’t even that he didn’t like sports, or climbing trees, or making mud pies. He did. It was just that those weren’t fun without adding a bit of dance, of looking for fairies amidst the branches, or pretending that the mud pies were part of a birthday bakery for princesses.

They kept saying how “wonderful it was to have such an imagination,” but their body language told him that they’d have much preferred if his imagination didn’t quite go where it wanted to. That they would have liked better an imagination of the kind they felt was more appropriate for boys.

“Do you want to be a girl?” his sister asked. They were in her room for a tea party. She was wearing one of her ballet-princess dresses and the full set of jewelry she’d gotten from Grandma just the other day. She let him wear the crown. They pretended this made him a princess, too, but they both knew she chose the crown because it would be easy for him to take down if someone walked in.

Or say he was a king.

Sometimes he envied her so much that it carved a hole into the center of his being. The ease and confidence with which she could prance around in rustling taffeta and glittery baubles, the smiles she got when she dressed up and smeared lipstick on her face … It hurt. It hurt. It hurt.

She let him into her world, but they both know that it was not his to live in. They both knew that when her friends came for a play-date he would be excluded. They both knew that even with no dress on, and with a crown fit for a king, at any moment someone might barge in, and frown, and find a reason to ‘redirect’ him.

Her question made him cry.

Because he didn’t want to be a girl.

He wanted to be a boy who liked playing with dolls and painting his nails and having tea parties and trying on dresses and decorating mud-pie cakes for princesses.

And yet … it would have been so easy. If he were a girl.

No frowns. No shaming. No overhearing adults talk of how he needed “toughening up” or was “too sensitive” or was “definitely gay-material” or “headed in the wrong direction.” Not having to know that Mom and Dad and Grandma and Grandpa were kind of ashamed of him.

“I want to be me,” he sobbed, and fingered a dress his sister discarded and that he would give his heart to be allowed to put on without fear. “I just want to be me … and I don’t understand why it is wrong.”

 

 

 

For Linda Hill’s SoCS challenge: dress

 

 

Poke Practice

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

“I’ll flunk.”

Malinda sighed. Her brother needed an inordinate amount of putting up with.

“You’ll be fine,” she forced calmness into her voice. In part because she felt bad for him — Jerrod had always been too sensitive and too-tightly wound — and in part because she did not wish to then have even more of his perceived wounding to bandage.

“I’ve flunked it before.”

He had. Three times.

“You were younger and you were less experienced,” Malinda soothed. “Here, have some tea. It’ll calm your nerves.”

Jerrod folded his legs and lowered himself to the floor, only to spring back up and resume pacing.

“What if I don’t pass this time, either?” the youth fretted. His hair was plastered against his bony cheeks and his gray eyes appeared sunken under the woolen hood of his cloak.

Malinda took a deep breath. It was becoming increasingly difficult to believe that the morose youngster was ever the cherub-faced toddler she’d cuddled to sleep, and whose ringlets were impossible to resist poking a finger through.

Poking. … How odd that this was what her memory conjured. Or perhaps not so odd. Considering.

“Sit, Jerrod,” she repeated, putting an order behind her voice. He was not helping himself by fanning the flames of anxiety. He needed controlled calm in order to tame flame.

He sat and she handed him the wooden cup filled with steaming liquid.

“What’s in it?” his voice rose with a wariness she knew had nothing to do with the contents of the tea.

“Pine and honey. Nothing altering. You know I would not break the rules about such things.”

“Not even for me?”

His vulnerability and neediness grated. She breathed to calm herself. She could not ask of him what she did not require of herself. “Not even to you,” she emphasized. “One cannot poke fire when their own mind is on the flee.”

He blushed. He knew that. Everyone did.

“I’m scared,” he admitted, nose buried in the drink.

“I know,” she said gently. “Let the fear become the center of your gravity, then send it through your arm. Use it to concentrate your force. Fear is energy. Make it work for you.”

“Is that what you did?”

Malinda felt her eyebrows rise. People did not ask others how they’d passed their Poke Test. She was of a mind to remind her brother of the intrusiveness of his query, but she knew it would only further increase Jerrod’s sense of isolation. Perhaps others did not ask because they did not feel the need to. Obviously he did.

“Yes,” she replied, and the word brought back the trepidation she’d felt. The mix of terror and excitement, the flush of fear that became an arrow of determined indignation. She had passed. On the very first try.

She closed her eyes at the revisiting of the panic and the thrill.

She’d just completed her one-digit years and became eligible for attempting the Poke Test. To tame and manipulate fire was to be afforded the respect suitable for one who mastered the life-element they could none of them survive without. Fire was life. To know it, to master it, was a necessity and therefore a right of passage.

Some, like her, passed the Poke Test soon after turning ten. Jerrod had tried, and failed. And tried, and failed. And tried and failed again. Cowering before the flame he was reduced to tears, allowing the tongues of fire to do as they wished. He could not master it. It mastered him.

He was thirteen now. The oldest among those who were yet to conquer fire. Save for Leon, who was almost twenty but soft in the head. Even Sandra, who was blind, had tamed the blaze by twelve.

“Yes,” Malinda repeated. “I was afraid, but I turned that fear into a wand and ordered the flames to bend to my will.”

“A wand?” Jerrod’s eyes met hers, and she hoped that the glimmer she saw in them was of will-power rather than the sheen of anticipated defeat.

She nodded. The sound of bugle resonated. It was time.

“Come, brother,” she grabbed his hand and pulled him up to a stand. “Today, you pass from child to man. Go and tame the fire with your wand.”

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s Write Photo challenge

 

 

Grounded

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

“Where did you find it?”

The boy’s face reflected his struggle: to tell the truth would be to admit he’d been doing what he oughtn’t, but to withhold the truth could mean that what needs to happen, won’t.

The woman waited. Integrity was best cultivated by one’s own appreciation of the internal equilibrium that is restored by accepting the inherent benefit of right versus wrong, and not by shaming or attempting to compel it via fear of punishment.

She knew, of course, that he’d been out of bed, and on a night when he’d already been grounded for breaking his sister’s carpentry project. All the more reason, she thought, to let him find a place to dig himself out of a hole of misdemeanors.

Some children tended to break rules all the time. Her son did not. Or at least not without what one could usually understand as good reason. That the nine-year-old had refused to say why he’d demolished Liz’s contraption, and that he did not argue when he’d been sent to his room, told her there was already more to the story than what he was willing to tell her.

The moment lingered. She let it stretch.

“Outside,” he said. He lifted his eyes to her, having crossed the Rubicon.

Displeased as she was that he broke curfew, she was proud of him for finding the courage to admit it.

“I see,” she nodded and raised an eyebrow in direction of his cupped hands.

“I had to save it.” Timidity was gone now that truth was set in motion. “Liz said she was going to put it in her new cage and keep it. But it is not a pet, and it is hurt and it cannot fly and something was going to come and eat it.”

The boy’s eyes were bright with tears of righteous defiance. “I don’t care if you ground me till I’m, like, a hundred. He needed help!”

The bird wriggled clumsily in the boy’s palms and the child’s young face crumbled in uncertainty. “But … um … before you send me to my room for forever, can you please please drive me to the vet?”

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto prompt

 

 

Pharaohsaurus

Pharaohsaurus NaamaYehuda

Photo: Na’ama Yehuda

 

“It looks like a pharaoh,” the boy commented.

“Hmm …” the girl leaned her elbows on the display case to take a photo. Dinosaurs weren’t Pharaohs, but her little brother was obsessed with anything Egyptian, so it was easier to agree. Took long enough to drag him out of that wing of the museum and into what she really wanted to see.

“Do you think the pharaohs saw one of these and it gave them the idea?”

She sighed. “There were no dinosaurs left at the time of pharaohs.”

“It’s not what I meant!” His nudge made her take a photo of a piece of plaster instead of the fossil bones. “Maybe they found something like this one.”

“Stop it!” She hissed. They’d be told to leave if they fought.

“Sorry.” He was, only sort of. “Is it called a ‘pharaohsaurus’?”

She rolled her eyes.

“Well, it should!”

 

 

 

For Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt: Museum in 147 words

 

 

What If?

Photo prompt © Ceayr

 

“Are you sure this is the house?”

“It says 345.”

“What if it’s the wrong number?”

“It’s not.” She unfurled a sweaty fist to show him the piece of paper and its slightly smudged pen marks. “It says right here.”

“What if you wrote it down wrong?” His eyes met hers, mirroring her apprehension and amplifying the seeds of doubt that tightened shoots of worry in her stomach.

She shook her head, courage evaporated.

It was one thing to flee their miserable surroundings. Another entirely to knock on the door of the father who’d rejected them even before they were born.

 

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

 

Perpetuity

a channel of water flowing out to sea, with the sun reflecting on the water.

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

“You know,” she said, “this will be home.”

I looked around. Marsh and bog and semi-dry patches that high tide or rain were sure to turn completely water logged. It looked a misery.

“It will, too,” she added, even though I hadn’t said a word. She always knew to read my body’s thoughts, even when I voiced no words and moved not a muscle.

Some days it made me hate her. For my utter lack of privacy.

Other days I felt indebted beyond measure for not having to find ways to explain when words had never been accessible enough to match my thoughts with meaning. And for being seen by her when no one else seemed able to or cared to try.

“Wanna know how?” Fiona pushed a heavy lock of hair off of her eye and I knew then that she already had a plan, and that the plan was sounder than the muddy ground we stood on. I knew that gesture, that flowing move of clear-eyed determination that carried with it more than just a touch of crazy. For neither one of us was sane, but Fiona was nuts enough to get us out of scrapes I did not see a way out of. Somehow my sister, younger by three minutes and wiser by ten decades, thought ahead in moves others did not appear capable of anticipating. It had saved us, more than once, of certain death.

She was about to do so now.

“How?” I asked, though I knew she didn’t need me to.

“Stilts.”

She yanked a twig out of the soggy ground and scratched a diagram into the patch of godforsaken earth in the end of nowhere anybody, that an hour earlier I did not know existed, let alone that it belonged to us by ancestry through crumbling deeds that no one since an ancient relative had made use or taken any heed of.

“They thought the place too wet,” my sister noted as the outline of an elevated house rose like a phoenix from the lines she etched into the dirt. “But not Friar Felix. He saw the same potential that I see. The fish and clams and seaweed. The crabs. The cattails by the spring that makes the stream that gurgles out to the sea. A place to be.”

She glanced up at me and the hazel in her eyes reflected the sun’s rays along with something far older. Like a memory not of hers that nonetheless also held on to our own desperate need for belonging.

“I don’t know if he knew, Finley, but Friar Felix had bequeathed the deed to this land to his sister’s children, and to their children’s children in perpetuity.”

My sister turned her gaze onto the water and her voice dropped to a whisper in the wind.

“We are those children’s children’s children, Finley. This is our home. It will be home. You’ll see.”

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto Challenge