She laid her hand on the counter covering the quarters she wanted to use to buy the newspaper. She wasn’t sure how much it cost and since she didn’t talk, and didn’t have any more coins than what were under her palm, she gave the man behind the counter a big smile.

Eli’s smile was her gift. It was odd how people knew exactly what she wanted or needed, most of the time. She didn’t consider herself pretty. She didn’t speak. She never understood how things always worked out. But they always did.

The man had a mustache and dark brown skin. Eli liked to make up stories about people, where they came from, and what their dreams were. Or really, it wasn’t making up stories, it was telling their stories. Eli knew there stories were important. She didn’t know how or why they came to her, but they did, in her dreams. Dreams were important to Eli. Her favorite part of sleeping was her dreams. She had learned how to stay in them. Not everyone could do that.

When she was young, soon after she realized she wasn’t ever going to speak again, she had the first dream she could ever remember. The house was finally quiet. The fighting was over. He mother and father were each passed out in a different room and her brothers, both teenagers, left just as the fighting was starting. It was quiet now. She could relax.

She was four, an accident that no one wanted to deal with. She wondered that if she had never been born, if she wasn’t allowed to pop out as her brothers said, she wondered where she would have popped out?

Eli knew and she didn’t know how or why, but she knew, that people are not just bodies they live in. For some reason, Eli always knew that time really didn’t matter, either. She felt others around her, ones she couldn’t see but could sense. She could hear them. They would always be there. She had dreams.

All of that added up in Eli’s mind to more. There was more to see that we can’t see. More that must be touched that we can never touch. More we don’t hear, or don’t want to hear. More of everything. Living was very crowded and busy and noisy if you really listened and watched and touched.

That night after the fighting and the silence filled the house, Eli simply told the others who were still making noise that they must leave her alone, go to sleep, or at least sit quietly. She was thankful when the sounds that couldn’t be heard stopped.

“Thank you, ” Eli whispered to no one and pattered into her bedroom closing the door so she couldn’t hear her parents snoring.

She pulled the soft covers up to her chin and closed her eyes. She should have brushed her teeth, but she didn’t want to waste time in the quiet. Soon the sounds would begin again and she didn’t want to impose on them to ask them to stop.

She closed her eyes and was soon deeply drawn into a warm slumber. Eli didn’t understand the dream. She knew some of the people and not others. She didn’t quite see the place clearly, but she heard the voices and the sounds. She didn’t understand what it meant but she enjoyed being there. And the dream continued all through the night until the sun spread its light into her room. That’s when she realized she had the ability to stay in her dream and it was the only time she would ever talk.

“Sun, stay away for a while, I want to finish my dream,” Thick clouds rolled over the sun covering it blaze.

“Thank you, sun.” Eli always gave thanks.

“Come back. I didn’t see what happened. Please come back, I want to play.” Eli spoke to the specters in her dream and they obliged. And the dream took a turn. No longer was it a story Eli didn’t understand, at least not yet. It was her perfect playground with perfect playmates who laughed and played with Eli.

Finally, when Eli was tired and felt she had stayed too long, although she didn’t know why she felt that way, she thanked her dream friends and bid them a farewell.

Then she heard the clomping but there was no shouting. And she saw the smoke. There was smoke everywhere. He door burst open and something that looked like a robot grabbed her and ran out of the house. She couldn’t see much through the smoke, but she felt hot and the noise was deafening. She didn’t scream, because she couldn’t, or rather she chose not to so as to add to the noise.

The fire burned the house and her mom and dad. Her brothers set the fire and she never saw them again. Eli was sent to grow up with an aunt, the sister of her mother, who didn’t know how to raise a child. She had none of her own. But it was quiet in the house with no one wandering or making noise. Eli didn’t know why Julie’s house was so different than the rest, but she was happy to be there.

Yesterday was Eli’s thirteenth birthday and she wanted a New York Times newspaper to remember the day by. So there she was in front of the newsstand with her quarters.

“What do you want?” The mustache wiggled as the man spoke. Eli thought she might like a mustache if she could speak. She wondered if it tickled his nose.

Eli pointed to a New York Times behind the man. There must have been twenty or more different newspapers lined up behind him. Somehow he knew that she was pointing to the Times.

“You need another dollar.”

Eli looked down and pulled the corner of her mouth down in a half frown.

“Hurry up. I don’t have all day.”

Eli sighed and looked into the man’s eyes. He was busy thinking of many other things. It was very noisy.

“Here. Is that enough?” A large hand reached toward Eli’s with more quarters.

“Good.” And the mustache man took the money, all of it, turned away, slipped a New York Times from it shelf and plopped in onto Eli’s hand. She looked to see what was on the other end of the large hand with the money.

“You’re welcome.” The man nodded his head and walked away.

For a moment Eli thought. She listened and something told her to take the paper and catch up to the man. He wasn’t moving fast so she almost bumped into him not judging how fast she needed to run.

He stopped and turned even though she hadn’t made any outside noise, inside there were loud cheers and happy squeals.

“You’re welcome.” And he continued on his way.

Eli ran fast to stop in front of him. She handed him the paper.

“Thank you, but no. It’s yours.” He nodded again.

She nodded back but didn’t move.

Her head was chest level to his so she had to look up to him. He had a sweetness about him, something gentle. The sounds around him were soothing and welcoming. This was one time Eli wished she had not made the decision to stop talking.

“Is there something else I can help you with?”

Eli didn’t know what to say. She started to say, something, anything, but it wouldn’t come out. Words and shouts filled her head. She wanted to ask him a thousand questions. She wanted to thank him.

“Well, if there’s nothing else, I need to be moving on.” He waited. She felt the words fall into her chest piled in a cluttering and clattering heap. She nodded. He stepped around her and continued on his way.

Eli stood with her back to him. She didn’t want to see him disappear around the corner or into the crowd or cross the street into traffic and the other side of the world. She wanted to hear his voices, see his people. She wanted a hug form the man who looked like her brother. Not the one who started the fire. But the one who stood with him and accepted part of the blame so the sentence would not be so harsh.

He didn’t say anything. He was just about to open his mouth and ask her a question, when Eli turned around. She knew he was there.

She wiped her eye.

“Can I get you a cab? Or walk you home? Is it near? Where do you live?” After each question he waited. She didn’t want a cab. She didn’t want him to walk her home. It wasn’t near. She didn’t live anywhere.

He could see how she was dressed, the filthy backpack overflowing with items that we necessities, not niceties. Her face was dirty and her hands were rough. The shoelaces on her shoes were worn and knotted together. She was homeless, her aunt having passed and leaving no instructions for her care. Eli left the house as soon as it happened so there would be no instructions. That was three months ago.

“I’m Jake. I work at the Compound. Do you know what that is?”

Eli just stared into his eyes. She thought she knew what the Compound was, a place for homeless to be safe for a while. She was doing pretty well, but she just spent the last of her allowance on the newspaper. She was going to have to have instructions.

He turned and continued his walk. He knew she would follow. She was young but you could never tell how young. The street made children old. It broke him but he knew she would follow.

Eli knew she could trust Jake. His people and voices and sounds swirling around him made beautiful music. She didn’t know why. But she would follow him.

She caught up quickly but didn’t walk with him side by side with him. She followed behind. She wanted to watch him. How he moved. Who danced with him. Who sang his songs.

Jake could sense she was there behind him keeping a distance comfortable for her people. He could feel them and hear their songs. All was going to be well.

 

 

 

 

Firestarter.2

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The swirl of colors woke her up. It didn’t always happen that way. Usually she awoke from her deep escape to sepia tones. Her eyes would open and as objects came into focus they would be colored brown or tan, some maple or even ebony if sleep was deep and motionless.

Today colors swirled around her tinting each spot and object she focused on, not like a rainbow, but more like one of those paint spinners you would do at carnivals when you were a kid.

When the colors cleared, leaving the periphery of her reality, she could see through the window. The moon was just above the trees in the cobalt sky with wisps of grey clouds like a scarf left behind a specter’s flight through the night air.

Mags reached over to touch where she knew Rice’s back should be, facing away from her, smooth and muscled. She closed her eyes and pushed out as much breath as she could expel from her lungs. He wasn’t there. Then she inhaled as much of the night scented air as she could hold. Her heartbeat slowed, she came back into control from a momentary panic with a regular breath and fresh air filling her senses.

Mags always felt a jolt of fear when Rice wasn’t there when she woke from her slumber. She knew she was safe. She knew she could handle herself. She just wanted the assurance that she wasn’t left alone again. It was a fear from childhood, her parents’ death as part of the revolt.

She opened her eyes to the window again. She knew they wouldn’t be there, hanging, swinging, side by side, heads at an impossible angle, from the branches so carefully chosen just outside her bedroom window at the Manor.

It’s what they did, the Bray. They controlled by fear. And when you are five, fear is all you have when you find yourself alone.

She focused on the moon measuring its size simply by eye. She was good at measuring and knowing the sky. She had been asleep for not the usual two, but three complete days. That’s what the moon told her. And she remembered the storm was promised to move in. That’s why they chose the firestart for three nights ago.

Again with eyes closed and deep breaths she traced her memory back to the start of the fire. It put her at ease. Everything went smoothly. A snap and it lit. Beautiful orange, deep red a surprise, and blues and yellows burning the night. Back to the car. Driving into the Woods. Then the sudden stop to avoid hitting Rice. She took another deep breath. She liked surprises and the thrill of a mishap thwarted. She remembered the cold ground on her back and the leaves and his breath. The Firestart was a success.

“You should be proud. It was clean and complete.” A voice from the opposite side of the room from the window broke her trance.

Mags sat up, threw her few out of the bed, and with one great leap, jumped into Rice’s lap. It surprised him. He tried to place the coffee cup onto the side table when he saw her coming. He should have known better but he wasn’t quick enough. Before he knew it she was straddled on his lap, her cotton tee wet with coffee.

“We were good. Weren’t we?” She kissed him in every spot she could reach.

“Yes.” He grabbed her hands gently stopping her. “The meeting starts in about a half an hour. We waited for you.”

“Shit.” Mags pulled herself out of his hold and stomped into the bathroom.

The Manor was, like the filigree silver box, old. But it had gone through a transformation once the Bray’s threat had become credible, Madame passed, and a need for housing the Firestarters presented itself.

Mags held the cards. She was the oldest of the direct heirs. She wasn’t one who liked power, but she knew who she was and what duty and what burden it held for her. The family would have to give over to the cause. It was her call. She didn’t care what the other’s thought. It was the right thing to do.

Once the others moved in, the rooms needed updating. Small bathrooms were added. Some walls were taken down and efficiency kitchens built in for couples or small families who wanted to join the cause. Other rooms were fitted with rows of bunk beds for those in training.

But Mags kept her room, despite the memories. She insisted. They wanted her to lead and move into Madame’s room. But she refused. She not only knew she wasn’t leadership material, she couldn’t imagine sleeping in the same room as her grandmother. All those years and men from every walk of life and profession still held court there. Madame didn’t like fresh air and her room bore the aftereffect.

She didn’t feel contempt or disgust at Madame’s conquests. Mags realized it was part of the game. Women needed to use what they could to get what was needed. Madame was a master. Mags suspected that her grandmother enjoyed that part of the game quite a bit. But she also knew Madame did it for the good of all, if that was really possible.

Madame was always in control. When her parents were hanged, Mags would sit at Madame’s feet to learn. She wanted to be strong like her grandmother. She wanted to be smart and know all the details of running the Manor. She wanted to learn about the economics of waging war and how to feed people. But most of all Mags wanted revenge.

“Revenge is a bitter soup to sip, my dear.” Madame would stroke Mag’s head of long titian curls. Now she wore just a cap of curls kept close cut for convenience.

Madame lifting Mags chin up with one fossilized finger to make direct eye contact between the two, “One mustn’t respond in hate, it clouds the judgment.”

“And one must always fully enjoy physical pleasures,” Madame’s mien a bit haughty.

When she was young, Mags thought of the pleasures of hot chocolate and fresh honey directly from the hives drizzled over cakes of sweet barley. But as she grew and watched Madame, even as her grandmother became grey and withered, Mags realized that pleasure was also power and much more satisfying than a simple taste of something sweet.

And the one Mags took to heart deeply and immediately, “Don’t ever hurt the one who really loves you, else you will always regret it.” Madame looked out the window to the garden with her hand on her breast where the locket was always pinned. By Madame’s will, the locket went with her to her final fire. Mags was assured the burn was hot enough to melt the gold and whatever Madame had placed inside.

 

Mags pulled off the cotton tee and let it fall to the floor. She slipped out of her panties with a bit of a tease knowing Rice’s eyes would be on her. She smiled wickedly over her shoulder as she stepped into the shower. His eyes followed her moves until steam rose from the hot water hiding her within its swirling fingers and staining the glass with moisture.

“We’re going seaside.”

“What?” She was teasing him.

Without noticing, Rice continued as he thumbed through his notebook. “Seaside. We’re going seaside. I know you’re not as familiar with the set up there, but our maps are clear and current. We’ve…

“What?” She tried again.

“Seaside. I said…” He heard the giggle. Walking to the glass box, he kicked it with his booted foot lightly but with enough force to let her know it was now time for doing business.

“I’ll see you downstairs.” And he was gone.

“Bastard!”

Mags shouted out and waited for a reply that she knew wouldn’t come. Then she gave a hardy laugh as she finished lathering and scrubbing. Starting fires is a dirty pursuit. She would have to remember to put clean sheets on the bed before they left for seaside.

Mags turned off the water and reached for one of her greatest pleasures. Even after ten years, Madame must have left enough money in the pot and had someone with enough dedication to supply her granddaughter with soft and luscious towels.

As Mags dried herself off, her eyes caught her reflection. The scar was still there. She hoped after it happened the scar would fade. But it hadn’t. She was glad Rice didn’t mind it. But she did. Revenge was a bitter soup. But she was hungry and she was going to feast.

Just as she reached out to the mirror to trace the scar, she would never touch it on her body, it made it too real, the mirror shattered into a web of cracked silver pieces. The blast threw her to the floor and she narrowly missed hitting her head on the claw foot tub.

“Son of a…” before she could finish, Tara came flying into the bedroom.

“Mags? Where are you? Are you all right? Maaaaaags?”

Tara was her younger sister. She held guard outside Mags’ room. It was her job and she took it quite seriously. She was a part of the Armor. She was the most accurate shot and seldom missed during practice. Tara had not seen actual battle as of yet. Mags’ insisted on having the best to protect her. No one argued with her so she never had to defend her demand. It was a good thing because she was sure she would show too much emotion and everyone would see right through it. Mags wasn’t protecting herself, but her little sister.

Tara was only a few weeks old when their parents were murdered, but she bore the brunt of the heinous act. Tara was raised by an old woman and a child. One didn’t have time to mother and the other could only be a sibling. So Tara grew up not sure of anything except a target. She wasn’t as sensuous as Mags but she was just. Tara wanted to be sure all would be well. And it wasn’t.

Mags grabbed her clothes from the firestart night. She didn’t have time to find new ones. She dressed as she moved to find Tara in the bedroom tearing sheets off the bed. All the while shouting louder and louder in growing agony.

“Maaaaaags? Maaaaaags!!!!!!!”

Before Mags was able to get to the bed, a second explosion caused the windows to shatter. She could now smell something burning. The Bray’s answer to her last Firestart.

Tara screamed and began to pull on her hair. It had been a while since she sported bald patches, a tribute to the dedicated work of the Firestarters and Mags’ promise to protect her sister. But everyone knew this was coming. The Bray was strengthening. The Firestarters needed to regroup and plan anew.

“Tara!”

Mags held Tara tight. She knew this was the only way to get her attention.

Another blast. Tara pulled away from Mags pushing her off the bed and bolted out the door. Mags grabbed her backbag and followed. It was important not to lose sight of Tara.

It was beginning.

The soup was boiling. Mags was hungry and the feast was ready to begin.

.

.

.

Author’s Note:

Back to Firestart tonight.

I am working in an odd way this NaNoWriMo. I am hoping that writing from a prompt will bring me ideas and characters to put together. Plus if one story isn’t flowing, something new from a prompt might give it more life or take me down a totally different path. I’m game. Also, with my crazy work schedule, this may be the best way not to stress it.

Here’s to taking chances and writing for the love of it.

The prompt from Bonnie Neubauer’s Story Spinner was perfect for it:

seaside

The swirl of colors

uppity

sepia tones

sunshine

refrigerator

If you would like to read the first part of Firestarter, here is a link to it and my other NaNoWriMo entries so far:

Firestarter
November 4: Airstream.2
November 3: Airstream
November 2: Tea and Rosemary

Glass Slippers

“Why do you wear glass slippers?”

“Fur.”

“What?”

“Fur. And they are not slippers. Shoes.”

His hand fitted into hers. He liked her soft hand. It was bigger than his, but not too big. It was just big enough to keep the wind and the chill from making his fingers stiff. It was warm and smelled like lilacs, even though in the winter it should smell like pine trees and cinnamon and nutmeg.

“No, they are glass.”

“Fur.”

They were a unique pair if anyone would notice. She carried a small suitcase in her right hand. She held his right hand firm in her left. He was about nine years old, but was small for his age. This was due not to just poor nutrition, but genes. She was not his mother. She was no one’s mother.

As Anna and Ralston walked to the Great Cathedral others passed, sometimes bumping into her or him and never noticing them.

That’s how it was in the big city. That’s how it was even when they were at the steps of the Great Cathedral.

Anna’s favorite place to sit was across the street from the Great Cathedral on the park bench. There was a Great Garden where children ran in summer after Sunday Mass in their good clothes. And their mothers would shout at them to not get soiled for their later trip to grandma’s and brunch. But the children never listened, well almost. And the mothers would brush off and try to rub away the green stains from falling down or kneeling under the sun’s rays. Then elbows would be grabbed and little bodies trundled into cars and tires rolled away from the Great Cathedral not to return until next Sunday, to be done all over again.

Sometimes one little girl would obey. She would stand at the side and watch the other children shout and jump. Her mother would give her praises for being good and following directions. And her mother would tell her how proud she was and how much grandma will love to see her all unspoiled.

“Why do you wear glass slippers?”

“Fur.”

Anna led him across the street to her little bench in front of the Great Cathedral. They arrived in good time, right before Communion so no one was leaving yet and scurrying down the steps to their real lives.

“You have glass slippers.”

Anna watched as the doors to the Great Cathedral opened with a sigh as the altar boys, not girls, the same age as Ralston but garbed in long magenta dresses overlaid with white lace smocks, used their bodies to hold the doors wide.

“They look like glass. Like Cinderella.”

“She had fur slippers.”

“No. Glass.”

“Fur. It’s from the French. Fur. Furrure. Glass. Verre. You see? Mixed up translation.”

“Oh.”

“Fur.”

Her name was Anna. She was a saint. Not that kind. At least she didn’t think so, but He did.

He touched her heart, the world opened
It wasn’t worldly beauty she saw
But cracks and crevices diving into blackness
where the color of blood
mixed with loneliness a beauty of its own

Anna walked barefoot, not because she didn’t like shoes. Not because she didn’t have slippers. She wanted to feel. That’s all.

sticks and stone
may break my bone
but names carve
cruel letters
into crevices
black and bloody

Anna sat on the bench with Ralston across the street from the great Cathedral so she could see the bell tower, so she could watch his hands grab the rope.

Wrapped around and around the wrinkled skin
boney knuckles, yellowed cracked nails
first a heave, then a sway
wider and wider until her
skin reverberated
with His lonesome call

Sebastain knew she would come, everyday for the noon Mass, bare feet holding thin ankles. Perfectly shaped.

He smiled at His creation knowing she would be the saint He intended.

Today was like every weekday except that it was New Year’s Eve. Shops would close early for the last big hurray of the season. Offices would start their parties early, too, so the workers could arrive in time to other parties that would take them bleary eyed but hopeful into the New Year.

Anna awoke at midnight of the Eve. She had much to accomplish before Sebastian rang the first bell of the New Year.

Anna lived alone in an apartment just on the outskirts of downtown proper. Most of her suburban friend considered it downtown. She was lucky to get the one apartment in the middle on the top floor that looked between two of the new buildings down a narrow alley that gathered men and sometimes women looking to stave off the cold wind and possibly find some food from the garbage thrown into the dumpsters lining the walls.

This scene didn’t bother Anna. She understood. She understood that some people could not live the lives of daily jobs and paying bills and raising children who would grow up to do these same things all over again. Anna knew there were those who needed to be outside and alone. There were those who couldn’t be stuffed into clothes that constricted like a python living among people who chattered like monkeys. Their skin would crawl in agony in want of release. A soft bed, warmth from a grate blowing dry heat, cooking food to make it taste good, a person getting too close, touching, all these things could make a someone crazy. Anna understood.

Anna was glad for this long dark aisle that didn’t sport pretty tiled patterns and stiff hard wooden pews with kneelers on either side. This aisle to the world gave shelter, minimal and harsh. It was needed and right for those who found it. It smelled of urine and wine from broken bottles and emptied stomachs. She couldn’t open her window in the heat of summer because she didn’t like the smell. But through this glut, there was the view. Through the slit between two shiny new structures, one an office building, the other condos for the young lawyers and executives, Anna could see the top of the Great Cathedral’s cross and just beyond the magnificence of the Rocky Mountains.

She was middle aged, she thought aged “to perfection,” as the saying goes. Her hips were rounded and her stomach, too. Her breasts were beginning to sag, but they were real and soft and many enjoyed their pillow. Her hair was thick and sleek, not curly like her friend Pam’s. It was usually short cut right at her jaw-line. It framed her face perfectly. She didn’t care if men liked long hair on women, she had other gifts to offer. Anna worked as a banker, had a college degree, and cared for her mother in her last year of her life. She had no children.

Anna liked her hands. Her fingers were long and slender with tiny wrists. Ankles, too. If she could stand wearing high heals, her legs would be considered sexy. Gray started to peek out at her temples first. When she first saw it, the grey was ignored. But as the strands lengthened and some started to sprout from the top of her head, she decided that her only vanity was to dye her hair. She didn’t wear make-up. She couldn’t afford fancy clothes other than what she had to wear to work in at the bank. So she decided to dye her hair.

After her mother’s death, Anna didn’t go back to work. She wanted to do something good for the world. So she sold everything and found the small apartment on the edge of downtown. It wasn’t safe and her mother, and her father when he was around, warned her never to go there, especially by herself and, most especially, not at night. It was the first place she looked at for her new home and she paid in advance a year’s rent in cash.

Slowly Anna fashioned the apartment from nothing, except a few rosaries, small statues of Mary and St. Therese of Liseaux, a gold cross that was given to her by Fr. Gold on her wedding day, and her bible. She brought with her a small suitcase. She had been a Catholic all her life. But she was changing. She knew it, but the church didn’t.

Anna started to change the world by going to the Great Cathedral. She went to Mass everyday. She tried to volunteer, but things didn’t work out. She didn’t fit in.

Anna didn’t fit into much. Her marriage. Being a daughter. Her job. It seemed no matter where she went, she didn’t fit. She had a few odd friends, but not odd enough. They no longer understood and they certainly didn’t want to come to her new house for dinner. And she didn’t have a car any more to drive to their safe suburban homes.

She understood that everything needed to change. And it did.

Anna soon found herself out of the Roman Catholic Church. She could no loner make excuses for the incredible wealth the Roman Catholic Church held onto while people were hungry. She could no longer tolerate priests having sex with boys and being redeemed and hidden and excused. At the same time forgiveness and Communion was being withheld or some people were not even welcomed into the church building because they were living imperfect, human lives. Anna realized that, as in the rest of the world, if you were in the “special” group or “in” group, you were forgiven and included. If you were below that, you were a sinner and not worthy until you repented into their way of thought. Anna wasn’t unsoiled.

She was a liar. She lied that she was spotless when she went to Communion, not having gone to confession before. She could never bring herself to tell her sins to a man who might be screwing little boys, or tried to rape her grandmother. How could she trust someone who never apologized to her grandmother and still kept his collar and was allowed to say Mass?

Anna didn’t think this is what Jesus had in mind. So after Mass one Sunday, she walked with Sebastian and Frank out the main doors of the Great Cathedral and across the street to her church under the sun near the Great Garden, as she christened it, on the park bench to give her reverence to God.

Today it was blustery and she would have to dress accordingly. She loved that she had to start over with a new wardrobe, too. She sold her suits and shoes and purses during the move so she could start over here, too. Her favorite store was Goodwill. She could finally dress how she wanted, long broomstick skirts with simple shirts or sweaters. That’s it. They didn’t have to match. Simplicity. She liked the feel of freedom the flowing skirts gave. She liked the feel of the old, much-laundered fabrics against her skin. She didn’t have many, but they were ones she adored. Her shoes were simple slippers. One pair for each season. Fur for the winter. Clear plastic for the spring. When she wore those, she would paint her toenails, each toe a different pastel, just for fun. Flat sandals for the summer. And a pretty orange leather for the fall.

She had a shawl to wrap around her shoulders when there was a nip in the air. It was a black scarf with red roses. It felt as though she was wrapped in St. Therese’s love when she wore it. St. Therese was her favorite saint. One reason for this was that the saint loved to eat. The nuns would often find St. Therese in the kitchen after midnight chewing on a chicken leg. Anna prayed to St. Therese during her bout with cancer. Roses always appeared.

It is said that if you say an Our Father and ten Glory Be prayers to St. Therese for ten days in a row, a rose will appear with your prayers answered. Before her sickness, Anna didn’t believe in such things. But cancer calls for all the guns to come out firing. And every night as Anna was falling asleep, she would say her prayers to St. Therese, as well as her own style of rosary to Mary in thankfulness for those caring for her and for her family and for her friends and for acceptance and grace of whatever the cancer would bring. That was almost twenty years ago.

Firestarter

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In the rear view mirror she saw the light. There was a flash and then total black. At a count of five, just like she was told, a wave rolled across the car shaking it from somewhere deep inside. So deep that the atoms it was formed by might have re-arranged themselves.

Mags took a deep breath and thought about the sleeping pill, the good one, resting on the scarlet velvet lining in the small silver filigreed box zippered inside the breast pocket of her jacket.

The antique box had been passed down several generations or more. She could never remember how many. But was annoyingly reminded of the exact number by her leech of a brother every time she lifted the tiny latch to find her way to numbness.

Gace would always remind Mags how lucky she was to be the one to whom it was gifted. More than once she told him to shove it. She never asked for the box. She never did anything notable to deserve the box.

She just happened to be the oldest of the living grand daughters of the right and honorable Madame Enid Constance Margaret Crone. Besides carrying one of her names, all Mags did was to be born, not by her own choosing, but by the heat of passion between her mother and a stranger in the Spring of the Fire Moon. That was it.

She felt conspicuous in the open field. He told her she had nothing to worry about. The field was bordered on one side by a row of mountains and three quarters by a stand of old pine trees. There was a road, if you knew where to look, that would take her through the stand and back to safety. But she needed to be far enough away from the trees in case any of them tumbled from the force of the explosion.

Then she saw it. The flames. Actually, it began as a red glow on the outside of the trees behind her. It was the direction she entered the forest to get to the open field. It was the edge of town that was now engulfed, flames dancing high into the air.

It was the last part of the ceremony to commence. And she would complete it by removing herself without notice. She pressed the button and the car started. Electric cars were quiet, silent. She wouldn’t be heard. And the car was small enough that it would leave hardly a trace of its presence once it disappeared between the long legs of the green giants.

She didn’t even need to turn on the lights. The moon was full and the sky was a void of black so deep that the stars seemed like a shaker of salt had spread it contents across a black granite tabletop.

Mags rolled down the windows to smell the burn. She loved fire. That’s why fire was always her job. She knew how tricky it was. It could be a hot lover licking lightly at your face or turn on a dime to devour you crisp and black without a second thought.

She often questioned her demise. Would she prefer a joyful blue and yellow flame dancing in the wind accidentally touching the fringe of her scarf running up her chest, around her neck, scorching her with its playfulness? Or did she want to be the diva tied to a stake robed in flowing silk teasing the blaze to engulf her in a passionate caress until she was mad with heat and flame, singed to nothing but ash?

In the end, it wouldn’t really matter. Mags knew fire would be the main player in her finale.

As she pulled into the forest, the sirens began to drown out the lyrical crackle of her
handiwork.

“Bastards. Let it burn.”

She wanted, just once, for them to let the fire burn itself out. Leave behind what only what was vital. And that would be nothing.

To start anew. That’s what this was all about.

Mags reached inside her jacket to check that the zipper was closed. Then she tapped the pocket to be sure the precious box was still safe.

She learned her lesson once. She left the zipper open. She thought the box would be safe just tucked inside the pocket. But after touching the match to the fuel marinated twine, she tripped during her exit.

She didn’t notice the large stone. Unexpected cloud cover made it darker than she liked to work in and she didn’t just see the stone. She tripped as the line of fire raced towards the tall pile of leaves carefully arranged near the low overhang of the roof.

Mags picked herself up and continued on her way. As she was brushing herself off, she didn’t feel the box right above her left breast where it usually rested perfectly inside the jacket pocket. She turned and in the light of the now blazing pile she could see the glint reflecting in the pyre’s light.

Mags’ stomach knotted. She knew she couldn’t leave it. Not only because they could trace her to it, Madame’s initials were gracefully etched into it and everyone for miles knew what those initials meant. But she needed the pill. The pill was her reward and she would sleep, finally, for at least a day and part of a night. That was what she deserved, not the fucking box.

She was out of control. The plan wasn’t going her way and when she lost control, she couldn’t think straight. She also had less control of her body. Her chest tightened. She couldn’t take a deep breath and that meant there was less oxygen in her brain to help it work. Just like fire needing oxygen to burn, she needed a clear head to make smart decisions. She stumbled and fell again just as she reached the box. Luckily she gathered herself and made a clean getaway. That’s why tonight the pill was carefully zipped into the pocket of her jacket.

Mags stepped on the gas and was swallowed by the giants. Half way through the woods, Mags turned on the headlights, just as planned. Without a moment to think otherwise, she slammed on the breaks just in time. He was standing directly in front of the car. It was a miracle she didn’t hit him.

Pulling on the emergency break, Mags pushed herself out of the car like a wildfire
chasing down a hill.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

She slammed the door shut.

“If I hadn’t turned on the lights I would have never seen you standing there.” A big smile crossed her face. “You bastard!”

Mags jumped up wrapping her arms around the man’s neck and her legs around his middle. He grabbed her and they fell to the ground enjoying one other’s company and one another’s passion. She didn’t know if it was the heat of the fire or just her fire for him, but she thought of the diva at the stake and surrendered.

When he was finally able to pull Mags off him, he sat up and smiled at his protege. She rolled onto her back and stared at what sky she could see through the trees. They didn’t need to be quiet. The fire and the sirens and the crackle of falling buildings filled the air with their favorite music. They breathed deeply to be filled with the smoke of their night’s work.

They knew they would be safe inside the woods. The woods would be the first protected. The people understood the power of the woods, the medicine it provided, the shelter it gave to their food source, the shade, the beauty, the safety from the Bray. The woods would be protected first.

It was the man made structures that caused the pain, the hurt, the poverty. That’s why Mags and Rice did what they did. They were a team. One of the best. In the beginning there had been a few missteps. Ones that happen when people first start working together. But soon they found their rhythm. They understood one another. They could guess each other’s moves without asking, or even planning at times. And no one ever questioned them.

“We better get back before we’re missed.” Rice buttoned Mags shirt. He did that the first time and since then she purposely left it undone for him.

“I was good. Wasn’t I?”

“Yeah. It’s a great fire. You were quick and clean. I’m proud of you.”

He kissed her one more time and she was ready to sleep.

“Do you want me to drive?” Rice held his hand out to help her up.

This was one thing she didn’t like. She wasn’t a lady. She didn’t need to be coddled. She could take care of herself.

“Yeah. You drive.” And Mags stood without help and started to move to the car.

“Take it now.” Rice grabbed her elbow.

“I’ll take it when I’m ready.” She hated when he wanted to control her.

“Now. You know what happens when you wait too long.”

Mags also knew when he was right. She turned to look at him and he was holding a water bottle.

“Fine.”

She unzipped the pocket, opened the box, popped the pill, and grabbed the water bottle. There was just enough for one small swallow. He must have worked hard getting back to her. He looked tired, too.

“Thanks.” She handed the bottle back to him and smiled.

He turned and got into the drivers seat. Mags closed her eyes and sighed. She realized that he wasn’t trying to control her. He just wanted what was good for her. She got into the car.

As soon as she buckled the seat belt, her head rested against the seat, and a deep sleep overtook her. The moon, blood red from the rising flames, lighted the way back to the manor of the small electric car and the two Firestarters.

.

.

.

Author’s Note:

Day 5 of National Novel Writing Month. And today’s prompt is form the website of Bonnie Neubauer and her Story Spinner:

in an open field

In the rear view mirror…

sleeping pill
yolk
towel
ceremony

Previous entries for NaNoWriMo:

November 4: Airstream.2
November 3: Airstream
N
ovember 2: Tea and Rosemary

Airstream.2

Participant-2014-Twitter-Profile

Whenever he mentioned flying, Candy would immediately find herself in a daydream. She was glad they made a pit stop when they did. She had to pee and she was hungry. And she wanted to fly.

They had driven many nights and passed through numerous towns with the State Patrol sitting at the edges of some and the local sheriff taking a catnap in a patrol car in others. Apparently, Candy and Dick weren’t fugitives. Maybe the foul-mouthed antique dealer was more a pain in the ass to everyone than an upstanding businessman pretending to bring goodwill to Lamar.

Candy left Dick to his own as she grabbed a quick cup of coffee and a bag of salted peanuts once she took care of her own business.

“I’ll be across the street in the park.”

She didn’t look at Dick or wait for a reply. She was the driver in this relationship. He would have to learn to live with. Dick didn’t mind.

Candy always found a park with benches and tall trees. At this park she found the perfect bench farthest away from the playground. She didn’t want to engage any moms in small talk about their pathetic lives or their darling children. And she definitely didn’t want to hear the screaming voices climbing all over a metal giraffe painted purple with pink spots or the incessant clacking of the metal blocks on a giant abacus that was supposed to be a “Learning Tool for the Active Child.”

Candy ate her peanuts and drank the coffee as she made her way to her perfect bench. There was even a trashcan nearby to deposit the paper wrapper and styrofoam cup. She was glad she chose this day to wear the cargo pants and white shirt, ala Indiana Jones. She felt like an adventure was brewing.

One day she would have enough bills to buy a leather jacket, whip, and her favorite piece of Indiana Jones equipment, the fedora. Right now she had to settle for a perfectly constructed pair of pants and shirt. She spent hours watching and re-watching all five IJ movies to be sure she had all the details just right. She came up with the final design, a grand mix of all five movies and built her pieces with love. The pant fit was perfect. The shirt was right on, too.

Candy felt confident and relaxed and ready for anything that came her way.

By the time she planted herself on the bench, her stomach stopped growling and the coffee gave her just the right buzz. Stretching out on the bench, Candy placed her arms behind her head cradling it so she could see the clearing between the trees. The sky was the perfect blue for a daydream.

When Candy hit the Ladies’ Room, Dick picked up a bag of marshmallows and a can of yams along with a package of small aluminum containers inside the convenience store. It turned out Dick loved Thanksgiving more than any other holiday. Since he’d been on the street, he could only celebrate the holiday in whatever food line he was near. Sometimes they served his favorite dish. Most times they didn’t. It was baked yams with crusty marshmallows on top. Today was the day.

To celebrate his new friendship with the crazy girl who wore hand made movie clothes and said she was a performance artist, what ever that meant, Dick decided to make his favorite recipe. He also grabbed a small container of cinnamon and a brick of real butter. Not margarine, he knew that stuff would kill you. And he planned to surprise Candy.

Dick paid for the bounty and quickly made his way back to the Airstream. They had been on the road for several weeks now and she had a pattern. She would get up while it was still dark.

Candy allowed Dick to sleep on the floor as long as he was a gentleman. He saw what she had done to the antique dealer in Lamar even though he pretended to be asleep on the park bench. She was strong, fast, and smart. He knew right then he would never cross her.

He also knew she would be there for him if he ever needed her. It was funny how quick those things happen sometimes. You just feel it between some people. Right when you meet them and look into their eyes, you just know it. They’d give their life for you. He would give his for Candy. He had a feeling she would do the same for him.

In the early morning dark Candy would swing some kind of crazy pendulum above a map and soon they would be on their way. She knew exactly where they were going.

Dick marveled at Candy’s knack for finding parks in small towns. When they entered a new town Candy would know just by the feel of it if there was a good park planted in the town. Then there would be a rest stop and time for a daydream. If there wasn’t a park worth a pause, she’d drive right on through.

Only once did they have to drive through the night. They did a pit stop for convenience and there were leftovers to be had in the small fridge in the back of the Airstream to eat. And they kept going. They drove for almost two days straight and when they got to Carson, Candy somehow knew there was a perfectly planted park for a daydream or two.

Inside the Airstream, Dick felt like he was back at home. He thought he could smell turkey roasting in the oven. He could remember cans of corn, cranberry jelly, and green beans lined up on the counter waiting for a can opener to crank open each one and plop them into an appropriate container or pot. He could almost reach out and poke the fluffy buns tied tightly inside the plastic bag, brown and a little shiny on top from the egg white that was brushed on the dough right before they were popped into the oven. And the baked canned yams with marshmallow topping. It was his creation he learned from the neighbor lady.

The neighbor lady promised that this dish would sing gratefulness to even the most hard-hearted or sour soul. And she was right. No matter who Dick served it to, a smile rolled across their face and they were grateful to know Dick Harding that moment in their lives.

That was what Thanksgiving was all about, planning a beautiful meal to share with those you love showing them how grateful you were to have them in your life.

But life doesn’t always work out that way. Families aren’t always grateful and sometimes you’re just in the way. So Dick made himself and his yam and marshmallow dish scarce and no one ever tried to find out why.

So now Dick could be grateful once again. This time for the girl with the movie star clothes and her performance art, whatever that was. He had to somehow find out what that meant. Dick was patient. He knew the time would be right some day. Today it was grateful yam day.

At one point when Dick still had some cash in his belt, he had a Ford pick-up that he traveled in. He didn’t have a kitchen to cook in so he had to figure out a way to do it while he drove. Once he was listening to a talk show in a bar as he was having a few and a lady swore that she and her husband always cooked while they traveled across the country. It was exactly the way Dick was looking for to make his dish.

First he layered the canned yams into one of the small aluminum containers. Next he sprinkled it with some cinnamon. He didn’t buy sugar. He used the odd sweet stuff Candy had. She called it stevie or something like that. He thought she would appreciate the nod to her taste buds. Then he put chunks of butter on top of that. Finally, he poured the little marshmallows to cover it all up making it look like a summer sky blooming with clouds. He fastened another aluminum tin on top with some paper clips he found in Candy’s junk drawer. Then he looked out to make sure Candy wasn’t watching.

He could see her stretched out on a bench in the middle of the park. He smiled. She was doing what she seemed to love most, daydreaming. He wondered if she was flying.

Dick left the Airstream and quickly moved to the front of the Nova lifting the hood. He snuggly fit the tin near the motor. Once they started back on their travels, the heat would not only make a delicious meal for them, but the car would smell like Thanksgiving. Dick hadn’t been grateful in a while. Today was the start of new wave of gratefulness. He could just feel it.

The sun was warm on Candy’s face. It was the beginning of November in the southwest. Days were deliciously warm and nights were a time to snuggle yourself under fluffy warm blankets with the window cracked open just so you could hear the coyotes or at least the dry leaves dancing down the street. And the crisp cold night brushing across your face. He would be there next to her, not touching her, but present, safe and sure.

She stared straight up into the amazing blue sky. It reminded her of the blue of his eyes when her wore her favorite navy blue sweater. Every time he mentioned flying…Candy was flying.

She didn’t know if it was the memory of him or the stories they would make up together about flying without a plane, or even without wings. Jumping off the edge of the Grand Canyon and twirling through the valleys. Or stepping off a high snowy peak and free falling into a glide through the Rocky Mountains. Once they even told the story of being inside a hot bubbly volcano and in the eruption burst into the sky like fiery phoenixes rising from the burn.

When she really felt it, wanted it, and the place was just right – a bench in a perfect park under a warm late afternoon sun – she could feel as though she was rising into the air and she could fly.

Candy felt something grab her ankles and she tumbled back to earth.

“Hey, watcha ya doin’ there, girlie?”

Within seconds Candy was on her feet. He didn’t have a chance.

.

.

.

Author’s Note:

National Novel Writing Month started a few days ago. I won two years in a row but couldn’t do it last year because of my work schedule.

This year I started a day late. And I have a different kind of plan.

I am going to write from a prompt each day. I have nothing in mind. I’m going to be brave and just post my work.

I’ll see what happens. Day 1 and 2 are two different stories. However, today’s prompt led me to connect it to yesterday’s story.

Quite a challenge. I’ll see how long I can keep going.

Here’s today’s prompt from Bonnie Newbauer’s website Story Spinner:

in a daydream

Whenever he mentions flying…

abacus
marshmallow
yams
giraffe

Here are links to my past NaNoWriMo 2104 daily entries:

November 3: Airstream
N
ovember 2: Tea and Rosemary