Complement of Condiments

 

“It is not acceptable, you see, when they forget the main …”

“…complements.” Ingrid completed.

“Indeed.” Iris’s gray head bobbed emphatically, loose bun nodding and escapee wisps trailing.

Ingrid touched a hand to her own hair, confirming the tightness of her French braid. All was in order. Good. Iris has always been unbecomingly lax with locks’ management and Ingrid could never understand it. Especially not when Iris was so particular about her condiments’ orderly array.

“I’ll get the hot sauce, then.” Iris turned toward the diner’s kitchen. “And have them hand me some mustard and mayo, while they’re at it.”

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

Time Lines

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The forest floor cushioned their steps. She inhaled the scent of tree and sap and hidden wet. She had forgotten the caresses of fallen leaves and ancient bark under her feet. A flash of sun painted a memory – a small girl running barefoot in the woods, knobby knees peeking under a faded calico dress. Oh, how she had loved that dress!

“Here.”

Albert’s voice called her back into the present. He’d grown old and grumpy. It made her wonder what others thought of her. Eccentric? Obstinate? Silly? Dumb?

She followed her brother’s pointed finger and her heart quickened. A dark line circled a tree.

“Here, too.”

She turned. A fainter line hugged another tree.

Albert faced the first trunk and lifted his arms. His fingertips grazed the line.

She did the same with the second tree. Perfect fit.

Their birth-marked trees had grown exactly as tall as they.

 

 

 

For Crispina‘s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

Little Brother

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(Photo: Jan Kopřiva on Unsplash)

 

When he grew up, he was going to be like his big brother.

Tall. Proud. Sturdy. Up to the task.

For now, he had to comfort himself with the benefits of smaller stature.

Getting into nooks and crannies, fitting where his brother could not bend or fold to reach.

When he grew up, he was going to be like his brother.

Heavily bristled. Proudly mustached.

Meanwhile, Brush put his still-short-bristles to good use through many chores.

This way, once grown, he could graduate to being a Broom.

 

 

For Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt: Brush in 87 words

 

A Heart of Stone

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“All you have is this little wheelbarrow?”

Marsha nodded.

Shelly shook his head.

“I don’t mind how long it takes,” the despair in Martha’s voice was overshadowed by determination. “And anyway, this won’t be too heavy.”

Shelly shrugged. “You’d change your mind after you make a few trips pushing this rusty thing uphill against the wind.”

In the weeks that followed Marsha wondered more than once if her brother had conjured the wind just to spite her. Dust and grit found purchase in her eyes and throat. Her palms grew red, then raw, then rough.

And still, she pushed the loaded wheelbarrow through gravel and scrub brush and small canyons of cracked earth that manifested overnight upon the path she forged across the steppe.

Slowly the grave-marker took shape.

“I’ve brought the stones from our creek, Mama,” she whispered as she placed each carefully. “Your heart will never again thirst.”

 

 

 

For Crispina‘s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

The Creek Don’t Rise

 

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“Tomorrow, God willing and the creek don’t rise!” Mama smacked the rug one last time, stepped back to admire her handiwork, nodded to herself, and shouldered the beater.

“But Mama,” Marlee whined, “everyone else is going!”

I watched the exchange from the safety of a leafy fork on the big tree. If Mama didn’t see me, she could not call on me for chores.

Mama stopped. “Everyone?”

Marlee straightened. Hopeful and suspicious.

“Every. Single. Person?”

Marlee’s shoulders dropped.

“Thought so.” Mama’s dress swirled prettily as she turned toward the cabin, and for a moment I could see the lass she’d been before Bobby and I and Marlee came and brought with us gray hairs and wrinkles.

“But …”

“But nothing. The creek is swelled with rain and more may be coming. No swimming. And,” she added, “You come down from that tree. I need help with the washing.”

 

 

 

For Crispina‘s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

 

Dream Come True

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It only took him 300 years. A breeze, considering.

Many took longer. Some – like Olives and Redwoods – required a millennium to achieve Elder. No fault of theirs, of course, but still … many times longer than he’d had to.

His from-seedling brother had thought him nuts. Literally. “Wait and wait to reach Elder and all you get for your trouble is being bent out of shape, your roots hanging out, and critters crawling in your innards.”

His brother had other aspirations. “Sail the world, I would. Ride the ocean. Move on the wind.”

Elder hadn’t had the heart to tell him that he’d be just as likely to end up planked as some dark closet, with no fresh air or birdsong or butterfly-kisses. Or worse, chopped to burn.

It’s been centuries since lumberjacks carted his brother away.

He was Elder now. Guardian of the path. Home of many.

 

 

For Crispina‘s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

Stumped

 

“We shouldn’t do this.”

Laura pulled the ax out of her backpack.

“Stop! It’ll hurt the tree!”

Laura directed a querying finger at the wormy stump before planting her feet and lifting the tool.

Monique stepped closer.

“Don’t be daft,” Laura sighed. But she did lower her arms and gave her little sister a long look.

Monique’s eyes glittered. The gal was going to cry. Over a tree stump.

Then again, she’d bawled over a crushed ant and pouted for a week after Laura ate the goose’s egg.

“The bark will compost.” Laura tried. “And … we need fire wood.”

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

Photo: © Sandra Crook

 

 

Partially Installed

 

“So it’s full of juice?”

Robin rolled her eyes. Her brother was too thick for his own good.

“No, Dufus. It is hollow. Or mostly.”

The boy’s eyes stared glassily.

“Don’t know what hollow means, do you?”

He shook his head and tugged on her hand pleadingly.

Robin sighed. Little brothers should come with language already fully installed.

“It means it has space inside. Like a balloon. Sort of. Only it won’t pop.”

Donnie glanced at the sphere and the concession stand at its bottom. “A juice balloon?”

Robin snorted. “Can you imagine?”

Donnie grinned.

Apparently, they both could.

 

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

Photo: © Dale Rogerson

 

Sitting Duck

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“It has no feathers.”

“Of course it doesn’t,” Molly noted. “It’s a duckling. It has fuzz.”

Duffy was not impressed. The small thing was squeaky and looked utterly too squeashy. She wasn’t even sure it was waterproofed.

She shook her head. She never was good with small squeaky, squeashy, clingy things.

“It’s only for a short while,” Molly’s voice was soft, but Duffy recognized the little waves of irritation that signaled turbulence just underneath the surface.

Best not mess with that.

Duffy sighed and peered closely at the fuzzball. “So what am I supposed to do with it?”

Molly flapped with such relief that Duffy wasn’t sure whether to be reassured or terrified.

“Just keep it out of trouble,” her sister called, already on the wing.

“What kind? How…?”

Silence.

Then a squeak.

The fuzzball waddled, pooped, and attempted to preen its zero feathers. Ridiculous.

Her nephew.

Also kinda’ cute.

 

 

 

For Crispina’s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

Top Terrace

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Finally, the upper nest!

Getting it was not only about ousting the head of their band. Battling persistent bumble foot, Bellow Baggins was not much of an opponent anymore. The issue was the other wannabes who jockeyed for position. Not the least of them being Peg-The-Leg, a nest brother and beak in Squeal’s side since hatching.

It took finesse, skill, and a good bit of cunning to throw the competition off the ledge. Figuratively these days, but no less satisfying. For Squeal never forgot the terror of Flight-School (or as fledglings called it, Fly-or-Die days). Peg-The-Leg had the benefit of an extra nesting day and a bigger mouth. It had taken little effort for him to shove Squeal out. Almost to his death.

No matter. Time had been kinder to the peewee. Now Peg-The-Leg was taken down a peg to nesting in the eaves, while Squeal paraded a top terrace.

 

 

For Crispina’s Crimson’s Creative Challenge