Quickie #6 – Mostly Jill

Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Jack was a figment of Jill’s imagination, you see, so when he broke his crown (while falling down) it was hard for Jill to stay up top with her heavy pail, alone and afraid with her mind shut down and quiet all of a sudden, a girl broken up. The snake in the garden was small comfort but he was someone to talk to at least and he promised to help her get home, so she let him bite her ankle and tumbled down the hill and straight down a rabbit hole where she got stuck, rather, and had to wait for some pounds to trickle their way off her body, drip drip dripping down into a pail (that the rabbit in the hole kept for just such purposes) until she could shimmy back out again.
When she attempted the hill again, it was much steeper than it had been before and she kept finding herself too tired to climb more.
I’m too old, Jill realized, to be climbing these hills anymore.

Stone Folly

Forgotten by generation after generation of men and women, the old stone building sat in the middle of the grassy meadow. Time, however, had not forgotten it, but had caressed it, each year adding to its predecessor. The stone turned browner in the summer and grayer when the rain and snow washed away the accumulating dust of summer. Vines grew and shriveled and grew again on the building’s walls, wrapping it like a comforting green blanket as the seasons and years passed.

The stone building had no doors. It had no windows. It had no chimney. It was entirely closed, impossible to get in. Eventually, when it was rediscovered by humanity, it was seen as a curiosity. When architects and historians tried to discover who had built it, they couldn’t find records of it. An old manor house had burnt down some miles from the site of the stone building, but there was no record of the wealthy family to whom the manor house belonged having ever built the structure. Farmers in the vicinity all said that they didn’t use the meadow because their cattle didn’t like grazing in it. They said they trusted the animals’ instincts and stayed away.

When it was written about in guidebooks, it was called a folly – a building constructed for decoration, for aesthetic purposes only, that had absolutely no useful value. The name commonly given to it was “The Stone Hut in the Meadow”, as if it was impossible to think up a more imaginative title that wasn’t strictly descriptive. The truth was that it didn’t really matter. Even now that the place was marked, mapped, written about and remarked upon, it didn’t draw many tourists to it. One or two hopeful tourists would stop by every couple weeks, hoping to find a picturesque spot to take photographs in, but they were usually disappointed by the simplicity of the house. There were teenagers who sometimes trekked to the stone building on a dare, hoping to be the ones to find a secret way into it, but they were always let down as well.

So it was that even though the stone hut was recognized, it was largely an empty, desolate spot.

**

Ruvy Ben-Shalom, a dark and grizzled man, walked along the highway and wondered whether he was going to reach a Denny’s or Dunkin Donuts at any point in the near future. At the last intersection, he’d managed to flag down a car. The woman had two small boys sleeping peacefully in the back seat, and she’d opened her window only a crack, to ask if he needed her to call anybody for him. She’d refused to give him a ride, but pointed him down this route as the best way to find the nearest rest-stop.

He knew he looked like a hobo. He wore black gloves that were two large for his small, delicate hands, and his eyes must look large, hungry and sleep deprived. Probably, he mused, because he was hungry and sleep deprived. Sleeping out in the open during the cold nights was no picnic, especially along these apparently endless highways that went from one nowhere town to another nothing town. He always arrived at inhabited places too late, when everything was already closed. Rest stops, though, had diners and McDonalds and bathrooms that were open all the time, and he yearned to sit town on a toilet and wash his face at a sink. He couldn’t wait to get a cup of coffee into his aching stomach, even though he was exhausted.

On his right, through the gloom of dusk, he saw a stone building. It was smallish, about the size of a two room house – he couldn’t help but compare it to the home he’d left two weeks ago – but it seemed to be pleasant enough. He wanted to go and see what was there, because it was beautiful. Something about it called to him. There was a great deal of grassy meadow to get through, first, and he walked into the grass rather unwillingly, getting his pants wet almost at once. He cursed softly, under his breath. The dew was collecting on the long stocks of overgrown weeds, and his cargo pants, which were already cold and too thin, got soaked, immediately. At least his boots were waterproof.

The little stone building’s walls were covered with ivy, except for a perfect square where the doorway was. Someone had very neatly pushed and tidied the ivy away from it, and it looked far newer than the rest of the house. The door was bright red and looked freshly painted and shiny.

Ruvy knocked three times, before thinking about it for long. The door opened, and he began to sob.

I’m Back

So. Here’s what needs to be said:

1. I’ve been writing like a fiend. I’ve completed my second novel, entitled (rather lamely,) The Empress’ Assassin. I don’t know if it’s any good.

2. I’ve missed writing on this blog more than I can say. Especially lately. Now that November is over, I’m back for good. Since I don’t have a current work-in-progress, I’m going to spend all my writing time on publishing stuff here.

3. I still – STILL! – don’t know whether or not my college will allow me back in the upcoming semester. I’m truly disappointed with the way they’ve handled the whole situation. If it weren’t for the fact that Sarah Lawrence College has incredible teachers and an amazing set of intelligent students, I would seriously consider trying to get into one of the many other schools that accepted me. Can you tell that I’m resentful? Hmph.

4. Sadly, I won’t reach my goal of reading 144 books in a year. I’m only on book #116 now, and it’s December 1st already. Still, for the first year ever I’ve kept a reading list, which I’ll publish on December 31st.

5. I’m vacuuming all the books in my house. Yes, I know, this is insane, but they’re all incredibly dusty and the shelves ought to be cleaned properly. I’ve started in my room, and have rediscovered scores of old children’s books. I found my beautiful¬†illustrated¬†Cinderella and Snow-White, all my lovely Patricia Polacco books, my Dr. Seuss and Charles Schulz… I could go on endlessly.

6. I just finished rereading A Little Princess, one of my favorite books ever. Strangely, I started reading Vanity Fair today and found curious similarities. Then again, as my wonderful mother pointed out, private boarding schools were the popular and proper education in England for quite a long period of time, so maybe it’s not so odd.

7. I actually have nothing further to say right now, so in lieu of actual information, this seventh item on my silly list will simply bid you all a lovely Wednesday!

Mute Anna

Anna wept silently. Where once she screamed, now she was calm, tears dripping down her cheeks without a sound. She had gone away for a time, or, at the least, had slept like a morbid version of a Sleeping Beauty. However an equally morbid prince must have come to her without her knowing it – he must have worked some sort of sourcery to awaken her from her restless, though long, sleep. She couldn’t remember a prince, but he must have been there. If she could have chosen freely for herself, she would sleep in the tower forever more, sparing the world her presence.

But Anna was awake again, and she couldn’t fall back asleep. In fact, the castle where she’d slept seemed to have disappeared without a trace, leaving a few dusty old stones lying around in a field of brown grass. She would stare at the forlorn heap and couldn’t even contemplate building the castle up again. It was too difficult. It was so much easier to simply sit on the grass and weep.

The silence irked Anna, though. She was used to being free, unfettered, unreserved, but something had changed – she knew not what – and she couldn’t make a sound anymore. She was so silent that she would throw stones around for the simple pleasure of hearing a noise and making sure that she hadn’t gone deaf. She hadn’t, though, she’d simply become mute. Each day that passed, however, brought her throat a slight ease and she felt that before long she may be able to make a squeak again – and then, ah, then! Then she would be able to resume her screams, the thing she relished in most. Anna couldn’t help it – she was a violent, ugly beast. But so beautiful as well, so beautiful that it would take an age to describe her beauty and charm.

Across Five States: Into Pennsylvania

A new morning dawned, bright and crisp – though the only reason it was crisp was the air conditioning which we’d left on all night. The moment we left the Day’s Inn, however, we realized just what kind of weather we’d stumbled into. It was hot, unbearable so, and humid to boot – and this at only seven in the morning! We loaded our essentials back into the U-Haul, blasted the air conditioning once more, and were on our way.

We were looking for a decent place to have breakfast, but we didn’t find any place that wasn’t fast food until after we’d entered Pennsylvania. When we crossed the state border, though, our hunger took a backseat in our minds as we gazed in wonder at the vistas around us. Almost immediately after crossing the border from Ohio, the mundane and endless flat-lands disappeared, giving way to rolling green hills. It was countryside at its most beautiful, alternating between vast expanses of grassy knolls and forests, dark and dense.

It was stunning, to say the least. There was so much wild vegetation that many of the trees were being choked by ivy climbing their very trunks, beautiful but deadly to the trees themselves. Here and there we could spot gorgeous houses perched between trees or amongst the hills, old-fashioned and grand. In the valleys between the hills we saw some large farms as well, which resulted in our delighted cries of “Sheep! Horses! Look, brown cows! More horses!” We were like children, seeing this foreign life that we’d all read about in picture books more often than seeing it around us.

We began musing about how someone would come to live here, and whether or not we would ever want to live in such an isolated place. We all agreed that we would love to live in a secluded and cozy house and write there for a season. I imagined what the winters would be like in such a place – wind and rain whipping the trees mercilessly, snow piling up and muffling the sounds of animals and the rustle of leaves. It would be like living in a fairy-tale, and yet, characters in fairy-tales always seem so lonely in the end.

We continued onwards, trying to solve crossword puzzles and keep out of the way of large trucks, and eventually we gave into our hunger and drove off the highway and entered a town. The name of the town eludes me, but we found a Denny’s there. I’d never been in one of those either, and it was another experience of discovering America. Our waitress was a darling, grey haired, plump and gruffly kind. She brought us all steaming mugs of coffee, which we were all desperate for. We ate a pleasant meal, finishing it off with a delicious Hershey’s chocolate cake, and made our way back to our seats in the truck that was already so familiar to us.

One-Eyed Steve: Part I

Sometime, somewhere, a burly man, dressed in comfy jeans and a heavy flannel shirt, his hairy toes bare on the carpet, sat in front of the fireplace of his small house. In his hands was a steaming mug of much-watered mulled wine which he was sipping occasionally. On the carpet in front the hearth, the three small figures were clutching equally steaming mugs of hot-coacoa. They had been obsorbed in a board game until the fat, ginger, family cat bounded onto it and chased the pieces around, ending the game.

The three children clustered close to their father and begged “Story, Papa, story!”

The man, used to such requests from the three children, ranging in age from four to seven, stroked his stubbly chin. He took a sip from his mug, and then, a twinkle in his eyes, looked down at his three little ones.

“A story, my ducklings? Ye shall have a story. A night like tonight is a time for stories. Now, the story I’m abou’ to tell ye is about a man called One-Eyed Steve.”