Five-Year Old Heart

Martha was hiding in her closet. It was past midnight, and she’d woken up to the sound of Doug smashing his beer bottle in the kitchen. She was only five years old, but she already knew that Doug drank too much beer, that it made him nasty, and that every few nights he felt the need to throw his last bottle down hard and hear it crash. The mornings after he did that, Martha’s mother would clean the shards up quickly, quietly, telling Martha to stay in the tiny hall so she wouldn’t get glass shards in her feet.

Martha knew why her mother cleaned up in the morning. It was because one time, when she hadn’t, Doug woke up and saw the glass all over the kitchen floor. That just put him into a new rage. Martha had hidden in the closet then, too. She’d heard her mother whimper, but just barely, because she herself had been crying so hard.

Tonight, though, she was hiding in the closet for a new reason. Her mother was safely in bed, and Doug never did anything to her at night. He used to come home and fall asleep on the couch, sometimes leaving puke on the floor next to him. But lately, Doug had been coming into Martha’s room. She was so scared of him that even though she tried to sound like she was still asleep, her breathing quickened involuntarily, and Doug would then laugh quietly and move closer.

He’d been coming into her room for a few months, but Martha never told her mother what he did. She didn’t really understand it herself, only that it made Doug happy that she was hurting and frightened. She was only five years old, but she knew that if she fought him, he’d turn dangerous. She’d tried fighting, but he’d smacked her. So she knew to stop. To preserve herself.

This was the first night that she’d awoken before Doug got home. She couldn’t tell time yet, but she knew it was late because her mother was asleep and all the lights were off. So she hid in the closet, waiting for Doug to get back. She thought that maybe, if he didn’t find her in bed, he’d just go away.

She wanted him to go away so badly.

She wanted to tell her mother, but she was scared to. She knew instinctively that there was something wrong about what Doug was doing, and felt it was her fault.

She wanted, with all of her five-year old heart and body, for something very bad to happen to Doug. And that want, that intense need for him to be hurt, frightened her almost as much as Doug himself did.

Teddy-Book

Teddy-Book waited until her mistress was gone from the house. It had taken longer than usual this evening, since her mistress seemed ecstatic about something or other. She kept putting on clothes and then taking them off and putting on other ones, while staring at the mirror. She also kept talking at Teddy-Book, who wasn’t really listening to her.

“Does this look good? No, no, of course it doesn’t, it’s black and somber. He’ll think I’m dressing for a funeral or something. Okay, okay, so what about this? Is this better? Yellow is cheerful, flowers are good – but no! It’ll be too cold, what am I thinking? Or maybe that’s good. Then he’ll have to give me his coat. And you know what my friend Gil says, don’t you, Teddy? If a guy doesn’t give you his coat by the fifth date then he’s no gentleman and you’re better off without him.”

Teddy-Book sat on the bed, eyes glazed, limbs immobile, just like she always did. She was very bored with what her mistress that evening, and impatient for her to be gone. After all, Teddy-Book thought to herself glumly, she’s usually much more sensible than this, but if this Peter guy stays in her life, I think she’ll never be sensible again.

Finally, at about ten after eight in the evening, the mistress left. Teddy-Book got up gingerly, stretching her stiff, furry limbs. She climbed awkwardly off the bed, holding onto the blankets hard until she felt her soft feet hit the ground, and only then let go. Padding softly to the mirror, she looked at herself, turning this way and that. The mistress still hadn’t caught on to what Teddy-Book was doing, which was to the good.

When the mistress was little, her parents brought Teddy-Book back from a store one day. The mistress fell in love with her, and for a while, carried her around everywhere. She quickly discovered Teddy-Book’s special feature, the one that made her infinitely different from other teddies. She had a pocket inside her. Her round, furry stomach was velcroed shut, but could easily be opened. Inside, the mistress found a lot of fluffy white cotton, but it could all be pushed rather flat against Teddy-Book’s back, and then there was room inside of her to hide things in. The mistress loved to read when she was little, and she began hiding her books inside Teddy and taking her everywhere, and then taking the hidden books out and reading them. She couldn’t hide the big picture books there, of course, so she started to peruse her parents’ shelves and read things that she didn’t really understand but that were fun nonetheless, because she could hide them in Teddy-Book.

But now, Teddy-Book thought every day with a sigh, she didn’t read so much anymore. She spent her time putting on makeup and taking it off, calling her friends and shrieking, and lately, also going out with stupid boys. So Teddy-Book, who was left alone every evening, had developed a habit of her own. When it was night-time, and the whole family was asleep, she’d creep around the house and pick a book off a shelf. She’d hide it in that worn little empty place inside her belly, and then hop back into bed with mistress. The mistress never noticed Teddy-Book’s extra weight because she hardly ever picked her up anymore. Teddy-Book, standing at the mirror, thought sadly about how even now, with a fat book like David Copperfield inside her belly, her mistress didn’t notice it.

So she took the book out, leaned against the mirror with her tuft of a tail fitting exactly between the mirror and the floor comfortably, and continued reading where she’d left off last time. She hoped that one day she wouldn’t have to amuse herself every night like this. As she turned the pages, reading with some surprise David mention a daughter – but who’s daughter? Dora’s or Agnes’s? – she wondered of mistress would one day have a daughter. Maybe then Teddy-Book could be hugged again by arms not much larger than her own and carried about everywhere again.

“Watch the Leather”

I have no memory of when I wrote this song, but I think it was sometimes during my earlier teenage years. I happened upon it tonight and it struck me as rather creepy and gloomy, which is odd since I truly don’t have any clue as to what prompted me into writing it in the first place… And now, without further ado, some lyrics from my (apparently) dark teenage years:

In her mind, a shining knight
of blue blood and court days.
She's stealing kisses in the night,
Slowly feeling her new way.

Listen closely at the window
Of a lover's engined hideout.
Not sweet nothings will you hear,
Just a grunt and then he'll cry out:
"Hey, watch the leather"




Romantic girl, this ain't your world,
Sonnets dead and gone,
Rosy girl, this a thorn filled world,
Survival's for the strong.


4. Claire [3]

The first thing that struck Claire as she entered the cool interior of Bill’s was the smell of bread. The bakery section was very near the door, and it made her realize just how ravenous she was. Her belly rumbled as she walked over the woman behind the counter of the bakery section. She stood and watched the woman for a moment; she was kneading dough. Claire was impressed. Can’t believe the neighborhood shop bakes its own bread, she thought. The smell was so good that she felt faint.

“Excuse me?” she spoke up, shyly.

“Yes, dear?” the woman behind the counter raised her head and smiled.

“How much is one of those rolls?”

“These? The whole-grain ones? They’re a buck each. Or a dozen for ten.”

“Okay, I’ll take a dozen please.”

The woman took her hands out of the dough and picked up a flat piece of cardboard which she deftly folded into a box. She then took the long metal tongs and took twelve of the warm rolls out of the glass display, put them into the box, closed it, and handed it to Claire.

“Thanks,” Claire smiled.

“Sure, sugar,” and she put her hands back into the dough in front of her and continued kneading fiercely.

Claire, having gotten a trolley, walked up and down the aisles of the store, getting the items her father had written down. She munched on one of the rolls as she walked, and found it delicious. It was so good that she promptly began another one upon finishing the first. It was hungry business, this grocery shopping. Still, she pondered, I like it. I like doing this alone. This is a good thing, Dad making us move here.

She brought her items to one of the unoccupied cashiers, marveling again at the possibility of there not being a line at a store – this would never happen in New York – and paid. The bag-packer was quick and efficient and looked like he was about eighteen years old. Claire eyed him as she thanked him, and thought that the lock of hair flopping into his eye was simply adorable. Her good mood was ruined, however, when she glanced at a big neighborhood noticeboard that was by the exit door. She saw various posters and fliers on it, but the one that seemed to bring a dark cloud over her was a big poster for a pep-rally that had taken place a few nights ago for the local high-school’s football team.

School, she scowled. I do NOT want to start a new school.

Lewis Carrol’s Birthday

According to a writing prompt I found online, today is Mr. Carrol’s birthday. The writing prompt suggested that I write about my favorite character in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I thought that this was a marvelous idea, especially because during my semester at school, I had to read it for a project which I won’t, alas, be doing.

I bought myself a beautiful copy of both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. It has all the original illustrations in it, as well as a beautiful, colorful cover. I felt immense joy at carrying the book around and just thumbing through its pages. A book’s physical presence can be so helpful to the experience of reading it. This is why I don’t want a Kindle or a Nook or any of the other electronic readers. I’m straying off topic, so let’s get back to little Alice.

I think my favorite character in Adventures, apart from Alice herself, is little Bill, the lizard. Poor old Bill is always the one who gets picked on throughout the book – first he’s forced to approach Alice in her gigantic form and receives a kick for his troubles; next, mischievous Alice steals his pencil and he keeps writing with his fingers without making any marks on the page, to his great perplexity.

In Through the Looking Glass, I’d like to say that my favorite characters are the kittens – but that’s just because I cannot for the life of me resist kittens. In truth, though, I suppose my favorite character is that of the clumsy knight. The knight is said to be Lewis Carrol himself, in all his chivalrous silliness, and the way he’s described is so very touching. It’s as if Lewis Carrol wants so badly to be a white knight for little Alice, but knows that he is much too bumbling and awkward to be of any help.

[Note: I know there’s lots of controversy about Lewis Carrol and Alice, but as far as this post is concerned, I’m treating it as the innocence it’s portrayed to be by Lewis Carrol himself.]

4. Marty and Claire [1]

Marty looked around the box-filled apartment. He breathed in deeply and smelled fresh paint and dust. He never thought such an unpleasant smell could be so sweet to his senses, but as he choked a little on the swirling dust he smiled, feeling the new beginning that this apartment represented.

It was on the top floor of a building in Old Town in Hartscreek. Marty had chosen the neighborhood because it wasn’t too far from Downtown, but was still safe and fairly quiet. Claire’s school was walking distance away, just a few blocks over, and he knew that this meant that Claire’s new classmates would be kids in the neighborhood, and she wouldn’t need to travel far in order to meet friends. Well, if she’d make friends…

Marty banished the gloomy thoughts from his mind and began to move boxes with a vigor he hadn’t felt in three years. Sweat ran down his face and his back as he fit together two new bookcases he’d purchased, heaved furniture around and started to methodically unpack boxes and put away nick-knacks and clothing.

Around noon, Claire emerged from her bedroom with sleepy eyes and tangled hair. She and Marty had arrived in Hartscreek with the U-Haul they’d rented the night before, had unloaded the boxes and furniture in a feverish rush and had driven quickly down to the nearest drop-off point to leave the van in order not to need to pay for it for an extra night. Claire had stayed up until four in the morning on her mattress on the floor of her new and still empty room, listening to music and trying to sleep. Marty, who’d woken up bright and early, hadn’t had the heart to wake her up.

“G’morning,” Claire mumbled sleepily, yawning as she walked through the rooms trying to find her father.

Marty, whose head was stuck deep in a kitchen cabinet where he was attempting to assemble pans in some sort of order that wouldn’t cause them to topple over with a loud noise every time the door was opened, hollered back that the kettle and the toaster were both already set up.

“Thanks,” Claire said as she strode into the kitchen. “Want some coffee too?”

“Ah,” he pulled his head out of the cabinet. “That’s the problem. We have absolutely no groceries yet. Feel like walking down to the store and getting us some essentials?”

Claire had just turned fourteen in July, and she’d thought for the longest time that she should have the right to be on her own more often. In Manhattan, though, her father had been overprotective and they both knew it. He’d told her, in a fit of exasperated honesty about a year before they moved, that he knew he was being ridiculous but no, she couldn’t go alone to Union Square on the subway, that he’d go with her over the weekend, and that if she absolutely, positively had to buy the CD she wanted that day, then she could go with a friend. This had led to Claire bursting into tears and screaming that he was blind and didn’t notice that she didn’t have any friends, before running to her room and slamming the door.

And now here was Marty not only allowing but actually offering Claire to go out on her own, in a new place that she wasn’t familiar with. She thought she knew what this was about. Old Town was safe and almost suburban, despite it being made up mostly of classic old apartment buildings. What could possibly happen to her between their building and Bill’s Food Stuffs, the quaint neighborhood grocery store? Nothing interesting, that was for sure, Claire thought. Still, it was nice to know that her dad was finally trying to give her some space.

“Sure, Dad,” she said, after mulling it all over for a moment. “Let me get dressed quickly and-” she continued, raising her voice as she walked back to her bedroom- “write me a list of what to get, okay?”

Another Excerpt

Here is another scene in the story I’m working on. It is the beginning of the first chapter, and follows a prologue, which I may or may not post here eventually. For those who may not have realized it yet, I wanted to explain the nature of this story. It’s a fantasy story, based in a kingdom where class and nobility matter.

__________________________________________

At fourteen, when everything changed for me, I was a beautiful girl. I had been a beautiful child as well. I knew this. I was the noble daughter of Duke Pietro der-Milt and his Lady Dermira. How ever could I not be beautiful? I was taught that the noble houses held the most beautiful people in the land, the most gifted thinkers, the greatest of artists and the kindest of spirits. So my governess told me during my childhood, using my parents as the best examples.
“Look at your pretty mother, little Miya! see what a beauty she is?” Pirima would say. She’d point at my mother, sitting in our great drawing room or in my father’s study or in the corner of my nursery. She was a beauty indeed. My mother always knew how to look beautiful and delicate. She could embroider, read, write letters, instruct servants, talk with my father, survey the accounts – all while looking as pretty as a picture, without a hair out of place or wrinkle in her dress. Pirima often whispered to me that she wished she could look like my mother, and her lips would twist in a sad little frown. I didn’t understand the nature of jealousy or envy when I was young; I merely thought it natural that everyone would want to look like Mama, who was, I was sure, the most beautiful woman in the world.
There were plenty of mirrors in our home, so I learned early on that I was a beautiful child. My skin was smooth and healthy, a few shades darker than my mother’s milky-white complexion. My hair, which was black as coal, thick and wavy, hung down my back when I was a little girl, kept away from my face by a neat little bow which Pirima would tie into it every morning. My eyes were grey, and Pirima always said they reminded her of the stormy sea because when I was angry or sad they turned dark blue. My black eyebrows were delicate and thin, and my nose was small and rather flat, accentuating the fullness of my red lips. My body was that of a healthy little girl – rounded with the healthy fat that children possess, my limbs strong with activity.
One day, when I was about six or seven, I stood looking into the tall, gilded mirror that stood in one of the corridors. As I stood there, admiring myself, I watched my mother come up behind me. She laid one white hand on my shoulder and smiled at me in the mirror. My eyes widened.
“I look like you, Mama!” I cried with delight.
“You do, my dove. You look like your papa as well. You have his hair and his nose,” she touched my hair and my nose as she said this, then knelt down behind me in a rare motherly gesture and hugged me tight, arms encircling my stomach. She usually didn’t touch me much. My joy at seeing we were alike, though, seemed to make her emotional. I had no cynicism at that age, and I didn’t see her emotion for what it was – a kind of vanity. I was happy to be in her arms, happy that she smiled at me, happy that I looked like her and like Papa.
“Now, Miyara, let’s go visit your papa in his study, hmm?” she took me by the hand and we spent a quiet afternoon in the study with Papa, who was in a good mood as well. I remember that day as one of the happiest of my childhood. It wasn’t often that my parents made any effort to spend time with me. We usually met only during meals. The rest of the time I spent with Pirima, who was my only other company for a long time.