Indian Paintbrush

[Adult themed, lost virginity but no graphic depictions.]

I was sixteen that summer.  Little Telly was sickly, who usually took meal out to the boys in the pastures tendin’ the herds, so it fell to me even though I protested somethin’ awful, me bein’ too old to be at that.  Mama gave me an earful ’bout bein’ obedient afore she sent me on my way with the basket.

Bein’ sixteen I was rather headstrong an’ so I did my share of dawdlin’ as I went to protest havin’ to do it at all, watchin’ the butterflies an’a pickin’ at the grass heads.  The Indian Paintbrushes was all in bloom an’ the meadows was filled scarlet red with ‘em, an’ little bees all bumblin’ from one to the next.

The air was thick with the scent of pine an’ sacred sage an’ I picked me a bunch of the sage to burn for later an’ some Indigo for dyin’.  Took me clean near an hour to get to where I was meant to be headin’ an’ when I got there, there was only James Saller who weren’t more than seventeen hisself an’ as wild boy as ever there was.

I was still sore at bein’ sent so I didn’t give him no smile or nothin’ an’ set the basket down but Lawd did he grin at me an’ act all sweet-like.  He thanked me for the basket an’ asked after Telly an’ I said she was ill.  He sent his compliments on to Ma for the meal an’ then asked ifin I would join him for a while like a picnic.

Well, I had always thought James Saller had a nice look about him even if he were a wild thang so I sat myself down an’ he sat beside.  He said he liked my new dress an’ that got me to smile a bit an’ then he told me that he’d been thinkin’ of askin’ me to the Fourth of July dance at Todd Colin’s place an’ would I go, an’ I says I’d say yes but he needed to ask my Pa first.

Then he put his hand on mine an’ I let him.  Felt nice, an’ I probably was blushin’ like mad an’ he knew it so I guess that made him bold enough to lean over an’ give me a kiss.  Now I ain’t no wicked girl but I said I was a headstrong one, an’ what with bein’ sore at Ma I didn’t stop him when he reached under my skirt, as if that’d show her for sendin’ me out.

Lawd help me but he was makin’ me feel things I ain’t never felt afore an’ he asked if he could have a go at me.

Now my cousin Lucy says she seen one an’ I used to call her a liar but I guess I was about to see ’cause she says it looks like a horse’s, an’ he shuffled his trousers down an’ I’ll tell you now James Saller weren’t no horse danglin’ there but I didn’t much mind ’cause of how he was touchin’ me felt so nice, so I let him go ahead.

He pushed up my skirts an’ climbed up on me an’ a’first it hurt, but soon he were a’gruntin’ an’ a’hollerin’ like it were Sunday at church, callin’ out to God an’ pawin’ at my chest.  Then it were over.  I hadn’t never felt so good since never an’ he was pantin’ an’ smilin’ an’ kissed me again.

I pushed my skirts back down an’ there was a stain as red as them Indian Paintbrushes on ‘em.  Oh Lawd, I prayed Ma wouldn’t find it ’cause then Pa’d whip me somethin’ awful if he knew.  I took the basket an’ wandered back home, takin’ even longer goin’ back as I did goin’ out an’ maybe that’s ’cause my legs, they weren’t workin’ right at first.

James Saller never did ask Pa if he could take me to the dance.  He went with Jenny Larabee instead an’ I was sore for a while but James Saller sure weren’t hung like no horse so I didn’t stay sore for long ’cause then Martin Greene, Lawd, he was.

Every summer, when I see a field all a’blaze in red an’ the smell of pine an’ sage, I remember the day I became a woman out there in that meadow.

Going Home

Like a clock, the monitor kept a steady rhythm to mark the passing time. One could go mad listening day after day as the heart beats ticked by in their unbroken, relentless march. All that kept sanity within reach was knowing that when the sounds stopped at last, she would be free.

Jonathan sat beside the hospital bed, stroking his wife’s hand, watching and listening to the various monitors. So many tubes and wires were violating her body and he wished he could rip them out, gather her into his arms and take her away from this at last. Day and night he had sat here in this very spot. The doctors and nurses were always saying that people in comas had no sense of their surroundings, but he knew his wife was aware of him. He knew.

Today was different than the usual watching and waiting. Today another came, one Jonathan had long waited to see; the cool shadow that entered the room and stood beside him.

“Please,” Jonathan said, looking deep into those eternal eyes of oblivion. “Please, take her.”

The voice which replied was at once a thunderous roar and yet gentle as a breeze. “I must wait for her appointed time.”

He looked back to his wife, tears wetting his eyes. “But- she is in such pain. I cannot bear it.”

“For a moment only; it will not be long.”

His wife’s face – once so beautiful and full of life – now sunken and pale, her spirit holding to a mere thread of life. He closed his eyes, resisting the grief that threatened to spill down his cheeks. When he spoke again, his voice was cracked. “Is there nothing you can do?”

“Death is not within my power, either to gift or to withhold,” the visitor said. He brought his hand to rest on Jonathan’s shoulder, joining him in the bedside vigil. The monitor’s rhythm became the only sound in the room again. Only the break in its steady pulse roused Jonathan to look up again at his companion.

“Yes, Jonathan,” he confirmed. “It is time.”

None of the doctors noticed the two watchers as they rushed into the room in response to the alarms that sounded. The graph began to waiver, the erratic echo of her heart’s beat drawn out in a jagged map of extreme peaks and valleys. Despite the efforts of the medical staff, the line lapsed into a glowing green horizon which stretched across the starless sky.

“Beatrice,” the solemn voice called. “Bea, come now. Your husband has waited for you for many years. It is time to come join him at last.”

Beatrice rose from the bed. She no longer looked ill and beset with pain but radiated a glow from deep within. She glanced briefly at the doctors trying to revive her, then turned and smiled. “I knew you would wait for me, Jon.”

Jonathan exhaled at last, wrapping his arms around her and burying his face in her neck. She smelled wonderful, like he always remembered her, of rose and lavender. “I am going to take you home now, Bea.”

She held him in return and nodded. “I’m ready.”

They followed behind the collector of souls as he led them through the barrier that divided their existence from the mortal realm.

Death knew they would not be burdened, not have to linger between worlds to seek revenge or wail at some injustice. Jonathan had waited for his wife, but now both were ready to pass on. A smile tugged at the edges of his mouth; these were the days he liked his job.

A Little Tied Up

Creative writing prompt: Don’t Spoil the Surprise

You arrive home early, and it seems that your partner is already back. The blinds are closed, and you think there might be more than one person within. Confused, and a little suspicious, you quietly open the door and slip inside.

Victor wasn’t supposed to be home for three more days. That was definitely his car in the driveway, but something wasn’t right. Kyle sat parked on the street, watching the house and rubbing his thumb over his bottom lip. There was no movement, the blinds were drawn closed. Something was most definitely not right.

He got out of the truck, approaching the house from the side and along the hedge. The front door did not show any sign of forced entry. He tested the handle: locked. He glanced back toward the street, his gaze taking in a full sweep of the yard before he drew his gun and continued on to the back door, which was unlocked. He was glad he’d finally oiled the hinges; it swung open without a sound and he slipped inside.

The house seemed empty at first, no movement at all, and no sound. He moved from room to room, walking on the outsides of his feet to dampen the sound of his steps. When he reached the bottom of the stairs, he heard muffled voices drifting down from upstairs.

Kyle knew where the squeaky spots were, going slow to avoid them. When he reached the door to the office, it was ajar. He peered in, taking in the scene.

Victor was tied to a chair, back to the door. There was another man at the desk, searching the computer. Kyle leaned back against the wall, staying out of sight but listening.

“I’ve already told you what I know.” That was Victor.

The stranger answered, accent a little hard to follow; sounded Czech. “Yes, so you keep insisting, but I think you are not telling me everything.”

“Suit yourself.” Victor always was a cocky one, even tied up.

“I might remind you that no one knows you’re here.” There was the sound of tapping on the keyboard, followed by an unpleasant ‘beep’ which meant the password had been entered incorrectly and the system had locked down.

“Pretty sure my partner is smart enough to figure this one out.”

“You aren’t even expected back for several more days.” There was movement from in the room, the voice coming nearer the door, now. Nearer to where Victor was tied. “He won’t be looking for you yet.”

Victor didn’t answer, but Kyle could just imagine the unimpressed look on his face.

“Well then, Mr. Renaud, if you can no longer be of any use to me, I will have no choice but to-”

The stranger fell over backward with a bullet through his forehead. Kyle lowered the gun.

“You’re late,” Victor said.

“You’re early,” Kyle answered.  He holstered his pistol and frowed now that he could get a good look at Victor’s black eye and bloodied shirt.

Victor shrugged. “I knew you’d turn up.”

“No you didn’t,” Kyle said with a chuckle.

“What? Don’t be ridiculous,” Victor said, as if chastising him for being thick. “You always come check on the place, even when I’m not here.”

Kyle hesitated. Victor knew about that? “I do not…”

“And I knew if you saw the car here and hadn’t heard from me, you’d know something was wrong,” Victor continued, ignoring his weak protest.

“What you mean, of course, is that I should have expected you’d get caught and dragged back here to retrieve the files.”  It took a few minutes to work out the knots of Victor’s bonds.  He could have just used a knife but that was such a waste; rope was always a useful thing to have around.  Once he finished, though, Kyle crouched in front of him, giving a quick glance over his injuries and making sure nothing was serious enough for a hospital.

Free of his bonds, it was now Victor’s turn to protest. “Don’t be tiresome; I only get caught when I intend to.  As part of my plan.”

Kyle helped him to his feet.  It made him worry how much Victor was needing to lean on him for support; he must have taken more of a beating than he was letting on.  He still couldn’t help but rile him on a little.

“Oh, so you mean when the KGB had you holed up in a base in Siberia, that was all part of your ‘plan’…”

“Obviously.”

“So, you intended to miss our anniversary…”

Victor realized he’d walked into that one and began to backpedal. “Well, now clearly the timing wasn’t quite what-”

Kyle cut him off with a kiss, then grinned. “Come on, we’d best get you cleaned up before the boss finds out you’re back.”

“You’re awful bossy for not being the boss, you know,” Victor said, feigning protest as Kyle dragged him toward the bathroom.

“Then after the shower, you can clean up the dead body.”

“Hey, that one’s your mess.”

Chapter 5: Symbiotics

The teacher gave a sharp rap with her rod for attention. “Children, settle down now, please!”

The rambunctious class of seven- and eight-year-olds quieted as everyone found their desks and faced forward. Thirty shining eyes waiting to be taught, thirsting for knowledge, all rested on their teacher.

“Good morning, class.”

“Good morning, Miss Abydos,” the class said in unison.

“So, yesterday we left off with our science lessons. Show of hands, who did their reading assignment last night?” She noted a few honest hands stayed down, but most went up.

“Okay, let’s have a little review.” There were several groans of dread as Miss Abydos scanned the room for the first student to call on. “Leena, how many planets are there?”

“Nine,” she said with confidence.

“Good. Anna, what are the five elements?”

The girl in the second row thought very hard for a moment before answering, “Air, Fire, Earth, Water, and- um, Wood? No, Stone.”

There were a few stifled laughs and Miss Abydos shook her head, “I’m sorry, that’s not correct. Sade?”

“Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Metal,” she said, flashing a haughty look toward Anna.

“That is correct, but do keep your pride in check, Sade,” Miss Abydos said. “There is no victory in arrogance.”

“Yes, Miss Abydos,” said the chastised Sade.

A hand went up from the other side of the class.

“Question, Theresa?”

“Why is it Metal but not Stone? What’s the difference?”

“That’s an excellent question, Theresa.” Miss Abydos said. “Stone is part of Earth; it can be chiseled or marked or ground up into powder but can not be melted, molded or drawn into wire in the way metal can.”

There were some murmurs around the class but no one asked another question so Miss Abydos held up a glass vase. “Who can tell me which elements make glass?”

“Fire and Earth!”

“Very good, Cyn, but raise your hand first, please.” She put the vase back down and smiled. “Good, you’re all doing very well. Now, please open your Biology texts to Chapter 5.”

The girls let out a ripple of giggles as they opened and read the chapter heading: The Symbiotic Relationship Between the Human-Female and the Animal-Male.

Skeleton In Your Closet – Literally

Writer’s Digest Creative Writing Prompt: Skeleton In Your Closet – Literally

When you go to get dressed one morning, you discover that there really is a skeleton in your closet. Write this scene: ”discover how it got there, why it is there, what to do with it now.
(500 words or fewer)

Sarah had slept well, despite being in a house that was not just unfamiliar but was down right, truly strange. She woke a little after dawn, too comfortable in the soft bed and under the thick, down comforter to want to actually get up, and looked around her room. It did not take her long to decide the room was vastly improved upon exposure to daylight. It was certainly more inviting and didn’t exude that sense of being haunted that the candle-lit introduction of last night had left her with. Of course, the storm that had been raging when they arrived which accounted for the power being out was likely to blame for that.

When she heard voices in the hallway, Sarah at last got up. The lady’s maid had, she had been told, already put her clothing and things away, and she opened the drawers one by one, seeing what each held and confirming that everything was still in order. Next she went to the closet, finding not just her own clothes but some beautiful vintage dresses as well.

Curiosity got the better of her and she took one out, holding it up to admire herself in the tall mirror. She smiled and twirled and imagined the gentlemen who might ask her to dance at some fancy ball or other. Her daydream was interrupted by a knock at the door.

“Miss? Are you awake?”

“Just a moment!” she said, not wanting to be caught playing with what was undoubtedly a very old and expensive gown. She ducked into the closet to hang it back up when a flash of something white caught her eye. She moved another dress out of the way, revealing where a piece of wood paneling had fallen inside the wall cavity. From out of the hollow, two empty eye sockets stared back at her, polished teeth grinning.

Sarah screamed. The maid opened the door and caught the fleeing girl in her arms.

“Why Miss, whatever is the matter?”

“Someone is dead in the wall!” she said, pointing to the closet.

The maid, not one to be frightened, told Sarah to stay right by the door and went to the closet. She pulled the panel out of the way, revealing more of the body which still had the wispy remains of a dress hanging from its bones. A glitter of silver caught her eye; a locket on a chain. Steeling her nerves, she reached behind the skeleton’s neck to undo the clasp, then brought the necklace out into the light of the room and opened it.

Sarah, emboldened by the maid’s courage, came over to look. Half of the locket held a faded likeness and the other an inscription.

“Who is it?” Sarah asked.

“It’s the likeness of her Ladyship Eliza Murray.”

“Who was that?”

“She was Lady here, oh, a hundred years ago,” the maid said. “It was said she ran away with a servant.”

“I don’t think she really ran away,” Sarah said.