Joined: 02 Aug 2013
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Can Be Found: Behind the Blade
1810.84 Silver Crowns
|Posted: Sat Dec 28, 2013 6:33 pm Post subject:
|The backyard of the carnival, where all those who worked at the carnival had their trailers, was a complex and chaotic arrangement of trailers, trucks, tents and storage areas. In sharp contrast to the precise and designed layout of the carnival proper, the living lot looked as if a child had set up a boneyard maze of toy cars in haphazard fashion which created twisting foot paths between them along with random and confusing dead ends which proved difficult to navigate, at times, even for a carnival veteran.
There was, however, a certain method to the madness. The back of the reptile tent opened up alongside Fia’s trailer and a storage area which allowed easy and unimpeded access for water and food to be run to the various tanks within on an as needed basis. It was here that Isaac and Boomer had ended up shortly after breakfast.
“Cmon boy.” Isaac grunted as he picked up a large tank and pulled it from its stand. Boomer trotted ahead, oblivious to the many dangerous predators, reptiles and amphibians lining the shelves. Isaac followed, sinewy muscles taught as he kept the tank steady so as not to disturb the large constrictor held within.
A shoulder easily pushed aside the coarse, olive drab canvas of the back entrance; allowing Isaac to step into the cool autumn morning. The crisp air caused a certain sluggishness within the serpent and thus made him easier to handle. Isaac appreciated such moments of solitude, rare as they were amongst a bustling carnival.
“Hey Isaac.” The salutary words cracked through Isaac’s pacific moment like a hammer through glass as he set the tank down on a beat up wooden table.
Boomer picked his head up from the dirt and made a low sound that was halfway between a bark and a growl. Isaac shot the mutt an amused glance without turning to face the owner of the intruding voice.
“Hey man. Whatcha doin?” Mouse asked as he came up alongside Isaac and drummed his fingers on the worn wooden table Isaac had set the tank on.
“Working.” The succinct answer drawled out without elaboration as Isaac shifted his glance from the tank to Mouse.
“Oh yeah? Changing the tank or something?” Mouse asked. Why was it always so difficult to talk to Isaac? “He looks like he could use a fresh one.” Added in the gulf of silence as the Dunk Bozo sought to fill it. He reached out to wrap a knuckle on the glass to try and elicit some movement from the constrictor.
Isaac snapped a hand out to grip Mouse’s wrist and shove his hand away from the tank. “They don’t like that.” Calm words coupled with a menacing stab of slate for Mouse. “Imagine if every time someone saw you they came up and boxed your ears.”
“Hey…damn man. That hurt.” Mouse yelped and jerked his hand away from Isaac’s grasp. “Most times people want to dunk me when they see me.” Mouse continued, attempting to inject a little humor into the conversation while rubbing the throbbing pain from his wrist courtesy of Isaac’s sudden grip. His chuckle died a quick death when he saw Isaac didn’t share the humor. “Sorry. I didn’t know.”
“Something you want Mouse?” Isaac asked as he pulled the cigarette from between his lips and exhaled into the space between them. Granite colored eyes read the uncomfortable posture, the obvious need to talk about something other than the constrictor’s tank on Mouse’s diminutive frame. It was as easy to read as one of Mouse’s many books he always toted along.
“Just saw you over here alone and thought I’d come say hey.” Mouse began, fingernails scratching against the flecked paint of the table top. “You seen Fia lately?” The sudden pivot of topics switching to the one which had weighed on Mouse since Fia had literally blown up on him the other day. “I think she’s been ducking me since…” Mouse hesitated, unsure if he should tell Isaac what had transpired.
“Nah.” Isaac answered amidst another gray exhale of smoke. “Then again I don’t go looking for people who don’t want company.” Isaac answered and tapped his cigarette to knock free the accumulated ash on the tip. “Probably best to leave that one alone till she wants to talk…all things considered.” Isaac had seen the blow up and the resulting inferno during his walk back to his tent from breakfast.
“All things considered?” Mouse asked as eyes narrowed in thought for a moment. “You saw what happened didn’t you?” Though he was the carnival’s resident Bozo Mouse was quite the perceptive one…he had to be in order to call out the perfect insult that would keep the townie spending money.
“Hard to miss.” Isaac’s antebellum accent slipping around the half smoked cigarette handing precariously between his lips. The simple observation made, Isaac returned his attention to the tank.
“I was just trying to help her to read.” Mouse began as he hopped up into a seated position at the opposite end of the table. “I mean, she’s had a rough couple of days and I thought it would be good to help ya know? I didn’t know she’d react that way…with the fire and stuff.” Mouse continued unabated; his tendency to ramble when excited on full display. “We’ve been working on different books every now and then and she’s been making good progress…until today that is.”
Isaac blew out an irritated sigh of blue-gray smoke as he eyed Mouse hop onto the table and verbally vomit every thought which ran through his head. He flicked the cigarette to the loose gravel of the lot and ground it beneath the toe of his boot. He turned back to the tank and eyed the mottled constrictor coiled up at one end while trying to ignore the continuing outpouring of speech from the other end of the table.
“…and then she just almost vaporized it…with a single touch. She’s never been that way before. I mean there was that one time on stage but that wasn’t her fault. That guy…” Mouse continued unconsciously ruining Isaac’s wished for silence with his voice.
“You pushed her too hard.” Dogwood drawl wedging a knife into Mouse’s words and slicing him off midsentence. Calloused hands reached up to unfasten the screen top of the tank and then remove it. The constrictor within made little movement, merely watched with unblinking vertical slits of interest.
“Huh? What does that mean?” Mouse asked, looking to the side to watch Isaac reach into the tank with both hands. “What do you mean I pushed her too hard? I was just trying to help.” Mouse added with a defensive jut of his chin. “She always puts up a fight…sometimes you just gotta push through that sometimes.”
“How’d that work out?” Isaac asked as he tapped his fingers along the body of the snake to let it know he was there and meant no harm. He gently gripped the constrictor behind the head with one hand and lifted with the other to pull the snake from its tank. There was no fear in Isaac’s movements, no tentativeness in how he gripped the constrictor. Fear only heightened their senses and made one vulnerable to nature’s inevitable course. Isaac watched, fascinated, as the snake slowly began to coil around his arm, finding purchase with its scales and evolutionary talent.
Mouse watched in silence as Isaac lifted the snake from its tank, sure that the thing was going to strike or at least try and get away now that it was out of its confinement. “Obviously you saw it didn’t work out very well. But that’s just fear on her part.” Mouse reasoned. “I’ll get another book and we’ll try again later.” Said more for himself than for Isaac as Mouse was determined to show Fia that this could be done.
“I wouldn’t.” Isaac spoke while rubbing the back of the snake’s head with his thumb. He turned to Mouse while the snake continued to move and twist around his limbs. “Go in the tent and fetch me one of the burlap sacks on the back shelf.”
“Why not?” Mouse asked before brows shot up at Isaac’s order, the previous question momentarily forgotten. “What? I aint your assistant. What are you even doing?”
“You rather hold him?” Isaac asked and stretched his arms out to offer the six foot constrictor to Mouse. “Favor for Lucille.” Though in reality Isaac enjoyed what he was doing. “We’re letting him go today. Now go get the sack.” Isaac repeated, a curving Savannah smirk forming on his lips as the color briefly drained from Mouse’s face at the offer.
Mouse hopped off the table and scurried into the tent. He emerged a moment later with a large burlap sack in one hand and came trotting back over to the table. “You do favors for people now?” Mouse asked as he followed Isaac’s bidding and held the sack open. The dunk bozo leaned back as Isaac leaned forward to smoothly deposit the snake into the sack.
“In exchange for her talking to Dixie…and getting her to stay outta my business.” Letting go of the snake and pulling his hands out from the burlap.
“Good luck with that.” Mouse laughed as he handed the sack to Isaac. “I thought Lucille kept all the animals?”
“Nah. Not right to keep em caged up for their whole life.” Isaac answered as he cinched the knot down on the sack and took it from Mouse. “Kills their spirit.”
“What about Rufus? He’s been here forever and Lucille seems like she’s never going to let him go.” Mouse willing to be distracted from the events with Fia for the moment.
A rockslide of slate came crashing down on Mouse as Isaac slid that narrowed gaze away from the writhing burlap. He fished a fresh cigarette from a pocket and struck a flame to the end. “Rufus can’t ever go back to the wild. The people me and Lucille saved him from saw to that.” The words spat out with a degree of prejudice rarely seen from Isaac. “We did the best we could when we found him.” Regret now bleeding into that anger, softening it despite the brutality of that place where he and Lucille had rescued Rufus. What went unsaid, and what was unknown is that Isaac had gone back to that place and ensured the people involved in that barbarous road side circus never worked again. “Besides,” a slow exhale of smoke as Isaac forced his blood to cool, “Rufus is happy where he is. They don’t have a problem expressing their dislike.”
Isaac gave a twist at the hips to look for Boomer. He saw a flash of fur as the mutt darted between trailers, evidently on the trail of some fascinating scent. Content to let the dog enjoy his pursuit, Isaac bent down to pull a hose off the gravel. A twist at the spigot allowing water to spill from the end. He began to spray out the tank, cleaning it for the next rescue they found.
“Oh.” Mouse answered, not exactly knowing what to say regarding Rufus. Unable to remain quiet, however, Mouse eventually asked the question again regarding Fia. Never accused of knowing when to let things be, Mouse found it impossible to stay quiet for long. “So why isn’t it a good idea to try again with Fia?”
Isaac continued to spray the tank out in silence. The water splashed and ripped along the glass, swirled around the branches and floated the leaves to the surface. The hose was tossed aside so the tank could be dumped out with one hand, the other pulling the cigarette free for an exhale.
“Not wise to corner her again. Might get more than your lil book burned if you do.” Isaac spoke, remembering the look on Fia’s face as she had shouted no and pushed against the book. That desperate for freedom kind of look. He admired such honest ferocity, could relate to the burning desire to be free and the fear of the alternative.
“But I didn’t corner her.” Mouse came back, a cross of his arms over his chest. “I was trying to help her realize that it’s not as hard as it seems. That she’s her own worst enemy when it comes to this stuff.” Mouse digging his heels in on the concept of help trumping another’s resistance to it. “Maybe if I apologized first and then brought up the book…” The ying and yang of Mouse’s existence on full display. He’d cross a line and the apologize thinking that made everything and everyone instantly copasetic only to cross the same line later and the apologize again.
“Do what you gotta do then.” Isaac’s uncaring drawl wrapping around his cigarette, gun metal grays focused on drying off the freshly clean tank with a rag. “Cornering a wild thing like Fia though…weren’t gonna be no other end than the one you got.” A pause to ash the cigarette and fix Mouse with a leaden look. “Just know that if there’s a next time…it’s all on you.”
“You done preaching?” Mouse asked, anger mushrooming up within him. “Or do I need to take notes on this lecture?” Biting sarcasm dripping off those clipped words.
The bifurcated exhale of smoke came through his nose, the breath tinged with a hint of anger now. “I aint my daddy’s Baptist preacher. Sides…sermonizing only works on the willing.” Laconic tongue laced with latent resentment of a personal history. “Let Fia be.” Isaac cautioned as he picked the empty tank up and pressed into Mouse’s diminutive chest. “Then go tell Lucille that I took care of Charlie. Make yourself useful instead of being the problem.”
Spoken as he dipped to pick up the burlap sack and hang it over his shoulder. He gave a look for Boomer before digging his teeth into his lower lip and eliciting a sharp whistle. A distant woof answered the sound and a moment or two later Boomer could be seen belly crawling out from under a trailer.
“C’mon boy… “ Isaac called as Boomer fell into step alongside the knife thrower, the pair heading out to the Midway and leaving a rather surprised and silent Mouse behind to contemplate both past actions and future thoughts simultaneously.
Joined: 02 Aug 2013
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Can Be Found: Behind the Blade
1810.84 Silver Crowns
|Posted: Sat Dec 28, 2013 7:30 pm Post subject:
|The walk out of the carnival had been a cathartic one for Isaac. Away from the sickly strands which connected so much of humanity together, away from the incessant chattering of Mouse and away from people in general. For a man who had never really called any place home, out here in the untainted stretches beyond the reach of concrete and glass…this was the closest thing to home.
The several mile walk had eaten up most of the morning though in that time the temperature had climbed enough to put just enough warmth in the air that the constrictor hanging in its burlap sack from Isaac’s shoulder had recently begun to stir. Isaac enjoyed these moments of newly realized freedom the most.
He’d walked until he had found a suitable environment for the constrictor to be released into. Not native to these parts, Isaac had settled on marshy area which provided plenty of cover from predators as well as ample prey opportunities. Isaac set the sack down on the ground and pulled the heavy constrictor free of the last confines it would hopefully ever know.
“This look like a good spot?” Isaac asked while holding the constrictor. He stepped several feet out into the muddy water of the marsh before bending his knees and crouched down. He gently uncoiled the snake from his arm and set it down in the shallow water. Ever a capable swimmer, the constrictor remained motionless for a moment, undoubtedly gaining a sense of its new surroundings, before it slithered away through the water.
Isaac watched until the body of the snake disappeared amongst a tangle of roots and the ripples of its passing died away to be replaced by the stillness of the marsh. He washed his hands off in the water, Mouse’s words still echoing within his head about Rufus. The waters of the marsh so similar to the ones where he and Lucille had found Rufus…
Over a year ago…
“Come on…come on…come on…” Lacquered nails tapped out a nervous tune upon the cracked and worn steering wheel as Lucille waited for Isaac to return. “Where are you?” She asked the night air, thick with humid expectation while brewing a thunderstorm of fear and apprehension. All around her the denizens of the night sounded their existence upon the warm air, each creature adding its own unique notes to the symphony of a slowly dying ecosystem. Denim eyes shot to the rear view mirror of the beat up 54 Ford before looking over her shoulder as if she didn’t trust the reflection in the rearview. “Come on Isaac.” Lucille silently pleaded to the inky darkness of the surrounding swamp.
Hands squeezed the wheel repeatedly in a vain exorcism of edgy energy. She knew this was the right place; seen it in faded Polaroid snap shots of the carousel’s images from her first and only ride. The forked cypress towering into the night at the turn off, the hard packed single lane road along with the pocked and dented red and white air boat tied up alongside the rickety dock advertising “Billy’s Gator Tours.” Each scene a one for one reproduction of the sights the carousel had first produced.
Lucille gave a covetous look to the pack of cigarettes perched tantalizingly close upon the dash. “Screw it.” She hissed to herself and snatched the pack from its perch. He’d cautioned her not to smoke, the light and smell could give them away, but Lucille couldn’t resist the need to try and calm her nerves. The flare of the lighter momentarily scorched her night vision though that first scratching bite of nicotine carved out a small island of serenity in an otherwise precarious position.
“I told you no.” The hushed drawl suddenly accompanied by the looming shadow at the driver’s side door. A snakebite thrust of a hand through the open window snatched the cigarette from her lips to pitch it into the murky waters waiting just a step or two beyond the one lane track of road.
“Jesus Isaac.” Lucille hissed as she swallowed hard in a doomed effort to force her heart back down into her chest. Cerulean eyes ticked over his lithe frame as her night vision slowly resurfaced. He was spattered with mud and the evidence of difficult labor married to the stress of the night dripped from his temples and jaw. “What did you see?” Curiosity tinged with equal slices of hope and dread; the hope springing from the desire that they were at the right place, the dread that the visions had been correct and they’d been guided to a place of suffering.
“You were right.” Isaac confirmed as he glanced back towards the tourist trap. The tip of his tongue sawed back and forth along an incisor, Isaac lost in momentary thought. “Lots of sick animals, hurt ones too.” Slate swung back to Lucille, the grim expression partially occluded by the nebulous shadows cast by ancient cypress trunks.
“What can we do?” The carousel had given her the vision though she’d given over the execution to Isaac once he’d been enlisted by description of the place, its dreadful conditions and the possibility of ailing wildness. She felt suddenly impotent as if the task before them was too great to be accomplished, azure eyes flagging as the first thoughts of defeat crept forth. Her insides were a Gordian knot of tension as she feared she had misinterpreted the carousel’s promise.
“Hey.” Speech subdued beneath an easy whisper, calloused hand possessing the smooth line of her jaw and chin in order to give her face a resilient lift. The softness of the gesture belying the tempest within; the last bit of gentle calm before the unleashed storm. “We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you.” Reassuring her, he tucked a finger beneath her chin as he released her, the moment gone in a flash as gray met blue and found a common cause. “Back the truck up close as you can to the pen.” Plantation prose giving purpose and direction to their reasons.
“Okay.” Lucille gave a nod, the gritty heat of his touch taking a long moment to evaporate from her cheek. Resolve replaced defeat as she dropped the truck into reverse while Isaac stepped onto the running board for the ride.
“How many of those bastards are here?” Lucille snarled as they passed several empty paddocks obviously too small to contain anything older than a juvenile. Even then the fences made it impossible to get to the water beneath a roasting summer sun.
“Here’s good.” Isaac held up a staying hand and hopped from the truck.
“Best guess is three. All inside and a handful of beers into their evening.” Words a crushed whisper of drawled velvet now that their truck was only a stone’s throw from the dilapidated house which served as home base for Billy and his crew. As if to confirm the lack of action the only man made sounds which cut through the night were a gas powered generator and hollow noise of a television projected through a screened in window. Though distance distorted the noise, it sounded like a baseball game…bottom of the sixth.
“Gimme one of your knives and I’ll go in and cut a bitch.” Lucille growled while heaving the driver’s side door open and stalked forward.
Isaac hastily slid his lithe frame in front of her, blocked her with his body and stymied her progress with a hand anchored to her hip and shoulder.
“Easy girl.” The beginning vowel elongated beyond the normal boundaries of accented speech as Isaac seized the dominant role, overcoming and inhuming her will beneath his. He pressed his body against her before walking her back a step, could feel the visceral vibrations of anger rippling along her warm flesh. The awareness elicited a savage sensation within him, gave rise to the genetic desire to defend and protect as if she were kin; a desire present within creatures like him since prehistoric times. The light gray of granite joined the calming words, injecting an unspoken forcefulness which fused itself to the press of hands. “You aint cutting anyone in those heels.” Wit desert dry as he sat her back down on the driver’s seat. Lips twisted in the darkness, a ghosting twitch of a smirk for her sudden and fierce outburst.
Lucille had been surprised at the strength contained within Isaac’s willowy frame and though she hungered to exact any form of revenge she found herself suddenly bending to his words and wishes. She pushed back as arms crossed defensively over her chest, chin jutting out in a pin up pout. “I’m not just going to stay with the car.” Defiant words blunted beneath the whisper.
“You aren’t going to get yourself hurt neither.” Prideful tone the calling card of a southern gentleman living out the cavalier code of the defunct gentry class. He’d tangled with the drunken good ole boy type before and wouldn’t allow Lucille to fall within their crosshairs. Isaac stole a glance over his shoulder to the house before nodding towards the bed of the truck. “He’s a big boy…no way we can lift him. Get the boards down and make a ramp.” Crisp instructions before he slipped around the hood of the truck, sure Lucille would do as she was told.
“I would have too.” Lucille muttered a promise to herself, stabbing at the air as she moved towards the tail gate.
Isaac arced out around the diffused curve of artificial light. Hunched frame that of a wild thing as it loped towards the alligator pen and vaulted over the rail. Boots landed lightly and sank into the mud along the edge of the swamp. He prowled forward, footfalls landing toe to heel to shackle any noise which might give away his presence. The surrounding calls of cicadas, the croaks of bullfrogs along with the entire host of biology did not skip a note in their nightly sounds. The advent of Isaac, used to prowling through such settings since boyhood raised nary a notice from the surrounding wildlife.
That other, equally dangerous creatures already knew he was there was not lost upon Isaac. They announced their presence as he crept through their pen, one by one turning predatory eyes upon him. A sound akin to a handful of pebbles thrown upon the water crept forth from unseen darkness, the alligator declaring its dominance and territory through its water dance. The eerie, disembodied sound continued for several moments, dominating the senses and blotting out the surrounding natural sounds of the swamp.
From another direction an intermittent, deep toned roar of a second alligator answered the water dance of the first, a showy and vocal dance for domination playing itself out as a soundtrack for Isaac’s trek. Isaac saw the cotton mouth of an open and waiting maw to one side and continued to move to the far end of the pen, footfalls fearlessly placed in front of one another. He was no threat to these apex predators and trusted that they would respond accordingly.
The pen was too small for so many gators. Isaac knew that Billy and his coworkers performed such acts, polluted the swamps to take other would be thrill seekers into nature’s jagged jaws for a few dollars so that the tourists could tell a tall tale of facing down the glades. And when they’d served their usefulness, they’d be unceremoniously shot and skinned, their hides going to some Fifth Avenue boutique in the form of a purse or a pair of boots. Isaac approached the far side where the largest alligator lay, its once proud body now listing despondently to the side. By natural rights this one should have been the dominant one of the bunch. Instead he was malnourished, cast to the side and only able to snatch what few scraps the others left. Eons of evolutionary perfection undone by capture and captivity.
He made no move nor signaled any sign that he noted Isaac’s approach.
As Isaac knelt in front of the massive head and noted the tangled nest of numerous protruding teeth, he saw the reason for the beast’s lethargy. Where the left eye should have been a gnarled, knotted tendon colored scar protruded and glistened beneath the milky sheen of moonlight. Isaac saw that the wound was too fine to have come from a grand battle for a mate…no…this one had lost his eye to passing prop on a boat or some other unnatural cause.
The two predators locked eyes for several moments. Had this contest of will, this quest for a show and acceptance of dominance occurred in the wild Isaac would have been dragged to the deep, churned in a death roll and become part of the food chain. Instead the large alligator blinked and looked away, quickly accepting defeat and exposing its neck for a merciful killing blow in the process. Fingers curled into white knuckled fists at such a showing, blood pumping like lava through the quickly mounting Krakatoa of Isaac’s temper. In taking the gator’s eye, in caging him for cell phone photographs Billy and his ilk had robbed this alligator of its pride, of its natural role within the wild and of its very will to thrive and survive. Such a cost demanded a repayment in kind.
Isaac shifted, locking eyes with the alligator again. Once sure that the alligator understood his intent, Isaac slowly reached out to place his hand upon the beast’s snout. The alligator gave a rumble of approval going so far as to lift its mighty head from the sand and give a quiet exhale.
“Mmmhmm…” Isaac growled back. “You haven’t forgotten who you are. Cmon boy.” Isaac whispered, rubbing the palm of his hand against the alligator’s nose and then along the side of its dangerous mouth. Had it been so inclined, the alligator could have splintered Isaac’s arm with enough foot pounds of force to lift a moving van.
“Rufus.” Lucille blurted out as Isaac materialized from the gloom of the swamp, the 700 pound alligator trotting in front of him, its belly off the ground and head swaying side to side as it moved towards the truck. She had no idea where the name had come from only that it fit perfectly upon first sight of the alligator.
Rufus climbed up the wooden ramp as if trained or guided to accomplish such a feat, the bed of the pick-up truck sagging dangerously low with the added weight. Lucille threw her arms around the suddenly surprised Isaac who patted her back before extricating himself from her entangling arms.
“Thank me when we’re all free.” Isaac grunted as he pushed the tail gate shut on the truck and motioned for Lucille to get behind the wheel. “Go on and get out of here.” Isaac ordering while tarrying at the tail end of the truck.
“What?” Lucille asked, steps faltering as Isaac indicated he wouldn’t be coming with. “We’ve got to get out of here…they could come out at any…” Lucille’s words trailed off as she saw the look upon Isaac’s face.
Granite tumbled down the sheer cliff of sharp features, the hardened expression conveying a silent message. Isaac had no intention of leaving unfinished business in the echo of the rearview mirror. “Just going to take a walk, clear my head.” Serpentine lies coiling themselves within a mask of honesty. Chief among the reasons he appreciated such creatures as Rufus is that they were incapable of guile, incapable of cruelty. He himself fell short on both qualities. “Go on now.” Stern advisement for Lucille’s questioning look as she inched towards the driver’s side door.
She needn’t say another word, willing to take Isaac at his word considering the other alternative of why he wished to stay behind was too grizzly to contemplate. “Be safe.” Lucille offered as she started the truck engine, depressed the brake and dropped the pick-up into drive.
Isaac had already turned by the time the brake lights illuminated. Shackles of reservation falling away as the time approached for the controlled, civilized and quiet half of him to recede to the shadows and be replaced by the brutal and uncontrolled savage. As the brake lights momentarily shone they revealed within their wrathful flare the wickedly edged hunting knife held within skilled hands which now had purpose.
* * * * * * *
The single exposed bulb barely illuminated the industrial sized plastic sink behind Buford’s carnival kitchen. It twisted and swung on the breeze, cast wild shadows which splintered and warped, reformed and grew in a never ending dance above the sink. Isaac stood beneath the bulb; arms plunged to the elbows into the deep sink, freshly calloused hands splashing water along stained forearms.
“I’m telling ya we’re pulling stakes soon.” Boz’s barbarian brogue tumbled from around the corner, the sound growing louder as he approached.
“Boss mon be makin too much profit to move, Boz-mon.” Andre’s deep, easy going Caribbean tongue clashing with the strident sound of Boz. The two Ride Jocks returning from enjoying a few adult beverages at the cook tent with a few of the other carneys after they’d shut down for the night.
The pair rounded the corner behind the kitchen and saw Isaac methodically washing his hands and arms at the sink. The two shared a look, their previous conversation forgotten as were their bunks at the curious sight of the resident knife thrower washing something…a lot of something off his arms at such a late hour.
“Isaac-mon…you been tinking we going to be moving to a new horizon anytime soon?” Andre asked and then finished off his Red Strip bottle. Benign question tossed out to Isaac’s unmoving back.
“Is that blood?” Boz asked, scarred face twisting in confusion at the crimson stains along the top and back of the sink.
“You be hurt Isaac?” Andre asked, Boz’s question keying him on the fact that something was quite off. The evening had been warm, soaked in humidity with little turning air for comfort which caused Andre to blink away dripping sweat from his eyes.
“Aint mine.” Isaac finally spoke, the sound of rushing water competing with that lazy drawl. At once confirming that it was in fact blood and that it belonged to something or someone else. Hands continued to slide down forearms, washing the coppery streaks and congealing masses from his flesh.
Both men, much larger than Isaac, stepped back in unison as Isaac pulled the carbonized blade from the edge of the sink, its razor’s edge cast downward to cut the air as he spoke. “It aint my blood.” Repeated words measured as a miser would his gold with somnolent speech drawled out at a do it tomorrow pace. A menacing flash glinted within liquid pools of quicksilver as the primordial within stared back at the two ride operators.
Boz’ question dying in his throat as he realized the ramifications. Isaac wasn’t known for killing animals. “Aint your blood.” The warrior Boz confirmed, hands up in surrender as he suddenly wanted no piece of Isaac. Winner of hundreds of fights along life’s crooked path, Boz was backing away as he spoke.
“Dat blood be gotten an evil tint, Isaac-mon. Don’t be leaving no drops nowhere round you.” Andre advised, equally taken aback at the sight, mind trying and failing to divine the journey which bloodied Isaac and placed that burning light within his eyes.
Andre’s prescient words were received with a sibylline smirk. Hands and arms mopped up with a towel before the hunting knife was tucked away at the small of his back. “Any more questions, gentlemen?” The rhetorical query tossed away alongside the towel as Isaac pressed forward to cleave a path between the pair en route to his tent.
Joined: 09 Jan 2013
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Can Be Found: on the road
1616.22 Silver Crowns
|Posted: Thu Jun 12, 2014 5:28 pm Post subject:
|It was the month of February. With the whirlwind of the holidays finally ebbing and the resolutions made in the New Year fading from memory, hearts were usually cracked open a little wider this month to reveal the essence of what ran wild and dominated the soul. Love cyclically entangled within sheets of Lust. Envy spiked the cocktails of Bitterness that had bellied up to the bar with its old pal Misery (He loved company you know). Then there was Loss who couldn't quite resist dipping her toes in the shallow waters of Regret (that always left something to be desired); only to wade even deeper into the darkened pools of Sorrow.
Fia attempted to outrace them all. Immune to the chill and speeding on a motorcycle won at a high stakes poker game outside of Barstow. Freedom, adrenaline, speed and an endless open road of possibility were the only things that appealed to her at times like these. When she was trying to outrun something that kept hammering at her heart. On this, the day of hearts, she was a gifted if somewhat fractured Psyche, earning the eye of Eros and the ire of Aphrodite.
Winter had come with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer and the Carnival had pulled stakes for the last time of the season. All the tents were taken down, the venues closed and the rides boxed up like expectant presents. The carnival workers had gone their separate ways; scattered like leaves in a wintry breeze. Where each went was anyone’s guess, but the good money was placed on most of them reuniting when the weather warmed and the touring season kicked off in the spring of the New Year.
Having no family of her own, Fia had spent her time during the off season traveling the Main Street of America on her new bike. What few possessions she chose to carry with her held in a beat up messenger bag. Having to fend for herself from a young age, she was savvy enough in the ways of survival to always be able to meet her basic needs. Material possessions were never things she placed a high value upon. They were as transient to her as whatever state she found herself in. This restless, wild heart craved adventure, new experiences, and new stories spoken to her from the lips of strangers that always opened different doors.
Finding a cheap roadside motel connected to a diner, she’d fallen asleep as soon as her head hit the pillows. She slept for what felt like days. When Fia awoke, she was famished and had a great need for some strong coffee. The diner connected to the cheap motel smelled like grease, home fries, maple syrup and all sorts of savory delights that called to her in a way made Fia’s stomach grumble. She soon found herself hurrying to throw on some clothes to partake in a stack of pancakes.
She slipped into a booth and moments later one of the waitresses brought a mug, napkin and silverware for her as soon as she was settled. “You look like you could use some coffee, hon." Setting the mug down, she waved the pot with an orange top in question. “Regular ok?”
“More than Ok. You’re an angel,” Fia gave the woman a grateful smile and casually observed her face without the intrusion of truly staring as she poured. There were dark circles under the woman’s eyes that she had tried to hide with a pseudo brave face of makeup and a distracted sweep of powder.
“I’ll be right back to get your order.” The woman gave her a smile before moving away from the table to the counter.
Fia’s mismatched gaze of peridot and amber tracked the woman as she moved back around the counter to tie an apron on. Another waitress approached her with a murmur that was not low enough in volume to escape being overheard from where Fia was sitting.
“Deb…go home. Get some rest. I can cover your shift. You look exhausted. Have you slept?”
Deb sighed as she tucked a few straws into her apron. “Matthew had a bad night last night.” It looked like it physically pained her to say the words. “Thank you so much for the offer, but I can’t afford to be at home. Donna is there with him. The rent is due in a few days and the hospital bills keep coming…”
“Are they still running tests? I can lend you some money. It’s not much…but with John back at work now….”
“No Connie. You have your own worries with the house.” Deb clasped her friend’s hand in a manner that could only be described as fierce gratitude as she met the other woman’s eyes. “But I thank you for the offer. Truly. I better get back to get this lady's order.” A glance over her shoulder to Fia.
When their eyes connected, the sorrow she saw there gave Fia a pang in the center of her chest. A rattle behind the cage of her ribs as if what she saw in the woman’s eyes just disturbed whatever it was that had been slumbering. Ripples of energy fanned out from that initial pang and a wave of dizziness came over her. She touched her fingers to her temple, her brows drawing together.
“You ok hon?” She heard the woman’s voice, cautious and hedging, but it felt like she was hearing it from under water. The waitress placed a tentative hand on Fia’s shoulder.
“I’m ok.” Fia heard herself say. Assuring the woman she was fine as she gripped the table as if it were a lifeline. “I think I’m just hungr…..”
As soon as she felt the woman’s hand touch her shoulder, there was a flash of heat radiating between her brows and the room suddenly seemed to spin off its axis before Fia slumped against the table, her gaze on the blackness of her coffee before there was a clatter of tableware falling to the floor. Alarmed voices and scuffling footsteps faded from her ears before she fell into the blackness of unconsciousness.
When the darkness receded, she found herself standing in a long hallway with a blade in her right hand a candle held in the other. A door on the right side of the hall opened slowly to reveal the waitress from the diner holding her son.
The boy could not have been older than four and was shaking violently on the ground. His Mother held him, whispering soothing words against him, telling him it would pass, it would all be over soon. Holding him close as if she could absorb the shock waves tearing through his body with her own.
“My boy…my sweet boy….my son.” Why does he have to carry this… burden? He’s so small. Why? Give it to me. Let me take it. Give me the pain. Let me take it. Let me carry it for him. Let me take it. She pleaded over and over endlessly in her mind.
Fia could feel her helplessness, the anguish that all her endless love for her son could do nothing to stop the coming wave of tremors; nothing but provide the warmth of her presence and comfort. The comfort of not being alone. Fia gripped the blade as if she wished to tear out the anguish, or to fight whatever was causing the tremors within the boy.
“Why is this happening? Why are you doing this?” The Mother asked helplessly, groping for an unseen presence she had called to in endless hospitals, had looked to for answers in the corners of the ceiling during sleepless nights at her son’s bedside. “Why are you doing this?” Whispered dangerously low once again. A quiet thing, a slow gathering storm that gathered its fury and indignation across the expanse of her psyche. Shredding through all of her maternal patience and seeping through the exhaustion after endless nights of sleep deprivation. “Why are you doing this?!” A primal anger releasing as the anguish tore at her chest and throat like claws trying to release its scream that was just as quickly swallowed by silent sobs that were shoved down to the depths of her being.
Perhaps she would release them later, let them wash away with the merciful hot water of the shower when he was finally asleep. She would not scare her son for he had endured enough. He needed her to be strong for him, to be his comfort. She rocked her boy until the tremors eased, humming his favorite songs that seemed to make it all better. If only for a little while.
Tears filled Fia’s eyes for the woman. It seeped into the cracks of her heart as that door slowly closed on the Mother and Son and she was drawn down even further into a long, long hallway of impossible brightness. She walked further and found that she stood in front of another door. One that went back two thousand years ago.
Fia began to tremble as she stood in front of the door, to shake as violently as the boy had.
My son….my Son…
The words kept echoing over and over. Words that had touched her ears years so many lifetimes ago as she stood by the side of another Mother who held her son in anguish and helplessness. A soul who had carried a burden that few would ever truly understand in its magnitude.
“Don’t.” The single word brought up as if it was a shield, she gripped the blade she held in her right hand as if it would protect her from what was behind that door. Suddenly like a feral, injured animal with an instinct to protect itself, her whole body tensed. “I’m not ready. Please don’t.” She pleaded, softer now as those tremors rocked through the very core of her being and she tried to pull against the riptide of memory to keep it from pulling her under.
She had been holding this pain for so long and she knew exactly what was on the other side of that door. There was nothing that could speed her away from it this time. She could not run away, she could not shut it out or drown it out. She knew that the woman and her son were the catalyst, the trigger to guide her to this moment and ask her to open it. To give her one more chance to look at it and release it finally.
She felt His presence all around her before she heard His voice. That same Son with the breathtaking blue eyes from so many years ago. His energy held a strength that leveled her. It cut through every shield she had left, exposing raw layers of vulnerability but always with an impossible gentleness.
The golden warmth she felt before flooded through the hallway they were currently standing in. The one with no visible walls, only the walls she held within her. She was intimate with them. She had constructed each one herself. The shaking ceased as He lay a hand on her shoulder and the tenderness of the touch brought her to her knees. As if the burden from what she had been holding was too great to carry any longer on her own. The pure love of his touch caused her knees to buckle. There was nothing to do but to surrender to it.
“Would you lay the blade down?” He asked as she felt him kneel right beside her. Always beside her. [i[“It is not needed now. Not here with me. Nothing will harm you. You are safe. The door will not open until you are ready.”[/i]
He asked her. He always asked her. Always let it be her choice in the end. Never ordered, never commanded, never guilted, judged or shamed her. He still wore his power so lightly if only so that others would feel completely at ease in his presence and always reminded others of their own. “I have nothing that is not already within you,” He often told her.
Perhaps the only soul that could get her to lay down her defenses, Fia rested the blade on the ground as the tremors finally eased from her hands. She felt vulnerable without it, impossibly fragile, the candle still held in her left hand was clutched tightly as if she could absorb some strength from the light of that little flame. Her namesake.
“You have opened doors for so many and cannot bring yourself to open such an important one for yourself? I have always told you it was my choice. You could not have taken that from me. You could not have changed it. It was mine to carry. Just as you were chosen to be by my side. You gave me comfort. You brought me peace. I told you I would always be with you. I have never lied to you. I can bring you to the door, I can take the pain behind it, but you have to be the one to open it and let it go. I cannot open that door for you. Hanging onto the pain is not the same as hanging on to me. You will not lose me if you lay it down. You will not have to face it alone. I am right here.”
Fia spoke softly, a vulnerability shown to him alone as the sob worked its way up the slender column of her spine. “When I feel you like this…it’s like exposing a wound. It gets harder to close every time I wake up.”
“You are creating that wound with the thought that I am leaving you. You have created that divide between us that I would see you overcome. You must realize I am a part of you. You are a part of me. I have never left you. See. First you must learn to See. Release your pain. Forgive and see through the illusion that has distorted your vision. Have you wondered why you struggle with reading? Why the letters consistently rearrange themselves for you? The disconnect remains within your perception. It angered you what they wrote of our history. You felt it was a betrayal to our connection and to our Love. You no longer wished to read lies. That anger has distorted your vision in this lifetime. You must release it. Others will never be able to tarnish what we have with false perceptions. It is eternal.
“I am… not ready. Not yet,” she confessed. So afraid she would disappoint him with her admission.
“I will be here when you are.” There was not an ounce of judgment in his tone, only acceptance…only Love.
A thought came to Fia, she asked her question in a rush. She was afraid their time together was soon growing short, for the walls soon began to close in around her, the hallway beginning to shorten in length. “The man…who approached me in the church. Who is he?” She knew he would know who she meant.
There was a long silence before he answered her, so long that she feared he had not heard her. “I cannot tell you. You have unfinished business with this soul. He is still within your wheel. I cannot interfere, but I will be here for you. I was there with you that day in the church. I am with you always. Pick up the blade if you must. I will be here when you are ready to truly lay it down. There is another you know who has also carved his path with it. He is an old friend from long ago. Do you know who I speak of? Do you feel when I am with you? I am all around you. See. Learn to See and Listen. Can you hear me? Can you?”
“Can you hear me? Miss? Can you hear me? Miss are you ok?”
When Fia awoke she found herself on the floor of the diner, looking into the face of the waitress, seeing the worry and the concern. The same worry and concern she had seen when she was holding her son.
There comes a moment in every lifetime when each soul looks into the eyes of another and there is a choice. A choice to look away, ignore the pain that is seen there. To push it away, distract from it or run from it because it makes one uncomfortable, or reminds one of their own pain.
Or to make the choice to embrace each other, the pain, all of it. For once in her life, Fia chose not to run and extended her hand to the woman and grasped it. “I am sorry. I am so sorry about your Son. You are an amazing Mother. You might not be able to carry it for him, but you have no idea how much your Love has done for him. You are doing everything you can for him and more. ” She squeezed her hand when she spoke as if it were vital because she needed to hear it and her gaze never wavered.
The woman was taken aback at first, confusion clear as she tried to wrap her head around what Fia said before her chin quivered, and her face crumpled. Just hearing those words. That she was doing enough that she was enough when so often she felt she was nothing. That she had failed to protect her son. She began to sob. “I….”She had no words, they weren’t needed. She saw in the woman’s eyes that she understood, had felt her pain…had been there. “Thank you.” Gratitude was all she could find and grasp when she sifted through the broken pieces of glass and shared experience between them.
Ironically enough, awkward silences seemed to be where Fia felt most comfortable. When words failed and there was nothing to do but be in the thick of the moment. She had enough ease within her own skin to let the silence stretch on for miles. Always keeping her eye on the horizon in the gaze of another for the dawn of something true.
She finally released the woman’s hand when she saw she understood and then realized she had been clenching another object in her right hand. She looked down to see her hand closed around one of the knives that had clattered from the table.
Set down the blade. There is another you know who has also carved his path with it. He is an old friend from long ago. Do you know who I speak of?
Uncurling her fingers from the knife, she set it down and knew who she needed to call.
Joined: 02 Aug 2013
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Can Be Found: Behind the Blade
1810.84 Silver Crowns
|Posted: Sat Jul 05, 2014 12:33 pm Post subject:
|The sun was setting on Big Sky Country, that burning disk of fire throwing up a brilliant and desperate firework show of gold and crimson as it inexorably dipped behind the distant purple mountain range which served as the spine of a continent. Ever since the carnival shuttered its doors for the off season, Isaac had been working at a horse ranch in Montana. Finding work had never been difficult…Isaac worked for cheap and that unsettling quietness about him meant he didn’t cause trouble with gossip or questions.
The Stone Creek Ranch had recently been bought by a New York surgeon who had cashed in his practice and traded the urban jungle of Midtown Manhattan for the open plains and romanticism of a bye gone era. Hired on as a hand, Isaac had known at once that no amount of denim, leather and feathered cowboy hats would ever fully replace the taint of the Upper East Side. But none of that really mattered…Doc Friedman was trying and had a respect and love for the horses. That was enough for Isaac.
Isaac could just see the lights of what passed for the nearest town on the horizon as he walked along the shoulder of an old two lane highway. Long ago done in by the advent of the expressway, the black ribbon of asphalt was showing its age with cracks through fading double yellow lines and a few weeds poking up along the edges of the white striped boundary. Give nature enough time, Isaac mused, and she’d never color within the lines. Every now and then one of those big tractor trailer trucks would come barreling down the road and give a blow to its horn. The Doppler Effect would stretch the sound till long after the truck blew by; its wake causing a buffeting torrent of wind which tugged at Isaac’s clothes and sent road side pebbles scattering like buckshot across hard packed earth.
“Maybe tomorrow we’ll take the Doc up on his offer of a ride.” That lazy drawl directed downward to Boomer, after one such truck made its pass. The mutt gave a wag to his stubby tail which ended up shaking his entire rump back and forth and gave a look as if he’d heard such before.
A long day behind him with another on the horizon, Isaac enjoyed the three mile walk to and from the ranch. Routinely turning down offers unless the snow was blowing, he walked alone with his thoughts…disconnected from a world sprinting wildly towards the complete opposite. Like the road he walked, Isaac was as an outlier…an example of a time that had come and gone.
“C’mon boy.” Spoken to Boomer as he shrugged off that slow southern pace and moved just a bit faster to put a little warmth into his lithe frame. His breath was beginning to fog, a sure sign of another cold night. Probably be frost on the ground if not a crystalline layer of snow. Maybe he should have taken that job down in Tulsa after all.
Home for Isaac and Boomer was one of those long stay motels. The kind of place where the recently divorced, traveling sales types and the near destitute could gather like coins in a child’s bank and hope for a better tomorrow. Almost completely vacant, Isaac and Boomer walked beneath the ghostly green of the neon sign advertising as much just about the time Isaac’s shadow was fading into the murky background of twilight. Passing by the abandoned swimming pool, its once blue concrete bleached white like whale bones and its chain link rusted and worn down, Isaac made a turn to the left and slid the key into the lock of room number 108.
Greeted with that musty, stale smell of age as soon as the door opened, Boomer rushed in ahead and went right to his water bowl. Isaac followed and used the heel of his boot to close the door behind him. The lock tumbled into place and the extra security chain drawn to; Isaac immediately switched on the heat on the underpowered and overworked window unit. The ancient motor clicked and groaned before stubbornly resisting its age and began to push out warm air. It still carried that stale, burning dust particle kind of smell…but to Isaac, a son of Savannah, Georgia, the smell was tolerable…being cold was downright sinful.
Eyes the color of a distant thunderstorm glanced about the place. Used to living in the open air of a carnival tent, the walls felt like those of an old sanitarium…like they conspired with one other to creep in a few inches every day while Isaac was at the ranch. Typical motel artwork hung above the bed, some random scene of pheasants roosting alongside a more western themed one of men on horseback. The paint was faded, the frames worn and a timeless layer of dust covered everything that failed to pass an everyday use test.
Yesterday’s leftovers became Boomer’s dinner, Isaac scraping the plate clean as the mutt wormed his way between Isaac’s legs to get at the bowl. “Easy now.” Isaac’s antebellum accent drawling out those syllables as he gave a scratch behind the ears to the feasting Boomer.
A glance of slate down to his hands revealed a caked in layer of dirt which blackened the lines of his palms and highlighted the swirls of fingerprints. Hard work was rarely clean…perhaps that’s why it was hard. Isaac moved into the bathroom and squinted against the glare of a single bulb reflecting off pink tile. One of those mismatches of style that had no explanation. Maybe the original owners had thought it was a relaxing color…or maybe the general contractor let his wife pick.
Isaac gave a twist to the four spoke knob of the bath and a moment later a few spurts of water choked and gagged its way out the faucet before finally sputtering into a decent flow. He then began the delicate balancing act of hot and cold to find a suitably warm temperature just this side of scalding. As he waited for the water to warm, he peeled his work clothes off and tossed them into a pile on the floor while placing his knife nearby on the back of the toilet. Using a hand to test the warmth, Isaac stepped into a much needed shower.
The cool aid made a fine environment for steam to accumulate, the small mirror fogging up quickly as the hot water did its job on Isaac’s well worked body. He snagged the towel off the flimsy shower rod, killed the flow of water with a twist to the knobs and drew the towel about slender hips. Boomer suddenly began barking up a storm and running to and fro through the motel room. Having been around the mutt long enough, Isaac could tell by the sound that Boomer seemed happy about something and not threatened. Perhaps the mutt saw someone walk by the window or heard a rat in the wall…Isaac preferred not to think about the latter option.
“Calm down boy.” Isaac said, pinching thumb and forefinger into his eyes before wiping his face clean and blowing out a spray of water from his lips. He was suddenly struck by the aroma of peach blossoms and dogwoods…the smell of home. He jerked the cheap plastic shower curtain back and stepped from the bath already having an idea as to why Boomer so excited but froze when he stared into the fogged up mirror.
Little dots, dashes and swirls had been drawn onto the fogged over glass like a little girl’s finger painting of Egyptian cartouches. He recognized the language at once…a completely made up language from his youth. A completely made up language between two people who had felt like aliens in their own home…a made up language that had allowed two souls to communicate in a way that was unique to them.
The presence of the fictitious language also explained why Boomer was so excited while revealing the source of the smells of home suddenly teasing at his senses when moments ago there had just been the smell of a stale motel room and cheap bar soap.
“Damn it, Josette…” Isaac spoke to the empty bathroom and his blurred reflection, the rare usage of profanity indicating just how angry he was. He reread the message on the mirror several times…it had been some time since he’d last seen it. It took him several moments to divine the meaning of each symbol, like staring at the bottom of a pond after a rock‘s been thrown…the ripples doing just enough to obscure the image…Isaac sighed when the particular ripples of that childhood memory finally cleared.
His half-sister was calling him home.
Isaac wiped a hand along the writing on the mirror, smearing his palm across it and erasing it. He leaned against the chipped and worn sink counter, head down as slate gray eyes stared into the sink. The phone suddenly rang…that strident, harsh ring of a metal striker against a bell. Isaac snapped his head to the side as the phone rang again.
His half-sister was calling him home...because bad news waited.
Joined: 02 Aug 2013
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Can Be Found: Behind the Blade
1810.84 Silver Crowns
|Posted: Mon Jul 07, 2014 6:38 pm Post subject:
|(Written in collaboration with Josette's writer. Many thanks.)
Can’t let go.
The words repeated themselves within Isaac’s head, a chorus of a song that wouldn’t leave no matter where one forced their thoughts.
Can’t let go.
Strong, calloused hands held onto the rope, sinewy muscles pulling against an impossible weight.
Can’t let go.
Isaac dug his heels into the soft mud of the river bank and pulled again on the rope. Wound his hands around the coarse fibers and pulled again. Thunderstorm colored eyes stayed steady on the middle of the river, the place where the rope disappeared beneath the surface. For the life of him he didn’t know what lay beneath the surface…just knew he couldn’t let go.
He wound the rope around his waist and gripped again, leaning his back against the coil for added leverage. He gave a groan as muscled vibrated along the bones and threatened to seize up. He thought he felt a shift, a little bit of give but then suddenly he was jerked forward. He scrambled, off balance as he stumbled nearer to the bank before he could set his heels again. He pulled hard, leaned back against the force even as his feet began to slide inexorably closer to the bank.
He slipped, landed hard on his back and had but a moment to realize his unfortunate turn of events before the weight on the other end began to drag him towards the water. Feet kicked, desperate for purchase but found none in the moss covered mud. Isaac twisted away, a hand leaving the rope in a desperate grab for the knife always on his belt. But it wasn’t there and he hadn’t the time to worry…the water was getting dangerously close.
“No.” The word hissed against gritted teeth as he pulled with his all his might, turned onto his stomach and sank clawed fingers into the soft earth. Futile.
He spun back onto his back, determined to at least meet this terrible fate with eyes open…and then…the rope changed its substance, stopped pulling him towards the river just inches before his feet were to touch. He watched as the rope gave a lazy twist and turn like a leaf caught on a flutter of wind. Watched as it changed from a heavy, coarse thing into a silver ribbon which swirled to his left, slowly unraveling, and spinning around the waist of an alabaster skinned brunette who was twirling upon a bridge in a white dress that had formed over the river. The fabric fluttered around her legs like so many white petals.
“Josie?” Isaac asked, watching as his half-sister twirled along the bridge from the meadow filled with fireflies which she had come from on the other side of the river.
She paused when she heard Isaac say her name, turning towards him with a warm smile and a light, airy laugh. “There you are.” Sounding just like she had when they were younger and she’d found him in a game of hide and go seek. The truth of it was Isaac never really tried too hard. He didn’t like the look on her face when she lost. “Be careful with that ribbon or I might just float away like a balloon.” Her tone was teasing, but her gaze held a touch of weight behind it.
“I will.” Isaac agreed as he found his feet, the weight momentarily forgotten as he watched his sister twirl again, a smile putting a curl to his lips and revealing rarely seen dimples. “Whatcha doin’ here?” Asked as he gave a playful tug on the ribbon to pull her a few steps closer.
“I came to see you. You invited me.” She indicated the bridge beneath her bare feet, and then wrinkled her nose as the ever shifting nebulae of her eyes settled on his side of the river. “Or shall I pull you to this side? The fireflies are telling tales again.” She gently pulled the ribbon that was still around her waist in a teasing game of tug o’ war with him.
Isaac watched as that ribbon gave a flicker and changed into a translucent, shimming cord of silver. He suddenly realized its significance and he froze. “You’re roamin again ain’t ya?” Asked though he still kept hold of the cord, his grip eased to a kind of gentle reverence.
“Mmm…maybe." Answered without a care for the stern look he was giving her. “Don’t look at me like that, Isaac. I missed you.”
“Damn it, Josette.” That smile disappeared, flat lined into a hard stare of disapproving slate. “You know I hate when you do this. In your condition it could...”
“I’m okay Isaac.” She crossed over the bridge to him. Her hand reaching to touch his arm in gentle reassurance. “I get to see so much this way. So much of what I’ll never get to see otherwise.” Josie answered, still seemingly at joy.
“It makes you so tired…you sleep for days afterwards.” Walking towards her, he took her hand to help her over the bridge.
“It makes me happy so I don’t mind.” Josie shrugged with her chin tucking a bit shyly towards her shoulder.
“Josette this ain’t some game we played when we were kids. This is serious…something could happen while you're out…” That dogwood drawl drew his words out as he stood in front of his sister, close enough to see the sea green spread of veins beneath her pale skin. She looked so fragile. As if a hard squeeze would shatter her like porcelain doll cooked too long in the kiln.
“And it will.” Answered all too calmly as she reached out to gently take the cord from his hands and into her own to tie it back round her waist where it shimmered like a celestial tether rather than a simple silk ribbon. “We all have to let go sometime, Isaac.”
Isaac’s face screwed up in defiance, a retort fresh on his lips when the river changed, it’s water beginning to swirl while a harsh scent crept up from its surface. Rot and decay wafted off the river. The sickly, cloying smell burned its way down his throat and into his lungs, caused his eyes to water as it stained and scarred his memory. He smelled it before…he hoped to never smell it again. Death.
Isaac turned to stare at the water. It bubbled and roiled with a muted crimson so dark it seemed black in the moonlight. Isaac watched, horrified as a single deer carcass floated down the river, its body adding to the crimson. Soon after another followed and another until this boiling Phlegethon was choking upon the carcasses.
Isaac watched as they flowed past, rolling over and under the water to occasionally surface and stare at him with milky white, sightless eyes. He recoiled from the image, turned away from so much needless death and found Josie standing behind him.
“C’mon…” Isaac said, placing a soft yet steering hand upon her elbow, meaning to guide her away from the nightmare of a river. “You need ta go. Right now.” Isaac said, looking up and down the river bank and realized the bridge had disappeared. He looked all around him trying to figure out how to get out of this strange place while having no idea how one pushed or guided Josie back to where she belonged.
Josie calmly reached up to take Isaac’s hand from her elbow, holding it within hers for a moment as she placed her other hand upon his shoulder to still his determined quest for escape. “It’s okay, Isaac. I’m safe. I’m with you.”
Isaac glanced across the river, disliking her argument but finding it difficult to counter. Not that it would matter. Gone was the meadow filled with fireflies that Josie had come from. He saw two figures made of smoke and shadow next to one another in front of something which struggled on the ground in front of them. He blinked and tried to look away but couldn’t. “Are you doin this?” Asked to Josie, a grip of fear catching his voice in his throat.
Josie shook her head and took a step back, suddenly uncertain for the first time. “No…I…I am not permitted. There are rules. This is coming from you. I was only able to come because you invited me.” She pointed to the bridge she had crossed over and lowered her arm as she too realized it had disappeared and the meadow she came from had dissolved.
Isaac watched as a small boy and his father stood shoulder to shoulder in front of a dying deer. He recognized the scene at once…he’d lived it. First day deer hunting with his father, a brand new rifle he’d gotten for Christmas…a .270…one of the big boy calibers. Not quite his Daddy’s .30-06 but Isaac was smaller, couldn’t handle as much recoil just yet. None of that really mattered though…Isaac hadn’t wanted a rifle. He’d wanted a sketching book and some new pencils. But Daddy had gotten him a rifle with talk about becoming a man and going hunting together. He remembered he’d idolized his father then, having just turned 13 in the summer and how he’d never wanted to disappoint him or fail him.
The memory flooded over Isaac, overwhelmed and threatened to send him down on uncertain knees.
The morning had been a cold one, the air so cold it made your lungs hurt when you breathed. Isaac hadn’t slept, was wide awake when his father came to get him at four. He’d been dreading this day for months, begged his mother to tell his father that he was sick. But all she’d said was that he’d been expecting Isaac to go…that it was a chance to bond with his son. And so Isaac had waited on the edge of his bed like a death row inmate waiting for a midnight call that never came. They’d gotten breakfast at a greasy spoon and driven to their land, getting out of the truck in silence and loaded their rifles. Isaac would have preferred a blind fold instead of the rifle. His father had talked so much about becoming a man that Isaac felt he had no other choice than to go along…how else would his father continue to love him? That was the house that Isaac had grown up in, the kind of expectations placed upon him by a father who practiced conditional love as well as he practiced law.
Isaac remembered the weight of the rifle on his shoulder; remembered that it felt like a stone tied to his back…the kind of stone that would surely drag him down and drown him. They’d walked to the blind, Isaac had whispered, “This don’t feel right, Daddy. Us sittin in a blind, hidin our scent and sounds. The deer won’t even know we’re here.” “That’s the point son,” his father had answered. “Makes it easier to get a big buck…like the one in my office.”
His father was all about trophies, as Isaac would realize later. He didn’t need the meat of this deer to feed his family. Did not need its skin to keep himself or his kin warm. It was all about the trophy. Trophy job, trophy car, trophy wife, trophy mistress and so on. He hadn’t even realized that he’d just told his son that fairness didn’t matter in life. To use any advantage you had to get what you wanted.
But that hadn’t washed with the young Isaac. The deer had no chance. They even used a feeder with a timer so they’d hear the sound and associate that with food. Man could be cruel with his cunning. They’d sat in silence for several hours, watched the dawn crest over the horizon and sprinkle down through the trees. “Whoa he’s a big one. Get your gun up son. Remember…easy breaths…don’t miss.” His father had said with a pat to his back.
He’d shouldered the rifle, set it down on the edge of the cut out window and sighted in. He could see the buck’s breath misting in the cold morning air, the twitch of its fine whiskers beneath its mouth as it chewed on some of the corn they’d put out. Daddy hadn’t said a word…he’d been letting his son have his moment.
Isaac flicked the safety off and froze, hoping the sound would scare the buck off. But it didn’t. It gave a lazy flick of its tail as it bent down for more corn. Isaac swung the cross hairs around, thinking for a moment that he could just miss. That his dad would understand it being his first time and all. “Don’t miss now. Nice and easy.” His breath came in a hurry, dread and panic making it impossible to steady the scope even if he wanted to…the trigger was cold on his finger as he pulled it back.
The rifle jerked against him, kicked back with such force and the sound of it too. It left his ears ringing and his nostrils full of the smell of smoke and gunpowder. He looked back through the scope, hoping like anything to see the white rump of the buck, his tail up as he ran away.
“I think ya got em, son…c’mon.” Said as he climbed out of the blind, strong hands lifting Isaac’s slight frame the last few rungs of the ladder.
Isaac heard it before he saw it…a terrible thrashing off to the side. He hadn’t missed at all. He’d hit the deer in the back. That big bullet striking the deer in the spine about half way back. He’d severed the cord, paralyzed the poor thing where its hind legs wouldn’t work. It knew fear, knew it had to get away as it tried to drag its useless hind section behind it.
Isaac watched from the bank as the smoky figure of his father pulled a knife from his belt and pressed it into his son’s hands.
“No.” Isaac muttered as he saw it. He knew what was going to happen.
Isaac had been paralyzed in a way too. He’d never seen what a bullet could do before. And now he’d seen it and it could never be unseen. The pink of ripped meat, the splash of bright red from the blood and the shiny, glistening white of bone.
“Gotta finish it.” His father had said, pressing his knife into Isaac’s small hands. But Isaac didn’t want to. He wanted to take it all back…and couldn’t. “Do it son. Don’t be scared. You're not gonna cry like yer sister are ya, son?” Tears streamed down his cheeks as he shook his head no, his hands shaking around that big knife as he fiercely wiped them away. “Time ta be a man, Isaac…” Said so firmly, just the edge of disappoint hovering around the words. Isaac watched with a heavy heart as the mighty buck lay down…scared and tired…accepting its fate in a way. Isaac looked up at his father, those piercing grey eyes so full of light and blurred my tears which wouldn’t stop. All he’d seen was his father shake his head and point at the buck.
Isaac ended up slitting the throat of the buck that winter morning. Felt its warmth and aliveness before he pulled the blade across its neck. Watched the splash of blood, so hot it steamed when it hit the rocks. He’d watched that steam, slowly pouring out from the wound and thinking it had been its soul. He’d become a man in his father’s eyes even if Isaac would never use such a standard himself. He didn't feel like a man at all. Only that his innocence bled out of him that morning just as the life had bled out of that buck.
Isaac violently turned away as that scene evaporated into so much steam-like mist on the other bank. He didn’t want to see it. He couldn’t see it. It’d been the day he began to walk a different path. Baby steps at first, to be sure, but irrevocably he’d begun to turn away from his father that morning. Began to see him for who he really was. Every day forward in that house he’d have a constant reminder of that morning…his father had the trophy buck mounted and hung its head over the fire place…a monument to the morning his eldest son had become a man.
“I don’t understand.” Josie murmured softly as she came up quietly behind Isaac and slipped her hand within his. Her eyes wet with the same kind of tears Isaac had cried that morning. “This was meant to make you a man? When did savagery become synonymous with strength?”
Her voice sounded older than her years Isaac had always wondered how Josie could know so much when she had lived so little. "It's the way of things Josie. He was always like this. You just refused to see it."
Josie sighed and looked down upon the gruesome scene with a shake of her head. “They beat their chests and call themselves modern day savages in their boardrooms and their bedrooms. Like it’s some badge of honor. What happens when there is nothing left to kill or conquer? What is the appeal of being a ruler of a wasteland?” She gave Isaac’s hand a squeeze, never knowing until now how much weight he carried with him from this memory.
“It’ll never end, Josie.” Isaac said, eyes as dry as tinder. “Always somethin’ else to dominate. World ain’t ever gonna change.” The cynicism spat with a visceral anger upon his tongue.
“I don’t believe that Isaac.” Josie countered, that little smile on her face again. “I can’t believe that. There are other worlds than these. Remember? Like in that book you read me in the hospital. The one with the Gunslinger. There are other worlds than these, Isaac. Kinder and gentler places. I’ve seen them in my roaming.” Her brows drew together before she breathed deeply. “And I’ve also seen places that make me appreciate how beautiful this one is. We fall somewhere in the middle of the balance…our earth. We are struggling, we are sometimes broken, but there is still hope for us yet.”
Isaac listened to her words, not believing a single one but caring far too much for her to try and prove her wrong. She was too young to have his cynicism and he would not rob her of her joys she found in her short time here. “Maybe you’re right.” A disbelieving hedge if there ever was one. Isaac had lived in the world Josie talked about. So much so that if there was a God, Isaac wondered about the point of a second coming. Ain’t nothing worth coming back to anyway.
They’d suddenly arrived at the end of the river, that raging torrent of boiling water all pouring itself down a four by ten hole in the ground. The hole was surrounded by flowers and had a white marble stone at the head; Jonathan Wheeler chiseled neatly into it.
“You have to let it all go, Isaac.” Josie said as she stood alongside him, Josie looking at Isaac as he stared into that bottomless hole. She tried to pull her hand from his, to reinforce her point but Isaac squeezed, refused to let it happen.
Isaac turned to look at his sister, lips pursed in thought before he parted them to speak…
A hard grip on his shoulder squeezed and shook him, jerked him up into the sky like a rocket from the where he had been standing on that river bank. Slate gray eyes snapped open to see a row of bus seats, the big Grey Hound humming down I-75 just south of Atlanta.
“Hey buddy…you okay? You were shaking in your sleep. I think you were having a nightmare or something.” A voice behind Isaac said and he felt that shake to his shoulder again.
Isaac shook with a start and turned back towards the man with his hand on his shoulder. A hand closed in a fist out of sudden surprise for the shocking waking as well as from where he'd just been. It took a moment for him to calm down, to sink back into his seat and recognize Boomer sleeping in the seat next to him. He ran his hands over his face and sighed.
“Somethin’ like that.” Isaac giving an exhale of breath before sending a brief nod of thanks to the man. He glanced out the window to see a ribbon of green racing alongside the bus. There was a layer of dust on the glass and when the mid-morning sun hit it just right Isaac could see another message from Josie. Drawn in that same made up language he’d seen on the mirror half a country and a whole world away. This time it was simple…
Joined: 17 Oct 2013
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647.32 Silver Crowns
|Posted: Tue Sep 02, 2014 9:28 pm Post subject:
|Man-made light shimmered atop a sea of blackness, unconsciously mirroring the God forged tapestry set above in the heavens. A twisting warren of streets and highways raced out in all directions with such mass that it obfuscated the individual; transformed the singular one into the ubiquitous many. Such sprawl had a tendency to erase the humanity within each and every soul; caused the righteous, what few there were, to ignore the needs and sins of their fellow man. The City of Angels had long ago fallen; willing tore its virtuous halo from a brow and replaced it with the smear of Greed and Lust, with the taint of Envy and Pride.
The Hedonist watched from a balcony in the hills, caliginous gaze stretching out over the light filled valley as it raced towards the black line of the coast in the distance. A city of millions, each soul crying out for salvation and finding that cry falling on deaf ears. He smiled a lascivious smile, the irony not lost upon him; His absence from their lives made it so easy to corrupt and tease, to spill into such pleasurable sin. Such a place had a smell all its own, wearing its wantonness like a rich perfume, it called to him, stirred a certain carnality within him as if all the souls in the valley below beckoned with a single note of need. The Hedonist watched…but he did not see.
His Queen, once so close that he had actually touched her, had scattered herself to the wind, still content to play their ancient game it would seem, to test his patience and see how much longer he could wait. But that touch…it had ignited a burning need within him, a lush oasis in the distance which had, upon arrival, yielded but a drop upon millennia of thirst. And so he had followed her to the fallen city, watched as his once regal consort walked amongst unwashed masses before traveling east again. A glimpse of a hallway, a tightly held knife and then a blinding flash of pure light had sent him recoiling, skulking back to the darkness. Yeshua's divine presence had stymied the pursuit. The Hedonist had lost her in the desert, a terrain where temptation would always fail it seemed. He had taken her into the light of His embrace and in so doing put out the Scorpion’s eyes.
“What are you doing out there?” A throaty purr crept from behind him, issued out of the bedroom which opened upon the balcony. “The view is in here.” Spoken as she stepped lightly upon his perch and tainted his solitude with her presence.
He felt her hands slide around his sides, felt the cool drag of nails upon exposed flesh as she pulled at the unbuttoned shirt which hung from his shoulders. The Hedonist could taste her want; smell her desire as she sought to bring him back inside with the siren’s call of her touch.
“I am looking.” Giving voice to his actions, the urbane tenor of the Hedonist’s prurient prose enough to incite arousal in even the most devoutly celibate of Sisters.
“At what?” She asked as fingers smoothed up his chest, the woman vainly attempting to share his gaze and thoughts, misunderstanding that such a thing, were it to happen, would undoubtedly drive her to madness. She resisted the urge to pout, wisely realizing that the Scorpion had little patience for such banality.
“Urbs angelicorum.” Answered in that ancient tongue.
“Orbs what?” Her mispronunciation merely adding to her confusion as she stepped from behind to stand alongside him and followed his gaze towards the city below.
“The City of Angels.” He translated for her while still not gifting her with a look.
“Ahh…” Slightly annoyed that such a mundane thing had pulled his delicious attentions from her. “Am I one of the angels?” She asked coyly…she had been dressed as one, feathered wings and all upon a catwalk just a few hours previous.
“No.” Answered before the breath of her question could die upon the cool breeze which blew between them. He finally turned to face her, the aristocratic planes of his face proving as pleasing to look upon now as when she had first seen them from the stage. “But then…you wouldn’t want to be such a creature.” Using his thumb to trace a single honey colored strand of hair from her face as he placed at the center of a sybaritic stare. “You have a hedonic bent to your soul that no halo can outshine.”
She felt her breath catch in her chest when he pinned her with that stare while his description of her soul sent her mind to primrose places. She would do anything for him; grant innumerable wishes, however impure, so long as he continued to look at her in such a way. “What am I then?" She turned her face into that tracing gesture, sighed when he graced her with his touch.
“A convenient indulgence.” Hypnotic tones lulling her into a place where wickedness and depravity reigned.
“Do you enjoy making me wait?” Whispered as she closed her eyes and bathed within the debauchery of his touch. She didn’t care that he had described her as such. His touch and words created such a profligate need deep within her.
“What do you know of waiting?” Asked as her question sent his mind back to his Queen, the games he’d been forced to play because of His rules. His hand gave a sumptuous caress to her cheek, slid down to hook a thumb beneath her jaw and hold her by the throat. For a moment it was his Queen that he caressed; impossible for the Hedonist to be immune to such temptations himself. He could feel her pulse quicken, hammering against the cage of incontinent fingers, it pulled him from the visions of both past and future.
“It is said that patience is a virtue,” spoken while stroking a thumb along her pulse.
Fingers closed over the tiny golden crucifix which dangled from her throat. A sharp jerk snapped the slender chain and tore it free from her body. She gave a squeak of surprise as he held it between them, the little cross twisting on a breath of air. He’d been of a mind to allow it to stay around her throat, so He could witness the coming corruption. Yet such things were too great a reminder, even to him. The cross was pitched over the rail of the balcony, a singular flash as it caught the light before it disappeared into the darkness below.
“All virtue is vice…and I have waited long enough to claim what is mine.”
Joined: 04 Oct 2013
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4029.10 Silver Crowns
|Posted: Mon Sep 22, 2014 11:09 pm Post subject:
“Oui.” The soft, dulcet voice spoke into the phone as Josie’s slight frame propelled itself forward with the rhythmic click of heels upon concrete. A whisper tulle the color of blue smoke fluttered around her legs, as if the fabric itself lived and breathed with her; delighting in the way the fall breeze teased its layers and sent them dancing. The cozy warmth of dove grey cashmere sleeve was twisted within her fingers like a worry stone. "Je suis désolé d'être en retard, Maman.” Apologizing into the phone a moment before she ended the call and sped up her steps.
Josie was late for tea with her mother and the call had come to remind her of that fact. Oh why couldn’t she live in a world where time didn’t matter? Where you could merely transport yourself wherever you wished like in so many of her wanderings?
A slight chill had descended upon the City of Lights just in time for that global bonanza of flashing photogs and couture models. Fashion Week was the biggest week of the year for her Mother and consequently, she was entirely too busy to spend much time with her daughter. Nevertheless, Josie still needed to make a request. She wrapped her slight frame tighter within the warming confines of her sleek trench, the chill affecting her more than others, and increased the rate of those heel clicks.
She crossed one of the countless bridges which spanned the Seine and marveled at how a strip of iron and concrete could beg for midnight strolls and stolen glances amidst the glittering lights. She paused in that distracted way of hers, taken in by the beauty of the city.
Eyes with all the colors of a supernova traveled along with the currents of the water to admire the beauty of it and the way it shimmered. She soaked in the sounds of church bells and traffic. It was always new to her and she reached her senses out to touch the pulse of a living, breathing city of endless intrigue and romance.
And then her phone rang again…and Josie, pulled from her peaceful reverie, hurried forward once more while ignoring her mother’s second phone call.
She passed a series of picturesque cafes, thinking with a small smile upon her lips how her brother Isaac might enjoy the feel of such a place as it harkened back to a slower, sweeter time. One day, she would be able to drag him out for a visit, she hoped, and lure him from his anti-social ways. A moment later, she looked up to spot sign of Ladurée’s famous Salon de Thé. The gilt “L” shone above the door like shining beacon for those seeking the most decadent of distractions. Josie hurried forward and bypassed the growing queue outside, knowing her mother was already well ensconced somewhere within and no doubt holding court.
First opened in 1862, Ladurée had put its stamp on the confectionery realm and had grown globally famous thanks to one of Josie’s favorite desserts, the macaron. She slipped inside with a generous smile for the well coiffed attendant manning the door. Pupils dilated as they raced over all the various delights in a vast array of colors that were a divine palette for the palate. Nutty praline, Madagascar Vanilla, Chantilly cream and raspberry coulis.
Josette frequently cast off that pouting guise of French ennui and often became genuinely excited and enthralled over something at once as simple and wonderfully complex as sweets. Knowing she had a favor to ask, Josie reigned in the desire to pause and admire, but could do nothing to stop that explosion of starlight in her eyes.
She took the stairs to the Louis XIV-styled tea room swathed in velvet curtains and elegant tablecloths. Dark wood panels formed the walls, while feminine statues held aloft their burden of light; a collection of miniature bulbs beneath miniature shades giving the place a cozy sense of intimacy and privacy amidst the clamoring of Parisians and tourists alike, in an equal quest for bonne bouche.
She found her Mother sitting in the back with her lips pursed as she tapped out an e-mail into her phone. A stack of books set beside her with multiple pages marked. Madeline Batiste soon glanced up as if sensing, with a mother’s uncanny intuition, the rhythmic music of her daughter’s heels amidst the hushed murmurs of conversation and the tinkling of fine china.
She gave her daughter a swift up and down to take in her appearance with the appraising eye of a jeweler with Chanel frames serving as dual loops. Assessing the lines for every potential flaw, when she decided her daughter's ensemble passed muster, Madeline offered a pale cheek for a kiss as if it was a reward.
Bypassing the air kisses, Josette threw her arms around her mother in a loving, joy infused hug. Madeline looked momentarily startled at the exuberant show of affection. “For heaven’s sake, Josette,” Hissed as her glasses were jostled. A lancing of cool, blue eyes to glance around to who might be watching.
Madeline had never been able to quell her daughter’s innate ebullience, try as she might. Even when Josette agreed to walk in one of her shows, she would always ask her Mother why the models never smiled. “It is about the fashion, Josette, not the model. The eye should always be drawn to the fashion.”
Josette had taken in her Mother’s words and considered them before answering. It made her sad to see the way certain dresses seemed to hang lifelessly, draped over a starving husk of a woman who had denied herself so many of life’s pleasures. To watch the expression of bored indifference to almost everything around her. Everything had a consciousness of its own to Josette—even clothes.
“But Maman,” she protested. “The woman breathes life into the clothes. You cannot dismiss her any more than you can dismiss the subject of a painting. A dress is all the more beautiful when framing a woman in joy or in love. It moves differently. Don’t you think?”
Madeline had argued, but finally threw up her hands and surrendered when realized her daughter would not be moved. It was impossible to contain Josette’s nature during the show. As effervescent as Champagne, she twirled and beamed her way down the runway like a bursting, unapologetic peony in a sea of lean, austere Calla Lilies. Ironically, Josette had been splashed across the pages of French Vogue and several other fashion magazines and it became one of Madeline Batiste’s most successfully selling lines to date.
Even now, Madeline found herself reluctantly surrendering into her daughter’s hug. Her rigid posture eased and her eyes softened fractionally, before she allowed herself a split second of vulnerability to drift her fingers though her daughter’s soft hair. Josette had lost most of it when she was younger due to her illness and had been ruthlessly teased by her peers for her baldness and scrawny frame. The Wheeler boy had defended Josie, getting suspended more than once for beating a few that were the ringleaders, but she worried about the impact upon her daughter’s psyche and decided that she would finish her schooling in France. Josette had protested, not wanting to be parted from Isaac, but Madeline had insisted and won.
Though Josette’s hair eventually grew back, the experience had gutted Madeline, for she could not control it. No matter how many beautiful fabrics she draped over her daughter’s petite frame, no matter how many realistic wigs she purchased to give the appearance of “normality,” she could not hide what warred within Josette’s very cells. The terror of potentially losing her daughter had caused her to frequently hold her at an arm’s length. As if she were always protecting herself from the looming trauma of loss, but Josette always found a way in.
Severing the moment, Madeline pulled away first and reclined back into her chair before waving a hand of dismissal and removing the Chanel frames from her face before setting them down next to her. “What is this all about, Josette? I have a meeting with Arnaud this afternoon. Some problem with the fabric of course. He knows this line has to be perfect. I hope he is coming equipped with solutions and not just more problems to lay at my feet. She pressed her fingers against her temple as if to quell the coming onslaught of a tension headache before taking a much needed sip of her tea.
Josie removed her trench, chewing her bottom lip in her anxiety around making her request to her Mother before she caught herself. Madeline was giving her that same moue of distaste that struck fear in the hearts of her entire design team. Although not spoken aloud, she could already hear the tape running in her mind like a loop. “It causes lines, Josette.”
Glancing down to the elegant spread upon the table, she clasped her hands together in sheer delight as she realized her Mother had already taken the liberty of ordering her favorite, the infinitely lovely, religieuse à la rose. A fluffy, cloud like pâte à choux pastry coated with the heavenly essence of a rose petal fondant. Upon taking the first bite, the rose crème melted on the tongue while the treasure of fresh raspberries hidden deep inside offered the contrast of a vibrant, acidic bit of tart to balance all of the sweetness. Like so many other things, food was magical to her.
Detaching the top puff, Josette took a moment to admire the heavenly pastry with the silver dragée placed on top like a tiny star. Savoring the moment of the first bite, she allowed herself to float away on a dream with that little pink cloud before pouring some tea for herself. “Isn’t the food on this planet divine, Maman?”
Madeline arched a meticulously groomed brow at her daughter’s statement before frowning. “Stop your nonsense, Josette. When are you starting at the Sorbonne? I have to make arrangements with the driver.”
Josette swallowed hard as the subject of her schooling came up, the delicate pastry suddenly feeling like a rock in her throat that was difficult to get down. “I…that is what I wanted to discuss with you, Maman. I thought I might…” She took a deep breath to fill her lungs with courage. “Travel for a year before returning to school.”
Madeline had returned to her phone and was only half listening to her daughter while she tapped out yet another e-mail while at the same time taking another distracted sip of her tea. “Mm—yes? Where?”
Josie paused for a long moment before murmuring softly. “I want to return to the States for a while.”
There was a sudden hard clang of the china teacup meeting the plate in response to her request that made Josette wince.
“Non." Madeline shook her head. "Josette? I forbid it.”
“Ecoutez-moi Maman, please…”
“I know exactly where you want to go. You want to go and see that Wheeler boy.”
“Stop calling him that Wheeler boy. His name is Isaac, Maman and he is my brother.”
“Half brother.” Madeline corrected sharply before glancing around to who might be listening. Her indiscretion with a married man with all of the right connections and all of the wrong reasons was still coming back to haunt her. “I don’t understand, Josette. Why would you want to go back there? There is nothing for you there.”
“Isaac is there. Not to mention my father who I have not seen in over a year and you won’t let me—“
“Your Father is ill, Josette.” The words tumbled out of Madeline’s mouth before she could stop them. A stunned silence fell between the two women before Madeline’s phone rang and broke the spell of tension woven with those five simple words.
“Oui? D'accord Arnaud, j'arrive.” Madeline did not meet her daughter’s eyes as she disconnected the call. She could not bear to see the look she knew was coming. So instead she focused on placing her phone back into her purse.
“How ill?” Josette felt her pulse accelerate in her throat like the heartbeat of a frightened bird. “Why wouldn’t you tell me?” Josette whispered in hushed shock. “How long have you known?”
Madeline sighed, the throbbing in her temples beginning to hammer its way into a kind of war drum beat. “Two months now. I was trying to protect you. You have blood work coming up. I didn’t want to upset you. You know how that family is. They don’t need additional reasons to hurt us. I worried you would want to--”
Josie pushed her chair back abruptly and stood up. “Two months? I don’t care about my blood work!” Her petite frame was trembling in rare show of hurt and anger. “You should have told me! He is my father. You had no right to keep this from me. ”
“Josette, sit down.” Madeline was mortified by the scene her daughter was causing, she went to grab for her hand, but Josie snatched it from her grasp as if her Mother had burned her and backed up a few steps.
“I have to see him. I have to talk to Isaac. I have to tell him—“ As if in a daze Josette backed further into the tea room and towards the door before she fled, ignoring her Mother’s pleas behind her for her to return.
Last edited by Josette Wheeler on Fri Jan 02, 2015 1:22 pm; edited 1 time in total
Joined: 02 Aug 2013
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1810.84 Silver Crowns
|Posted: Sun Oct 05, 2014 3:34 pm Post subject:
|“Right this way, Mr. Wheeler.” The soft voice of the legal assistant pulling Isaac from private thoughts as he sat in a comfortable leather chair in the lobby of a law firm.
Slate gray eyes lingered on the gold embossed letters pronouncing the name of the firm. Wheeler, Dixon & Wheeler. “Jus call me Isaac.” Softly spoken as he stood and twisted his flat cap with his hands, a little pent up energy bubbling to the surface. He didn’t like being called Mr. Wheeler. Such a moniker had never fit well on Isaac, like trying to walk in a shoe that was three sizes too small. Uncomfortable. Impractical.
“Very well Isaac.” The woman smiled as she gestured for him to follow her. “You been here before?” She asked while glancing back over a shoulder. He was obviously family but she couldn’t place the face or name.
“Long time ago.” Isaac answered. “My father didn’t have any partners then.” Eyes drifting to the different pictures which hung along the wall.
“I’m so sorry. I didn’t realize Jonathan had another…” Her voice trailed off; the silence beginning to drift and spin into an awkward moment.
“Son?” Isaac asked before offering a defusing half smile. “Like I said…haven’t been home in a long while.” That slow drawl and easy manner smoothing the potentially uncomfortable ripples that might result from her remark. “No need ta be, ma’am. Me and him…” Isaac paused as shoulders lifted in a shrug. “We weren’t real close any more. “I didn’t even know he passed till I got a call from Mr. Dixon.”
“Well…” An awkward pause. “It’s good we found you then. The will is ready to be probated.” She answered with a little smile for his easy going acceptance of her mistake while sidestepping what was obviously a personal matter within the family. She recovered quickly as she wiped away a strand of blonde hair from her fair face.
She cleared her throat when he did not immediately respond, not sure what to entirely make of the man since he was not particularly verbal. This Wheeler was polite enough, but oddly restrained; she was caught somewhere between the lulling cadence of that dogwood drawl and the sharp intensity of that steel gaze; as if he were seeing right through her. She found the contrast a bit confusing and unnerving. He didn’t quite fit in any of the boxes of her mind and so she was itching to move him along. “Mr. Wheeler…Derrick…his office is just down there.” She pointed and quickly excused herself. “He’s just finishing something up. Again, we’re very sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you.” Spoken somewhat woodenly before clearing his throat and bringing the assistant back with a question. “Excuse me…has there been anyone…” Isaac paused and noted that quiet white noise so typical of an office setting. “Nevermind.” With no sounds of yelling or screaming than he was sure Josie had yet to arrive.
The door to Derrick’s office was open and Isaac let himself into a richly ornate environment. It felt foreign, from another time. Bookshelves lined with uniform volumes stood along one wall while several decorations and expensive souvenirs from global travel sat on the shelves in front of them. Isaac noted the desk was massive, forcing whoever sat opposite his brother to sit a distance away while undoubtedly ensconcing his brother in a seat of power.
Isaac got the sense that everything in the room had been purposefully placed to ensure that his brother looked superior in all ways. He ran fingertips along the back of an expensive leather chair, brass rivets holding it together in smart little rows along the seams. He stood for a moment, seeing the various pictures of Derrick’s family, his parents and sister on his desk. He paused as he lifted one silver framed photo from the desk and turned it in his hand to look at it. It was a family picture; Derrick looked about fifteen which would have placed Isaac around seventeen. He wasn’t in the photo…didn’t even know it’d been taken. They looked quite the family…big smiles while his sister had kept her lips closed. She’d had braces then, Isaac remembered…so self-conscious in a family which demanded perfection that she hadn’t even wanted to smile.
“Well color me surprised…I didn’t think you’d show.” Derrick’s voice boomed from the doorway as he strutted into his office. “How was the trip…” Derrick trailed off as he took in Isaac’s appearance, his washed out blue eyes drifting over the wrinkles in his brother’s jacket, the dirt beneath the fingernails “…from wherever it is you came from?”
“Felt wrong not to.” Isaac answered while casting his younger brother beneath the shadow of those thunderstorm grays. He hadn’t changed much since Isaac last saw him…maybe a little pinker around the nose and cheeks, a little fuller in the midsection. Too much hard liquor. Probably had the taste for it just like their father. Isaac’s mind briefly drifted back through time, the night he skipped town and how Derrick had helped Isaac pack up a single bag. Isaac had his little brother swear not to say anything till sunrise by promising he could have his entire baseball card collection. They’d been the best of friends then.
“So you hoping to get some money, then?” Derrick asked, a flicker of paranoia flickering within those pale blue eyes.
“Nah.” Isaac drawled. “Your inheritance is safe, Derrick.” Isaac continued as Derrick walked behind the desk, seemingly ignoring Isaac’s answer, to readjust the picture Isaac had picked up. Perfection.
It took a moment for Isaac’s admission to land upon his brother’s ears. “Then…” Derrick gave a forced chuckle as if it were obvious everyone was coming to the reading for the same reason. “Then why the hell are you here?”
“Someone asked me to come.” Isaac spoke while shifting his eyes to the various things which decorated and dominated his brother’s office. He didn’t dare mention Josie’s name and put a match to this powder keg. Isaac didn’t care about the will; he wouldn’t have even been here if not for Josie’s message and he wouldn’t allow her to face the jackals alone.
“Yeah…that must have been Dixon’s sentimentality cause, to be honest, I don’t think you’re mentioned in the will.”
Isaac felt an annoyed tick begin along the line of his jaw as Derrick once again assumed he’d come for the will. “I ain’t here for his damn money, Derrick.” That drawl that was usually slow as molasses taking on the sharpness of one his knives as he hurled the words at his brother.
Derrick chuckled as Isaac’s hackles rose. “If I had a dollar for every time I heard somebody say something like that at a reading I’d be a rich man.” Derrick gave a shake of his head as he adjusted his red and white striped tie. “Go ahead and sit down, Isaac. Mama and Susannah will be here in a little bit.”
“Well hopefully all your dreams’ll be reality after today, Derrick.” Isaac answered smartly as hands squeezed into fists within his pockets. He was already feeling caged in. That low buzz of artificial light already bringing on the dull ache of discomfort behind his eyes.
The uncomfortable silence was punctuated by the ticking of an old stand up grandfather clock in the corner of the office, its metronome tick-tock creating a predictable rhythm to the silence. “Guess you were too busy sword swallowing or whatever with that carnival to come to the funeral?”
“Carnival is shut down for the winter.” Not bothering to correct his brother as to the fact that he threw knives on stage. It wouldn’t have mattered; Derrick had a knack for only remembering things which were important to Derrick. “Sides…I doubt I’d have been invited anyway.” Placing that unsettling gaze of gray on his brother. He could almost hear Derrick’s thoughts swing from one vine of paranoia to the next.
“A little advice?” Rhetorically asked without giving Isaac a chance to answer. It was something their father had done constantly and still grated on Isaac’s nerves; threatened to snuff out that little fraternal ember. “Don’t go round mentioning that to too many people. Folks round here--they never understood why you just took off.”
“Just another Wheeler family secret then.” Isaac answered, his tone as dry as tinder. Truth being that he didn’t really care for the opinion of others. It’d driven his parents crazy. Down here gossip was as strong an export as cotton or peaches and family names and pride still went a long way in the Deep South. Wasn’t too long ago that such things were worth killing and dying for.
“Woulda been nice for Mama.” Derrick answered while still maintaining that relaxed and reclined posture. “Course you’ve never cared much for this family have you?”
“Mm. Lotsa things woulda been nice I’m sure.” Isaac spoke with certain vagueness, leaning forward to move a small model train back and forth with just an index finger along Derrick’s desk. “Far as carin goes…” Isaac paused to lift shoulders in a shrug. “I think even you can admit the compassion trait missed almost all the Wheelers.”
All but one.
For a moment his mind drifted back to the night he’d heard a terrible fight break out between his mother and father. He’d told Derrick to stay put and crept downstairs amidst the singing sounds of cicadas to listen with an ear pressed to the parlor door. He heard his mother ranting at his father about some other woman…about a daughter he had in France. He’d heard the clinking of ice in his father’s scotch glass in the silence of such a revelation and then his father’s booming voice.
He’d been maybe nine or ten that night…the night he’d learned about Josie. He must have made a noise since his father had yanked the door open so fast Isaac fell back on the floor in surprise. He realized later he’d merely been a convenient target to project their emotions upon. Maybe things would’ve been different if he hadn’t told Derrick to stay in his bed. If they’d learned about their father’s weaknesses together. Isaac finally let the train engine come to a stop, ignoring the little tickle to let go. Turning the other cheek just made it easier to get bloody.
The clock continued to tick its way through that silence again. Counting the seconds as years’ worth of dislike and resentment flowed into the gulf between the brothers. Whatever little ember of brotherly love which might have existed between the two had been snuffed out years ago by the pile of ash which was the carefully protected Wheeler family dysfunction.
“Is that it?” Derrick finally spoke, daring to lift his eyes to his older brother’s again. Derrick tried desperately to regain the leading role in the conversation. He’d never divined how easily Isaac could seize that power, how unnerving he really was. “You always were an odd duck Isaac…no one ever understood why you left. Least of all me.” If Derrick caught the veiled reference to Josie as the one Wheeler with compassion he gave no indication. It was always all about Derrick anyway.
And there it was…a certain admission though Derrick would never concede the point. Truth of the matter was that Isaac had agonized about leaving his brother behind. But Derrick was the softer of the two then and he wouldn’t have been able to handle it. The train engine was moving again, pulled off its little track to tap against the picture frame Isaac had been holding earlier, nudging it closer to his brother with each tap. “You wanna know the truth, Derrick? I almost…”
“Well some things never change.” A feminine voice broke through what seemed to be the beginnings of another Wheeler brother brawl. “For a second there I thought the two of you were back in the yard fightin over who was picking a smaller switch.” Susannah Wheeler smiled her mother’s smile at her two brothers, thin and unamused.
“Susannah.” Isaac greeted, grateful for the break in tension while Derrick just shook his head in exasperation. Isaac had never been one for pretense, for saying one thing while meaning another. He’d choked on enough hypocrisy growing up to fill two life times.
“Long time no see big brother.” Susannah answered, a sly look coupled to her Cheshire cat smile. She’d always been the instigator growing up. She had an eye for manipulation and being the only girl and the youngest to boot meant her fingers were crowded with a multitude of people wrapped around them.
“Mama’ll be along in a minute. Feel good to be home again, big brother?” Susannah asked with a knowing look on her face. Thinly veiled amusement at Isaac’s rigid discomfort as she weaved through several chairs set up in Derrick’s office for the reading. A baby viper in training waiting for the right time to strike, she’d learned well at her Mother’s side. She paused to lean up to give Isaac a kiss on the cheek.
“S’just fine Susannah.” Answered as he lowered to receive the kiss. She had never done a thing without clearly defined intent. She’d left not too long after Isaac. Some design school up north though whereas Isaac had wanted out, Susannah had just wanted the checks to come in the mail.
“You were never a good liar, Isaac.” Susannah smiled. “No amount of time’s ever going to change that either.”
“I guess I jus’ never acquired your charm for it, Susannah.” Isaac drawled, negotiating this nest of resentment with a practiced ease. Wasn’t too different at the carnival…everyone with their own loyalties and curiosities, always prying into other people’s lives. But there was a certain sheen of sadness hidden behind that gray curtain. There was a time when Susannah had cared for nothing more than chasing dandelions and drawing out her imagination in Crayola’s waxy rainbows. There’d been a certain kindred quality between the two growing up. Isaac protective of his sister…both of them so clearly needing to find a way out. Isaac’s had been permanent. Susannah had never been able to break free of that finer things kind of need.
“Mm…” Susannah chuckled at her brother’s response. “True. But then again, you never had to. You weren’t around when things got bad.”
“What’s true Susannah?” Caroline Wheeler’s voice sounding from the door as she came into the office.
Isaac turned, those thunderstorm colored eyes roaming across the space to see his mother. She was older, obviously, but still carried herself with the style of a southern matriarch. She’d kept up with the style, fashioned herself into a woman who had managed to hang onto the echoes of youthful beauty.
“Mama.” Isaac answered her question with the name he’d always called her. Old habits.
“So the prodigal son returns. Would've been nice if you had shown for the funeral. What brings you back now?” Caroline spoke without turning to face her eldest son. Her eldest son who’d never quite lived up to lofty standards, and, in failing to do so, made it impossible for her to forgive.
“What’s true Susannah?” His mother asked again as she and Susannah found their place in similar chairs alongside Isaac’s. “That your brother abandoned his family and his place in it for a dirty tent and a rail car carnival?” Such a thing, when she’d heard about it through the rumor mill, had mortified her for days. How could she ever show her face at brunch at the country club again? Reputations had to be kept, couldn’t let the gossip mongers sink their teeth into the family. Pretenses were kept so pride could reign over destroyed hearts.
Isaac remained still, unsure of how the manic-depressive, Jekyll-Hyde cycle of his mother would continue to play itself out. Like a prey animal when it knew a predator was hunting it, Isaac did not move for fear of drawing his mother’s attention. It’d been the same when he was a child…slinking just out of his mother’s view when she was drinking heavily because his father was away on business and the whole house knew what happened when Daddy was away on business.
"Like I was tellin’ Derrick, Mama…I came back cause I was asked to.” Eyes and words leaving a smarting and silent Susannah to move back to his mother. “I said good bye a long time ago.”
“Oh I know you did. With all the bluster of a buck with his first set of horns.” Caroline spoke with such venom, took pleasure in seeing Isaac wince at the mention of the buck. He’d been a constant source of embarrassment for the family. Working in some carnival, wasting the potential that she had tried to mold and forcing her to come up with story after story to explain his absence while at brunch with her society friends or at church.
“Mrs. Wheeler--so good to see you.” Royce Dixon’s gravelly voice sounded from behind as he walked in with a stack of paper tucked beneath one arm and unknowingly kept Isaac from the wolves. “Susannah…Derrick…” Making the rounds of greetings until his eyes fell upon Isaac. “Hello son…it’s been a long time. Too long.” A certain gentleness there that spoke of many known secrets.
“Mr. Dixon.” Isaac said, partially standing to shake the elderly man’s hand while gently clutching his wrist with the other. “It has been. How’s Sophia?” Inquiring about his daughter. Isaac had taken her to the senior prom years ago.
“She’s good…she’s very good. Married and living up in Atlanta.” Royce answered with a grandfatherly smile for Isaac. “Shall we?” Turning to the rest of the family.
“Yes.” Caroline said curtly while tugging down at her skirt. She was still rankled by Isaac’s words for when he had left it meant that her influence had lessened on her other two children and that was something she’d never forgive her eldest for.
Royce gladly took Derrick’s offered chair as the second born son moved around the desk to sit on Isaac’s other side, placing him in the middle. It took a moment for the elder Royce to settle himself, spotted fingers tugged at the edges of his tweed coat before moving to adjust the glasses which covered cloudy eyes though they still carried a spark of keen intelligence despite their advanced age.
“Well…we all know why we’re here. Jonathan was a good friend and partner. I remember like yesterday when we began this firm out of nothing but a few boxes and an office in a strip mall. Jonathan’s passing was as sudden as it was sad. I think it should remind us all how precious life is…and how suddenly it can be taken away.” Royce’s eyes lingered on Isaac for a moment longer.
“The last will and testimony of Jonathan Wheeler.” Royce began; he read the words slowly while holding the paper with both hands. “This was recently redone…dated and notarized just last week.”
“What?” Susannah and Derrick asked simultaneously.
“There must be some mistake.” Caroline said as Royce looked up from the paper, bald pate shining as the sun slowly set behind him. “Jonathan and I last discussed our wills several years ago.”
“It would seem he had other plans, Caroline. I’ve always been his executor, but this is just as surprising to me as you, I assure you.” An easy lie as his eyes briefly flicked to Isaac again. “It was properly notarized and signed, lodged with the court and everything. He must have done this alone.”
“Whatever.” A wave of Caroline’s heavily ringed hand. “Go on, please.”
Royce cleared his throat and adjusted his bow tie before he found his place in the will. “I, Jonathan Wheeler, of sound body and mind, do hereby establish my last will and testament. To my beloved wife whom I have forever loved, honored and cherished, I leave our family home, its contents and the family lands to be cared for by her until a time of her choosing.”
Caroline nodded regally as Royce read her part of the will. Isaac noted she even took the part about being beloved and cherished in stride. Maybe all the affairs didn’t matter as long as she was number one, his wife in public if not in private?
“To my daughter, Susannah, I leave enough funds, to be supervised by the executor, to finish her schooling in New York and then establish a two year account not to exceed one hundred thousand dollars a year. After said two years, I give Susannah full rights and ownership of the apartment in Atlanta, Georgia.”
“To my son, Derrick, I gladly leave you the firm, to be supervised by Royce Dixon as senior partner until he or other such qualified individuals deem you ready to take full, senior partnership rights. In addition I also leave the beach house on Tybee Island and its contents to Derrick.”
Isaac silently watched as the will was read, his father’s ill-gotten gains divvied up between wife and children. Watched as Derrick’s face split into a proud grin at hearing he would someday get the firm and the beach house, watched as his sister’s face hardened at only being given free schooling and a total of two hundred thousand dollars along with a downtown apartment.
“To my first born and treasured son, Isaac.” Royce read while opening a second folder. “I leave to you and you alone, my legacy so that it might become your future. The future you were always meant, but never knew, to have.” Royce paused as he pulled a sealed envelope from the folder and leaned across the desk to hand it to Isaac. “I also leave the contents of this sealed envelope to you as well. Gone may you have been, but you were never forgotten.”
Isaac pushed back into his chair, a grip so strong upon the arms that knuckles flashed with bone whiteness. He recoiled from that offered letter as if the envelope was poisoned, so much so that he forced Royce to set it down on the edge of the desk. Just when he had felt so much relief…so much freedom. How like his father to play one last trick on him. And to do it from the grave where it would be permanent, impossible to undo or forget. His legacy? That was the last thing Isaac could ever want in a hundred lifetimes. It threatened to swallow him, to drag him down to the deepest blackness of despair and loathing. He finally grabbed at the envelope, shoved it in a pocket so it would be out of sight. He would burn it.
“What’s in the letter?” Derrick asked, as shocked as the rest at his father’s kind words for Isaac. He had been acutely aware his father had said no such things about him.
“That is for Isaac to disclose, if he wishes.” Royce said, a certain sadness tinging his words as he watched Isaac’s reactions. He of all people knew the burden that had been placed on Isaac both before and now. Knew of his relationship with his father…had seen the elder Wheeler struggle with it for years. But Royce also knew better than anyone save Jonathan the importance of Isaac taking up that legacy.
“And…” Royce paused as he turned back to the will. “Hmm…” He glanced up and looked around the room. “The will mentions a Josette Wheeler. Is she a family member as well?” Royce expressed genuine ignorance as to the identity of Josie. Some secrets were kept even from him and the others.
“Excuse me?” Caroline asked, her voice frosted with the iciest of chills.
“You’re kidding?” Derrick asked with a disbelieving look across Isaac to his mother and sister.
“Or lying.” Susannah added, still smarting over the smallest share of the will. She hadn’t even stopped to think about what Isaac had gotten. Not to mention that Josie had been a threat to the carefully constructed world of Princess Susannah.
“Yes…” Royce said, taken aback by the reaction. “It says here, to Josette Wheeler, my Josie...a man may seek absolution for many sins, however when it came time to confess mine, I would apologize for all of them save one. I have loved you from the moment you entered this world and it is to you who I leave the remainder of my estate to.”
“Oh I do not think so. She is not part of this family Royce. Erase that…tear it up. I don’t care what you have to do but that little bastard will not inherit from my family.” His mother hissed, fists threatening to rip her designer purse in two as those words stabbed at her.
There was a quiet clearing of one’s throat behind them, everyone turning around while Royce looked up from the desk to see an alabaster skinned brunette standing nervously in the door. Before she could say anything Caroline Wheeler was screeching like a banshee let loose within the office.
“No…no…NO! How dare you. How dare you come here. You product of a *** whore. How dare you call yourself a Wheeler?”
“Mrs. Wheeler…” Royce said, flabbergasted as he stood behind the desk.
“Oh you played him just right didn’t you? Got all of our money because he ****** your little whore of a mother! Oh how like you Jonathan…one last joke from beyond the grave and it’s in the form of this little strumpet…”
Isaac was shocked by his mother’s sudden outburst, the echoes of it spilling down the halls to make a very private matter a very public disaster. Already heads were lifting from desks and turning in the direction of the office. Isaac tried to reach out to grab his mother, the southern matriarch transforming like some monster at the end of a fairy tale. Caroline wrenched herself free to stand up and wheel around on Josie.
“You will get nothing. Do you hear me? Noth…ing!”
Everyone was standing now, Susannah and Derrick coalescing behind their mother, their faces displaying the rage and shame their mother’s words gave voice to.
“You got some nerve showing up here.” Derrick said with an almost lethal calm as he stepped towards Josie.
Josie recoiled back into the hall, flushed and embarrassed and repelled by the tone in Derrick’s voice. The cold hatred washed over her like ice water and she soon bumped into the wall behind her, sending a picture frame askew before she looked left and right as she noticed the eyes of the entire firm on her.
“Please…I…I…” Josie stammered. “I was just told to be here…I didn’t mean to. He was my Father.” Spoken through a sheen of tears before they were wiped away abruptly.
Caroline laughed and practically spit out her next words. "He was you and your Mother's meal ticket. Nothing more. You are a blight on this family’s name. That’s all you are. You’re a ******* cancer…”
“And like a cancer, you need to be cut out.” Derrick’s voice was dangerously low as he closed his hand around Josette’s arm hard enough to bruise, wanting nothing more but to quite literally throw her out of his Father’s firm onto the street where her kind of trash belonged.
Isaac reacted then, hearing his mother call her a cancer and then his brother saying so callously that she should be cut out. He didn’t know if they knew about her condition…he didn’t care. Something just broke within him at hearing them talk about her like that. And when asked about it later he’d honestly say he had no memory. Isaac surged forward, collided into his brother while the momentum sent both Wheeler brothers crashing into the book shelves.
Derrick was bigger, thicker than Isaac but he had no chance against the decade plus rage which fueled Isaac in that particular moment. Isaac grabbed him by that four hundred dollar tie and broke his jaw with a single closed fisted slug. They’d gotten into rows in the past but nothing could compare to the amount of violence Isaac was bent on delivering.
Derrick slumped down to the ground as Isaac hit him again for good measure. Josie screamed Isaac’s name and Caroline screamed for Derrick’s safety while Susannah, the closest, stood in detached, numbed silence.
Isaac pulled the switchblade he always carried from a pocket. “Those’ll be the last words spilled from your lyin’, lawyer mouth.” Isaac squeezed Derrick’s jaw that he had broken so hard if only to be able to make it easier for him to cut out the tongue out.
Josie moved forward as if approaching a wounded animal in a rage and closed her hand around Isaac’s arm, her tone eerily calm though she was still trembling and clearly shaken. “Isaac don’t. I couldn’t bear it if they locked you up again. Please. For me?”
Isaac was still in a haze of rage, but Josie’s hand seemed to pierce through the worst of it enough to clear his vision. He breathed deeply, the blade held inches from his brother’s face before he squeezed his jaw painfully to wrench it to the side so he faced Josie. “Take a good long look Derrick. I want you to remember that face. Because the only reason you’re still breathin’ is because our sister asked me to stop.”
He folded the blade closed and dropped it in his pocket as he righted himself again. He looked around at the aftermath of the brawl. Royce stood in silent shock as he stared back at Isaac,
“Are you happy now Isaac? Are you happy that you came back to ruin us just one more time?” Caroline asked as Isaac unclenched his fist…it ached with the pain of several broken bones.
Isaac ignored his mother’s taunts. He’d grown immune to them over the years. He brushed by her, instead, to gently collect Josie with surprising tenderness.
“C’mon now…” Taking her and holding her against him. “Ain’t nothin’ worth stayin’ here for.”
Joined: 17 Oct 2013
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647.32 Silver Crowns
|Posted: Sat Oct 25, 2014 11:46 pm Post subject:
|“We are all born believing. A man bears beliefs as a tree bears apples.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
New Orleans, The City That Care Forgot, teemed with a plethora of debauched possibilities. Long a den of vice and iniquity, the city had a charm all its own if one would but pull back the veneer of beads and parades. Owning a long and storied history of loose morals, the beating heart of this place was undoubtedly the Vieux Carré, the French Quarter.
The Hedonist languidly strolled along one of the narrow streets within the Quarter, undoubtedly attracted to the place for its open and uncaring embrace of miscreants and licentiousness. Desires blunted ever since He took her into his light, the Hedonist had sought distraction while he worked out how to find her once more. He knew the carnival would make its swing to the south soon. He would wait like a crocodile in the Nile just beneath the surface for her to come to him.
Teems of humanity flowed like a river on either side of the centuries old cobble-stoned street seeking to purposefully lower their inhibitions through drink and drug. Such a place practically did his work for him. The rhythmic tapping of his cane kept the beat like a metronome, deciphering the Morse code messages of desire and lusts such a place barely contained. The raucous sound of a live jazz band spilled out from a nearby bar, its improvised notes shooting its own rhythmic beat into the veins of those who listened…the Quarter’s very own drug of choice.
That leonine gaze prowled about, lazy like a great cat in afternoon heat, for amusement. Unlike the multitudes around him, the Hedonist was not in search of alcoholic distraction. His drink of choice was far superior to anything which came from grain or barley, his preferred intoxicant was temptation. The night was sweltering, humid and swollen with unrestrained wantonness; just begging for a pin prick to unleash all its energy like a sudden and powerful storm of salacity.
The Scorpion slowed his leisurely stroll to a stop at an intersection, chartreuse colored eyes glancing to and fro…each direction pregnant with opportunity and desire. The flood of flesh continued unabated around him, the dizzying attractions and colors an opiate for those seeking distractions from the mundane.
“We should go to this bar down here...”
“Did you see that girl? I’d have given her all my beads just for another..."
"I have the answer you seek. I see it here in the bones.”
The passing snippets of conversation added to the buzz, to the vibration of possibility all about him. He watched as two law officials on horseback played Little Dutch Boy, a smooth lined sneer for their vain attempt to hold back the spate of desires. Dismissing them, his attentions finally settled on an uneven line of street vendors and would be soothsayers. Each had set up shop for the night, preying on the desire to know the future, the need to know if he or she truly loved them.
The Hedonist crossed the street in their direction, intrigued by those who offered a definite snapshot of an indefinite world. Various groups clustered around these men and women like moths to a flame. One table was occupied by a woman, a snow globe ornament containing a wolf whom she kept indicating as her special friend. Another, a dark skinned man claiming island heritage, was intimating secrets of coming sickness to a worried looking elderly woman. Each table had gathered a crowd of onlookers and participants…all but one.
That golden green smear of color settled on the one with no crowd interest, the lack there of drawing the Hedonist’s. He sat at the end of the line, the slender figure reclining with no potential customers in sight. The man’s face had been meticulously covered with a mask in the shape of a skull, the jaw and teeth exposed in a glistening white which had the sheen of wetness about it, the eye sockets empty and black as they hid the true eyes behind, the temple and brow decorative with gold and artistic swirls of silvery filigree.
He stopped opposite the seated man, the two merely staring at one another for a long moment before the masked figure broke the silence and spoke first,
“Do you wish to know?” The baritone voice a cocktail of rich tones spiked with just a hint of Creole patois.
“What knowledge do you offer?” Sensing that the masked figure was no mere street vendor, the Hedonist canted his head to the side, clearly amused by the man’s opening salvo.
“Everything.” The answer came as the figure leaned forward to rest his elbows on the table before him, his right hand twisting at the wrist to present his palm facing upwards. “Nothing.” The gesture was mirrored with his left hand.
“What do you call yourself Soothsayer? And why wear the mask?” The Hedonist’s gaze shifted away from the skull like mask to the various trinkets and items which decorated the table, which hung from its edges. A ubiquitous voodoo doll hung directly next to a silver Christian crucifix, a Muslim crescent turned on its golden chain in a slow breeze to clink against a Star of David and so on; the man seemingly having every religious icon on display.
“You seek a way in.” The figure answered, easing a wooden bowl towards him, a clear indication that knowledge towards such a path would come at a price.
The Scorpion gave a slow forming smile, generous lips curving upwards to cleave proud lines through aristocratic features. Where there was esurience there was also avarice. “So I see. Everything has its price, no?" Dropping several coins into the bowl.
“No, the trouble is you don't see and that is what is disturbing you. For our purposes here, you may call me La Roque.” The masked figure rumbled. “We all have masks do we not? Not merely the physical such as this.” Lifting a hand to lightly touch the cheek of the skull with a certain reverence, but refusing to elaborate further at the moment.
“A contradictory collection, La Roque.” The Hedonist observed, his words in reference to the eclectic assortment of iconography, willing to believe the reason for the mask was nothing more than street vendor style. “Which do you think has the true power?” A far more important matter.
“All.” La Roque seemed to smile beneath his mask, the muscles of his tattooed neck shifting as he lifted his shoulders in a shrug. “...And None. They are as contradictory as they are complimentary." A pause as he gave a distracted wave behind him. "They are, for all intents and purposes, merely ornaments and symbols for those who wish to pick their particular poison. For that is what all beliefs are. At once poison and panacea." He raised his palms, alternating them up and down as if they were balancing scales. "A lovely paradox, no?"
The Hedonist’s fingers were drawn to the crucifix, lightly lifting it to inspect its craftsman ship, noting the small details of the nailed figure upon it. “Is that so?” Releasing the cross from his touch, he returned that leonine gaze to the seated man.
“The power comes not from the icons, not from the stories, but from the belief in them. ” The answer coming only after the cross had been released. “Take the doll for instance.” The figure reached forward to pluck the voodoo doll up from the table. “Tell me. Do you feel pain when I stick it?” A hand took a long, slender needle, a crimson feather on its end, and struck the doll in the midsection.
The Hedonist wore a smirk as La Roque twisted the needle through the doll’s midsection until its gleaming point erupted from its back. A chartreuse glance down his chest and abdomen before looking back into the hollow eyes of the mask. “No.”
“No. Because you choose not to believe. And yet so many minds across the world, more than you might imagine, believe that a simple woven doll of burlap and buttons can inflict pain and suffering to another. Another soul who has bought into a belief that such a thing is possible might crumple up in agony simply for believing they are vulnerable to such an attack, and so they pay for protection. It is the same with voodoo kings and queens, acolytes and priests with their rituals, sacrifices, blood magic, black magic, and every other type of magic they've conjured up to create the ultimate illusion for control; Fear. It is a worthless paradigm until it is given power through belief. But..." A raise of a shoulder.
"They choose to believe the illusion." A soft chuckle. "They literally create their own demons and then seek me for protection and wards from them. It is an amusing sort of irony, I suppose. The trick and the challenge is to get them to buy in."
The Scorpion gave a nod towards the more crowded tables. “Perhaps that is why you are vacant with an empty bowl, La Roque.” The Hedonist smiled a lascivious smile. “Because you merely offer an illusion, when they seek the real thing.” Prurient prose offering a contradiction to the street vendor’s words; a contradiction far more in line with his own view.
La Roque sat in silence for a long moment, those black vacant eyes studied the Scorpion. There was great energy roiling from this one’s frame, he could almost see it like heat wafting upwards off asphalt. Such power was tempting. Especially to one such as La Roque. This piper had many mice trailing behind him with his tune. “My table is vacant because I have been waiting for you. You can't get someone to buy in, can you? Well, I will help you weave the illusion you seek. And then we will see if you still seek your—distractions.”
Joined: 02 Aug 2013
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Can Be Found: Behind the Blade
1810.84 Silver Crowns
|Posted: Sun Nov 16, 2014 9:10 pm Post subject:
|There was a belch of black smoke as the flatbed truck found its gear and lurched forward. The driver had one hand out the window, waving it in a circle as if urging the big rig on with sheer willpower. After a moment or two of indecision the engine give a growl and sent up another plume of smoke and the truck lumbered forward, its precious cargo, the Gravitron, tied securely down on the bed.
Isaac strolled alongside Boomer as the Carnival slowly came to life around him. Every now and then Benny would get an idea stuck in his craw about a winter swing through some of the southern states to try and squeeze a few more bucks out of the rubes. Ordinarily a lot of the Carnies bitched and moaned about such a trip…the money was rarely good, the nights were cold and slow, but this was one trip Isaac didn’t mind.
He and Boomer walked alongside the convoy of trucks stuck in idle, each one waiting for their assigned load. The riders were all contract guys…hired to load and move the Crossroads to their next intersection but weren’t a part of the Carnival and so Isaac paid them little attention.
“Easy now Boz mon…” Isaac heard the familiar island breeze of an accent as he came around the back of one of the trucks, ignoring the hot beat of exhaust as it pumped across his legs. “Be careful wit ma baybee now…” Andre was upon the side of the crane, dreadlocks held in place by a sweat stained bandana.
“I hear ya... I hear ya. Keep yer hair on.” Grizzled and scarred, Boz clenched a cigar between his teeth as he worked the multiple handles of the cane, swung it out to the side where a team of roughies waited to catch the hook and tie it off so Andre’s baby, also known as the Zipper, could be lifted and placed on the next waiting truck.
“You boys on schedule?” Isaac nearly shouted over the din of the crane, that antebellum accent pulling at the words, stretching out the syllables. Thunderstorm of gray took a quick note of the bustling activity all around. Trucks moved about the grassy lot, teams of men and women moved like ants in a kicked over mound as they all worked to get their things packed and ready. The Carnival stored all its big items (rides, tents, attractions and the like) in several large warehouses during the off season. It meant a little more rent but protected everything from the weather and, in the long run, saved money.
“Isaac mon,” Andre answered with a flash of pearly white as he glanced over his shoulder and down at the slender knife thrower. “Whad you be doin out 'ere wit us ride jocks, eh?” Andre turning back to ensure Boz was indeed being careful with his baby before turning back to Isaac.
“Benny.” Isaac answered in a flat tone while watching the roughies loop several strands of cable around the massive crane hook. It was clear that Isaac was annoyed for a variety of reasons which merely had Andre nodding and laughing.
“You don need ta be sayin anymore Isaac mon. Me knownin all wit dat one word. You tell da boss mon dat me an' Boz be right on schedule.” Andre assured Isaac, knowing Benny had stuck Isaac with the job because the knife thrower had been tardy in showing up for the pack up.
Isaac gave a two fingered salute before lifting the clipboard he’d been carrying to scribble down which ride Boz and Andre were loading and the time. Truth be told Isaac didn’t care one way or another; he’d have pencil whipped the time just to keep Benny off everyone’s back. Isaac might struggle to play nice with others,but he definitely knew which side of the management line he was on.
“C’mon boy.” Isaac drawled, drawing Boomer’s attention away from the group working on the Zipper. Isaac steered them both away from the crane, the grind of the engine rising as Isaac turned away. Inwardly, the showman would be glad to get on the road and get to their destination. Sounds of feminine protest and tears still echoed around his ears when he paused to give it thought. Putting Josie on that flight back to France had been the second hardest thing he’d ever done but it had been silly to think that she would have enjoyed herself out here on the road. Sleeping in a new place every few nights, up at dawn, late nights, the works. She belonged back in France with her mother and her doctors. Not out roughing it with a bunch of showmen and carnies. Sooner they got on the road, sooner he could put some real distance between that and that acrid taste he got in his mouth whenever he thought about how his sister’s face had look when he flat out refused her.
“What you lookin at?” Spoken for Boomer as the mutt just stared up at Isaac and gave a low woof of diapproval. “What? You too?” Feeling that Boomer’s look was more than a little accusatory. “It ain’t a good place for her.” Isaac fell short, not wanting to speak about her condition aloud. It’d been a good visit despite how it had started. The two of them just walking around old Savannah like old times. The world had a rare way of feeling right when he and Josie were together, but Isaac wouldn’t put that selfish desire ahead of her well-being--so it’d been a plane back to France.
“Hey Isaac!” The shout coming from behind the knife thrower had the slender showman tensing. “Hey Isaac…wait up man.” Mouse shouted again as he hurried to catch up. “Didn’t think we’d see you man. Last we heard you were up on Idaho or something.” Mouse said breathlessly as he caught up with Isaac amidst a maze of crates stacked taller than both men combined.
“Montana.” Isaac corrected as he tucked his pencil behind an ear and glanced down at his wristwatch. He settled that cool thunderstorm of a gaze on Mouse and waited in silence for the loquacious dunk bozo to keep rattling out words like a slot machine does coins.
“Huh. That’s cool. Say, you seen Fia anywhere?” Mouse asked with a fearful look on his face…as if he was hoping Isaac hadn’t seen her.
“Not since Savannah.” Isaac drawled, fair brow arching in question for the look Mouse had. “Why you lookin for her?” Aware of the sweet scent of pine and sawdust on the air as a breeze picked up upwind of all the crates.
“Savannah?” Confused, Mouse grabbed at the back of his neck as Isaac settled those heavy eyes on him. “You two ah..."Mouse scissored his two index and middle fingers back and forth.
Isaac crossed his arms over his chest as Mouse began to insinuate.
“Right. Not my business." Didn't matter anyway. Dixie would dig up that bit of dirt in no time. " I was looking for her cause some of the boys wanna start loading her carousel onto the flatbeds and I know how she is about anyone touching her ride so I just wanted to clear it from her before anyone starts loading the crates because you know how she can get. I mean if there’s one scratch anywhere, she’d probably burn the whole place down and I…”
Isaac exhaled slowly as Mouse’s mouth ran without interruption. He actually found himself watching how Mouse talked, curious to see if the champion of the dunk tank ever took a breath.
“You know how she can be. Just Whooof…up in flames. Crazy right? Isaac?”
“No.” Isaack answered as Mouse began to realize Isaac had switched off whatever channel he’d been broadcasting nonstop on. “I haven’t seen her. Though I’d tell the roughies ta jus leave her ride alone. We ain’t got the time to be packin' rides and diggin' graves at the same time.”
“Right…right…totally…totally my thoughts too.” Mouse replied as he unclipped a walkie talkie from a pocket of his cargo pants. “Hey uh…let’s just leave the carousel as is boys. Switch over to swings alright?”
”But you said to start on the carousel, I thought we were…” Came the crackling reply over the walkie before Mouse quickly switched off the radio and prevented the roughies from further confirming they were already working on the carousel.
“Our secret?” Mouse hedged.
“Your funeral.” Isaac answered and began to turn away from the soon to be retired dunk bozo.
He’d spoken the truth about not seeing Fia since Savannah. She’d shown up after talking to him on the phone. That distant voice sounding at once so close and so far away. She’d gone with him and Josie to Bonaventure cemetery to visit Jonathan Wheeler’s grave. Josie had wanted to go to pay her last respects. Isaac had gone because he couldn’t tell her no…not about that.
The letter--his father’s letter--had felt like lead in his pocket. Pulling him down like in his dreams so he’d given it to Fia when his lighter refused to spark. Gave her the letter with a gesture that said do your thing.
And just like that, he’d let go.
She’d been at the airport with him as well and bore witness to that heart wrenching argument of tears versus stoicism. Isaac wasn’t sure how Fia had felt about the whole thing--course he hadn’t asked either. Maybe he didn't want to know what she thought. She’d have her opinions no doubt, but what she’d witnessed was family--something Isaac was mighty private about. Didn’t matter that it had gone down in a crowded airport terminal. Even if Isaac was sure some the TSA boys were on the verge of breaking it up. Didn’t matter. They’d agreed to meet back up at the Carnival and that had been it.
“You hear about the new guy Benny hired?” Mouse was asking, falling into step alongside Isaac and Boomer as the three negotiated the crate maze.
Nah.” Isaac answered, aware Mouse was trying to wiggle himself out of his troubles by trying to get in good with him, trying to share some gossip in hopes he’d put in a word for him with Fia.
“Some guy he met down in New Orleans. Supposed to meet us in Mobile. Said he’s some kind of illusionist or something.” Mouse continued on, the two of them approaching a four way path amidst the crates which ran towards several of the warehouses. “
“Not sure I really care,” Isaac turning and interrupting Mouse for the last time. He’d been through a lot in the last few days and was quickly red lining the extreme edge of his patience. As he spoke, Boomer lifted his head and trotted off behind Isaac, stump of a tail wagging happily.
“Wow." Mouse whistled. "Who’s the skirt eh? This one of your new assistants? Is it just me or are they gettin' younger?” Mouse interrupted, mouth hanging open just a bit as he stared behind Isaac.
“What?” Isaac turned to glance over his shoulder to see his sister standing there, multiple bags of luggage stacked around her with Boomer running excitedly around her feet. She was supposed to be on a plane. She was supposed to be halfway over the god damn Atlantic right now.
Joined: 21 Oct 2013
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Can Be Found: Strolling along the Midway
826.72 Silver Crowns
|Posted: Fri Jul 01, 2016 11:11 pm Post subject:
|Summer was right around the corner, its arrival hinted at with the longer days and rising mercury in the few thermometers scattered about the dusty lot that the Crossroads Carnivale had staked out for itself on the outskirts of town. Rides were going up with rapid effectiveness, colorful tents pulled from the backs of big rigs and dusted off before being thrown up like the feathers of some wild peacock advertising to any who might take notice while the sounds of power saws growled through the air to join the scent of freshly cut wood for the gaming booths, the pounding of hammers adding their staccato and making the entire lot feel alive, as if the carnival was some giant, living organism coming to life after a long winter's hibernation.
Big rig trucks loitered in a long line, their engines rumbling in idle while air conditioners blew a little cool air into the cabs in a vain attempt to chill both the temperature and the drivers’ tempers. Time was money and both were being wasted.
“What’s the hold up, Mick? Ya jamming me way up. We wait any longer an Lucille’s gonna go ballistic about Rufus.” A lean figure shouted as he approached the lead truck. Eyes were tucked away beneath a Trilby hat, though even at a glance Mick knew who the figure was.
“Whaddya want from me eh?” The driver shouted back and gestured through the windshield at a gaggle of back yard boys and gazoonies milling around with hands in their pockets. “I got no clue what these jokers are doin…say they ain’t lettin no trucks through till they talk to Benny.”
Patch pulled himself up onto the side of the rig by the side-view mirror and leaned forward to get a better view of the problem. “What you hauling, Mick?” Patch asked with a glance of antique bronze colored eyes back at the flatbed.
He'd had a real name at some point but it'd been traded in like tickets at the frog toss in exchange for the nickname that everyone knew him by. Patch was the carnival's fixer...didn't matter the problem, he had the solution whether it was paying cops to the look the other way, cooling down townies after getting burned on a hot game and all the way down to managing the different personalities within the eclectic group of carnies. Consequently, Patch had a lot of juice amongst the carnival workers and served as a kind of go between with Benny and management on one end and the actual workers on the other.
“Bunch o pig iron for the Dragon.” Mick answered and reached up to adjust his ball cap. “God damn Benny…I bet they’re thinking this is a red light job…that Benny’s gonna stiff em.” Grumbled as he picked up a Styrofoam cup to spit a healthy amount of dip from his mouth and then tugged on the line for the horn which blared its angry blast at the crowd. “Thought you had us staked out already, Patch?” Mick asked with a look over to Patch after a moment more of scowling at the assembly of day laborers and new workers blocking his convoy’s way.
“Easy now.” Patch drawled as the horn blared a second time. “It’s already burning out…ain’t gonna get any cooler with you blowin steam like this. You’re been staked out since before the jump, Mick.” Patch answered with a reassuring nod, an indication that Mick had already been given his spot within the carnival. Patch’s easy going croon combined with those heavy lidded eyes to give the appearance of a man who was never rattled, never knocked off his game. “Your loc’s set up just past Big Eli over there.” Pointing though the windshield to a large area of vacant space marked off with wooden stakes and neon construction ribbon fluttering in the hot breeze. Big Eli, the carnival’s Ferris Wheel, was already up and used as a visual reference for everything else within the grounds of the carnival.
“Tell you what…how bout I have a talk with Jingles…let your cut in on the gennys for a couple nights no charge?” Patch referencing the carnival’s juice man, Jingles, who controlled all the generators and power supply. Each carny cut into the power supply for a fee with the bigger pulls, like the Dragon, requiring bigger fees.
“Oh yeah?” Mick asked with a glance back Patch’s way, a little tick at the corner of his grizzled mouth threatening to bloom into a grin. That it didn’t was because Mick was a hard bitten former bail bondsman from Norfolk who’d traded in chasing skips to travel the roads with the Carnival. The way Mick told it was that getting shot at a second time was more than enough warning to move on and find something new.
“Yeah…you’d be doing me a favor by not running over my work force.” Patch answered with a grin of his own. The Dragon was a big draw for the carnival and Mick already had a short fuse to begin with. Patch didn’t need him or his crew simmering before the first townie even queued up. So if it meant shuffling one favor for another then so be it. That was the name of the game at the end of the day anyway.
“Sounds good.” Mick spoke and spit another load of dip into his cup…his way of saying thank you without actually using the words.
Patch gave a nod and hopped down from the side of the rig and Mick watched the fixer stroll forward towards the gaggle of workers. He didn’t hear the words but saw Patch give a few sharp gestures and the gaggle exploded with movement, workers scurrying in all directions to scatter like sheep from the wolf. Mick reached up to give a tug on the horn, the double blare a sign to his crew as well as another show of thanks. Mick’s lead truck groaned as he downshifted and tapped the accelerator, a cloud of sooty smoke billowing up from the stacks as he pulled forward and wheeled around Big Eli to his assigned location.
"You certainly be puttin da ghosts in dem boys, Patch.” Andre’s booming timbre shot through with that unique Caribbean patois sounding from in front of his own ride, the large man watching Patch at work and puling the fixer’s attention his way. “You be tinkin we have a good season, Patch-mon?" Andre asked while dabbing at his brow with his handkerchief. It promised to be a hot one and already sweat was forming on the islander's brow. He tucked the cloth away into a back pocket of his jeans before wiping a hand across his white tank top, ebony skinned muscles rippling within the large frame as he lifted a bottle of Red Stripe beer to his lips.
"We're on the lot...not quite in the air yet. First stop always sets the tone for the season." Patch answered as he joined Andre on the railing . He reached up to tip the brim of his Trilby back up his brow with a thumb, heavy lidded bedroom eyes rolling up the growing skeleton of Andre's ride, the yardies crawling all over it like angry ants to drive pins into place and leverage heavy pieces of steel into their proper arrangement. "So here's hopin so." Patch lifted a hand rolled cigarette and ran the paper back and forth along his tongue before sealing it tightly and placing it between his lips.
“Bitch’ll be done by dusk.” Boz’ almost feral growl announcing his arrival and that his ride, the Tilt-A-Whirl, would be assembled while making the duo of Patch and Andre a triumvirate. The giant gave a glance towards Andre’s ride and smirked. “Slow goin eh, Dre?” The two ride jocks had a healthy competition going in almost everything.
“Dats cause you been poachin da best yardies.” Andre answered with a teeth gleaming grin. “Been meanin ta tell dat to da Patch.”
“You boys settle your own disputes for once, eh?” Patch joked with the carnival veterans, that cigarette dangling from between his lips as he fished a book of matches from his shirt pocket.
“Don be meanin nothing, Boz mon…da gates open at da same tick tock…den we be seein who havin da long lines.” Andre lifting his bottle to his lips for a healthy pull as Boz reached into the cooler and grabbed two for himself.
“Lots of fresh faces this year.” Boz observed while turning that scarred visage over the flurry of activity out on the Midway while twisting the top off one of his bottles.
Carnival life could be transient with new faces appearing at dawn only to disappear by twilight, the decision made that the work was too hard, the pay wasn’t enough. Others might last a season and never show up in the new year having decided that life on the road just wasn’t as romantic or adventurous as the movies made it seem. Consequently, those like Patch who were with it and for it, those that had made this life their own saw tremendous turnover over the years.
“Mmmhm.” Patch sounded through pursed lips as he pulled the matchbook free and struck a match only to see it get snuffed out in a gust of wind. He peeled another free and struck it against the book, touching the burgeoning flame to the end of the cigarette and sucked down an initial drag. “We lost a couple geeks, Birdie that ran one of the flat joints…she got knocked up…Thump…apparently doing a couple of years hard time…” Patch gave a shrug as he listed a few more names Boz and Andre might know. His loyalty didn’t extend beyond the lot and the fixer had little time for those no longer with the life. “So Benny’s got a weed up about staffing…you know the drill…money this, overhead that…” Patch’s drawl was a bored as the look in his sleepy eyes.
“Someone actually knocked up Birdie?” Boz asked, an incredulous look bordering on disgusted on his face which he promptly tried to wash down with a quaff of Red Stripe.
“Thought it mighta been you after Benny had us burn down the lot once those do-gooders came out to protest.” Patch chuckled around another drag from his smoke, his reference to a rather infamous incident within the carnival that saw Benny giving the green light on all sorts of rigged games and other shenanigans in response to heavy heat from the locals. Andre joined in, the deep rhythm of mirth making it impossible for Boz to scowl too long.
“We were all ripped that night.” Boz tried vainly to defend himself.
“Aint being enough Red Stripe in all da world for dat, Boz mon.” Andre adding through his laughter.
“So Benny’s got you looking for new faces eh?” Boz, now red faced, attempted to steer the conversation back away from his past antics.
“Got us a new fortune teller up from New Orleans…goes by La Roque.” Patch confirmed, a nod towards the black tent already up in Big Eli’s shadow. The other two glanced that way as well, all three of the life-long carnys sharing similar looks of varying uncertainty. They’d only caught glimpses of the soothsayer as he went about his business alone and apart from the other carnys.
"Speakin of dem fresh faces, I been hearin dem rumors...dey flyin round a Midway like jay birds..." Andre nodding towards Patch, the topic purposefully shifting away from La Roque and to a carny’s favorite: gossip.
"Yeah?" The antique shine of Patch's eyes shifted to Andre as he blew an exhale out away from the group. "What are the birds sayin now?" Patch always had a moment to listen to rumors and hearsays, especially if it was coming from those he trusted.
"Dat we be takin on a special someone new dis year. A lil filly be joinin her brotha."
“I heard that one too, Dre.” Boz commented, his first bottle already half empty as he turned to judge Patch’s reaction.
Patch remained quiet for a moment, a seemingly annoyed flicker glinting across the almost lazy look of his eyes. He'd already heard this rumor from the boss' mouth directly. Isaac's sister was joining the carnival and Benny had nominated Patch to be her caretaker; Benny’s simple instruction: Find a place for her. "Heard that one..." Blowing an exhale of smoke and reaching down into the Styrofoam cooler for a beer himself.
Andre watched as the almost always affable Patch seemed annoyed and shared a look with Boz.
"Benny wants me to take her under my wing...show her the grounds." Patch’s answer was true enough. There was no need to go throwing dirt in Benny’s eye by letting it slip that the boss was pushing things on Patch that the fixer didn’t necessarily agree with.
"Benny no be wantin da knife mon for dat?" Andre asked, curious and thirsty for gossip as the next carny. Patch threw Andre a look as he asked about Isaac. He was one of the Showmen and their attractions were enough to get the carnival off the nut in no time...consequently they had a tendency to run their own show within the show.
"You wanna tell Isaac to take time from his show?” Patch asked while sipping his beer, the bronzed gaze returning to the rising skeleton of Andre's ride. “Aint no way Benny’s gonna mess with the tip Isaac gets outside his stage.” Patch confirming that Isaac’s routine was a big draw, grossed a heavy percentage of the carnival’s total take a night. Patch and Isaac had a quiet understanding…Isaac didn’t make waves and Patch wouldn’t have to swing by his tent. The unspoken arrangement worked well for both men. “Don’t matter…I got her booked for two weeks fore she bails the counter and quits.”
“I’ll take that bet.” Boz gave a low whistle of approval before elbowing Patch and then nodded over towards where Dixie had set up her floss stand. "Got nice stems. I'd take a whirl if Isaac wouldn't cut my throat."
The carnival’s resident gossip queen had established her court along what would become the main drag of the Midway, best way to make a few ducats as well as keep an eye on any juicy developments. Dixie was famous for two things: cotton candy…known as floss amongst the carnys and knowing everything about everyone no matter the subject or secrecy. No doubt she was already keeping tabs on the trio across the way. Dixie’s floss cart was already hot and spinning sugary strands for any of the carnival workers who might fancy a bit of spun sugar. Her blue gray hair was tied down under a colorful babushka, her eyes enigmatically hidden behind a pair of large, dark sunglasses. But what drew Patch’s attention was the diminutive brunette in a yellow sundress casually pulling a bit of sugary sweetness to her lips.
“Cho,” Andre exclaimed and looked to Boz. “Dah breddah be crushin…don be ah goin dere else you gonna end up skewered on knife mon’s shiny blades.” Andre chuckling and shaking his head, that handkerchief dabbing at his brow again as he took a pull from his bottle. Boz seemed to bristle at being called out for staring and puffed his size up a notch or two in response to Andre’s jabs. “Whatcha be tinkin, Patch…”
Patch continued to watch the girl, eyes squinted with little white creases forming at the corners of his eyes from a life spent in the sun as he studied her, reading her from head to toe from the way she moved and interacted, noting all the little flairs and ticks that made each soul unique.
“I think she looks like the first of May.” Patch drawled after a moment, heavy lidded bedroom eyes roaming back to Andre and Boz as he pushed an exhale through both nose and mouth; the moniker denoting someone who was brand new to the carnival but could, on occasion, carry a few other meanings as well. Patch put the cigarette up to his lips for another drag, seeming to dismiss the two women for the moment. "I give her two weeks."
“True…True…she be greener den Eden, but dat only cause she dun have Patch showin' her da ropes jus yet. Who bedda den you ta be showin her how we be doin tings here on da Midway?" Andre teased, knowing Patch was about as slick as they came and didn’t like to be slowed down in any way.
Patch’s smirk formed in response to Andre’s words, a lopsided affair that hung for a moment before evaporating into something harder. “Break’s just about over, no?” Patch’s croon carrying a bit of implied warning there. Nothing too serious, just a reset of boundaries and expectations that came as easily as the lazy back and forth of before. “Lemme know if you boys need something...I’m gonna make some rounds…Gunner’s no doubt got himself tied up in knots over at the Glass House…they break another mirror and he might just keel over.” Clinking bottles with Andre and Boz before pushing off the railing to drift down the Midway.
Joined: 17 Oct 2013
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647.32 Silver Crowns
|Posted: Tue Jul 05, 2016 6:14 pm Post subject:
|The Hedonist’s gait was that of a slow stroll as he prowled along the empty streets of the West End. Its run down thoroughfares dotted here and there with stubborn signs of life, the depressed and downtrodden nature of its neighborhoods standing silent sentinel to the slow strangulation of hope and opportunity. Ah…but what a rich vein such a place was. Where others saw only dwindling and drain he saw profit and gain, chaos and enjoyment.
A covetous smile tugged at the corners of his generous mouth as he gave himself over to such thoughts. The settings changed but the story remained the same…so many were so willing to indulge when finally faced with the prospect of ruin. Distraction was the drug of choice in such a place and the Hedonist peddled the purest forms of such addictions. It was on that razor’s edge between hope and finality that he played his carnal games, indulged in and crafted fantasies so wanton that the grand board upon which all the pieces moved was often obscured behind a libertine mask of constant and manufactured bliss.
He promenaded through the fog as the old bell tower sounded the arrival of the witching hour with its successive clanging reaching out across the night to announce the passage of time to an empty audience. The onyx cane capped with a leering lupine bust sounded its own faineant message as the Hedonist paused at a wide intersection. The West End had a peculiar way of blurring his Sight. The myopic return sparking a certain inquisitiveness within him that had caused him to tarry and learn the lay of the land on foot.
There was no true path before him with one direction as good as another. The illusionist La Roque having made contact, an abstruse message requesting a meeting in the West End. A rueful glance skyward as he chose left as opposed to right and resumed the gentlemanly stroll until he heard a rattling sound drifting towards him, its sound within the fog like that of a song whose name stayed just out of the mind’s reach…ever present but never truly possessed. His curiosity piqued, the Hedonist continued to drift towards the sounds while taking note of the tremors which seemed to silently vibrate through the rare pane of glass. He was aware of the rules though they chafed against him like a too heavy yolk. He was just satisfying his own temptations…could one such as he truly be blamed for such a thing?
“A rather curious location for a meeting.” Prurient prose tinged with amusement announcing his arrival as the Hedonist stood at the opening of an alley, the wan light devoured with a sense of gluttony just a few feet within the alley’s depths as if the darkness itself possessed an unsatisfied and gnawing hunger. One could sympathize as his own hunger continued unabated, one temptation satisfied split into a desire for two and so forth to form an exponential chain of desires. Chartreuse colored eyes prowled beyond the terminator of light and darkness, peered into the abyss to make out a hooded figure standing alone at the back of the alley.
“The carnival has too many prying eyes.” The figure spoke and cast his right hand out over the metal, the vibrating sound filling the negative space between the two figures, rattled like the tail of a warning serpent. “Both natural and otherwise.” The voice gravelly and disembodied as it sounded from behind a macabre gossamer mask that, when viewed a certain way, transposed a ghostly, seemingly holographic skull which obscured his true features.
“I have seen the darkened Carousel, its lacquered menagerie still and silent.” Leonine eyes glancing about the alley, the collection of refuse and detritus standing as silent evidence of the disrepair common to this part of the city. The Hedonist answered as he stopped short of La Roque’s position and cast his eyes downward to see a collection of bones glistening upon a metal pan in the twilight of the narrow alley. “You were supposed to be my eyes within the carnival. I have yet see a return on that investment, Illusionist.” The Hedonist’s temper beginning to simmer just beneath the surface in the face of such a delay.
“The world turns on its own timetable…not yours.” La Roque’s chimerical baritone sounding as he gathered the bones into his hand and cast them back across the metal, the bleached white rawness clashing against the blackened metal. Masked eyes were sent downward in study, La Roque seemingly reading their orientation as if it was guided by something other than physics and chance.
“Then you must also know that this sudden departure and sequestration are of great inconvenience to me.” There was a spark of annoyance within that wanton timbre, a subtle vibration rippling through the few panes of glass remaining in a nearby shop window. “As are cryptic words in dark alleys.” A dismissive flick of golden green eyes back to the masked figure, the Hedonist beginning to turn the iron band along a finger, fingers tracing over the etched scorpion design laid within the metal. “Where has she gone?”
“The fires throughout the city proved too great a temptation for what is housed within her.” The bones cast again, the pattern the same as the last throw and the one before that. “I am forbidden from answering that question.” La Roque intoned, the vibration of his voice unchanging in the face of the Hedonist’s obvious annoyance. “There are rules more ancient than anyone walking this plane which must be followed. The balance must be maintained.”
“Rules are for those too weak to forge their own path, for those too blinded by belief in things larger than themselves.” Heterodox words of one who knew better but had made his choice long ago. “If it weren’t so, it wouldn’t feel so good to break them.” The Hedonist’s libertine words meant to tempt La Roque, entice the figure with the promise that the prohibited was nothing more than fantasy, self-made shackles of weak and rusted chain that could so easily shatter.
“Rules are meant to be understood.” The Illusionist corrected. “It is in your nature to resist such sentiments yet it does not alter the Truth.” La Roque countered and scattered the bones again. “You fail to find that whom you seek because you have blind spots, places that even you cannot peer into…not without assistance.
“Mmm…” The Hedonist’s tone one of sensed opportunity as he deciphered the Illusionist’s words. “One only needs an understanding if they wish to circumvent them.” The golden green smear of his eyes led his hand to the metal, scattered the bones into a new pattern. “There are always exceptions…even in the most ancient of books.”
“There are doorways able to transcend this world for the other, loopholes to peer beyond the limitations of flesh and blood.” La Roque agreed, his masked face slowly turning to interpret the new pattern, the change in orientation reflecting the changes being wrought by this very conversation. “Though I caution against them.”
“And you’ve found such a…loophole.” The Hedonist surmised, unwittingly falling victim to his own nature as he leaned forward in servitude of his own temptation while ignoring the warning in its entirety. “What is it…this loophole?”
“You ask the wrong question…” The deep, soporific cadence of La Roque’s voice pulling even the Hedonist into its dreamscape. La Roque produced a playbill from the Shanachie Theater. The illusionist handed it to the Hedonist. “The question is whom?”
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