Osmond

Osmond sat in the back of the classroom and doodled on his notebook. The page was full of similar circles, spirals and crosshatching, and his eyes zoomed around, looking for a blank spot. The teacher at the front of the class was speaking, but to Osmond her voice was like white noise. He didn’t take heed of it even when it called his name sharply. He didn’t notice the ominous looks his fellow students were flashing him as they all turned in their seats. He didn’t even notice the teacher standing over him until he realized that his notebook was in a shadow that hadn’t been there before.

“Miss?” he raised his eyes, innocent as a lamb’s.

“Show me your notebook,” she demanded. Osmond turned to the page behind the doodles and handed the notebook to the teacher. She scanned it from top to bottom, and her eyes widened. Her mouth hung open a little and Osmond had to bite his lip in order to keep from smiling. Finally, after an eternity of students holding their breaths, the teacher slammed the notebook down on the desk without a word and began to talk briskly again, as if she’d never interrupted her lecture to yell at Osmond.

Making sure her back was to him, Osmond allowed himself a smile. He went back to his doodles. Every few minutes, in a flurry, he’d turn to the previous page and scribble furiously everything important that teacher had said. He’d then turn back to continue drawing. Nobody ever understood how he took in anything the teacher said when he was so clearly not listening, but somehow his notebook was one of the neater, better arranged ones in the classroom. When his friends asked him about it, he always waved it away, claiming he simply had a gift.

Little did he know that his gift, his strange concentration skills, would lead him to be recruited, at the age of thirty-five, to the most top-secret of the world’s intelligence corps.

 

Mandy Meets the Goblins (Part 2)

” A goblin, of course,” said Rocky. “As a young lady like yourself should know already.” This puzzled Mandy. A lady? She, a lady? And how would she know what goblins looked like, anyway? The look on her face must have mirrored her thoughts, since Rocky spoke up again. “Well, maybe in this, this country you’re in, they don’t teach young ladies how to recognize goblins.”

“No, they don’t,” Mandy confirmed. “I’ve only ever heard about goblins in the picture books that Miss Turner has up at the school, and in those, goblins are big and really mean. You’re not mean, are you?” She’d already realized he wasn’t big.

“No, no, not at all!” Rocky looked shocked at the very thought. “We’re like… like… What is the word for someone who makes wishes come true?”

“A genie?”

“No, that isn’t it. A longer word. I cannot remember it.”

“A fairy godmother?”

“Yes!” Rocky beamed at her. “Goblins are like fairy-godmothers!”

Mandy took another good look at him. He really was quite green, and apart from the horns on his head, his skin seemed kind of strangely prickly looking too. He definitely didn’t look a thing like any fairy-godmother from the picture books.

“So,” she began slowly, thinking hard. “You’re here to make my wishes come true?”

“Well, it’s like this,” Rocky began. He tried to stand up again and fell over, so Mandy lifted him off the pillow and onto her bedside table where he could stand. “Thank you,” he said. “It’s like this,” he began again. “Goblins can’t exactly do that. Not exactly. No, what we can do is help you make a wish – only one wish, mind – come true.”

“But how does that help?” Mandy was disappointed.

“If you make a wish come true, it’s much more special than just having it come true all on its own, isn’t it?”

“Not really,” now she was getting angry. “I don’t care if it’s special, I just want my sister to stop being sick!”

Rocky jumped, with surprising speed, onto Mandy’s face and, feet on her chin, he held to pieces of her hair in his hands and leaned back so she could see his face properly. “Shush! Do you want your parents to wake up?”

Mandy shook her head, and Rocky along with it. She was a bit afraid of him now. He was very fast, and even though he hadn’t been mean, exactly, he’d been quite strict for a creature that was as tall as her hand. Once he’d jumped off her back onto the table, she whispered, “I’m sorry.”

“No need to be sorry,” he said briskly. “We’ve just got to get started. You’ve told me your wish already, right? You want your sister to get better.”

Mandy nodded vigorously.

“Let’s get started then!” He rubbed his hands together, and started bouncing around the room at incredible speed, dropping things into Mandy’s lap. By the time he’d finished, Mandy had in her hands a get-well card her sister had written for her when she was small and had gotten chicken-pox; a scarf that Mandy was trying to knit for her sister; a shoe that had been a hand-me-down to Mandy from her; and finally, a bouncy ball that they’d played with together.

“Um, what do I do with all of this?” Mandy asked.

“Look here – your sister gave you a card when you were sick, a shoe when you needed one, and a ball when you needed a friend to play with. You started to knit this scarf almost a year ago, but I can tell,” here he nodded wisely, “I can tell that you haven’t touched it for months.”

“I know, it was just too hard,” Mandy started to explain. And then she stopped. And then she thought. Her sister had stuck by her when she was growing up. But Mandy hadn’t visited her for weeks now, scared of what she’d find. She and her twin had used the neglected chores as excuses to stay away, but maybe their parents would have left the invalid’s room if she’d had someone else to sit with her for a while. But they couldn’t, since Mandy and her brother were so scared of seeing their big, strong, beautiful sister just lying there, listlessly.

“But,” Mandy began, as if she’d thought aloud. “But even if I finish the scarf, even if I sit with her, how will that make it better?”

“Maybe it won’t. But maybe it will. Maybe she misses you, eh?” Rocky stretched both hands over his had and held onto his horns. He swayed back and forth, smiling, and then, with a sudden, rushing noise, he was gone. A whisper remained in the air after him – it told Mandy that if she needed a little help, she could call on the goblins.

Mandy was never quite sure if she’d dreamed that night or not. She did, however, start going to her sister’s sickbed. She insisted on opening the windows and letting in sunlight and air. She forced her parents to leave and do some chores themselves. She knitted her scarf, sitting on the edge of her sister’s bed and getting tips from her on what she was doing wrong.  She got her twin brother to make up jokes and tell them to their sister and make her laugh.

She spent time with her. And neither Mandy, nor her sister, ever forgot that.

Three Cars at a Curb/Another Award?

The first car is what they call a clunker. It’s unclear whether the original color was tan or yellow – it’s so dirty that it looks gray more than anything else. The back window is full of bumper stickers. One says “Save the Whales!” Another reads “Keep Calm and Carry On.” There are at least twenty more, seemingly random. There are two conflicting ones, side by side, supporting opposing political parties. Other than the stickers, there isn’t much that distinguishes the car from dozens of other similarly dirty, old cars that are scattered around the city. But the stickers give the car character – it’s almost possible to see the teenager driving it, enjoying the confusion as people behind him in traffic try to figure him. He jokes with his friends that his car provides entertainment – something to read on the road. Secretly, he fears someone will cut his tires one day, because they won’t find his ironic take on issues to be amusing.

The second car is stunning, spotless and gleaming in the sun. It looks like a commercial rather than a real car. The curves and planes, the perfect proportions and stylish color – they reek of money. Lots and lots of money.
Every passerby looks at it with a mix of admiration and envy. Some want the car, but some just don’t want the owner to have it. The car has tinted windows, which gives it an air of mystery. Maybe the solution to it is the woman inside, cowering as people peer closely at the car, hoping the windows will do the trick and keep prying eyes out. She has a black eye and a cut lip, and her clothing is piled up in the back seats, haphazardly. All the money she owns is in the glove compartment and she’s spent the day on the phone getting her boss to allow her some paid leave. Just until that pesky cough of hers goes away. Why paid? Because she needs a little extra this month – you know how it is, the taxes are always going up, up, up. The paid leave is given, but she doesn’t want to emerge in daylight. No one needs to know what she’s gone through.

The third car seems dull, after the first two. Not a clunker, not a stunner. It’s just a medium sized sedan, clean, but not gleaming. It has no distinguishing features whatsoever. It doesn’t seem to have any story behind it at all. The people walking along would never notice it – it’s just another car. They wouldn’t even guess that the owners were trying to have a baby, that there were problems and treatments and horrors to go through, that the couple’s relationship seemed to be fraying day by day with the mounting pressure, that they might one day break up, and then who gets the car? Well, the passerby won’t know any of that, but maybe, if they live in the area, they’ll notice one day that the woman is pregnant and glowing and driving off to Lamaze class. Or maybe, instead, they’ll see the man driving off in a rage, never to be seen again. Maybe the car itself doesn’t have a story, but it has, like everything, a story hiding just behind it.

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I can’t believe that I forgot to mention Desiree in my post yesterday… She writes beautifully, and her poems break my heart sometimes. She awarded me this, for which I thank her deeply. I’d like anyone, everyone, who wants to, to receive this award. Because (corny warning!) I truly feel that every one of you whose blogs I read has a magic touch. You all make me think, smile, laugh and cry, and to me, that’s what writing is about – making others feel something. And making someone feel something… well, that’s magic. (I warned you, I warned you! But I mean it.)

Ethan

It seemed that no matter how his hair fell, he looked fabulous. If it was in his eyes, it looked boyish. If it was curled up a bit, it looked sexy. If it was cut short, it showed off his perfect forehead. That was the kind of man-boy he was. He could wear whatever he wanted, and did. Anything from black boots, black jeans and a biker jacket to a waistcoat, pinstriped pants and loafers. In his pocket, you could easily find either a pack of cigarettes or a watch on a chain. If all that weren’t enough, he also projected his comfort and self-esteem and acceptance of who he was. His presence was enough to make anyone weak-kneed, men and women alike. He wasn’t even twenty yet.

He stood smoking outside of his apartment building. As I walked by, he looked up at me, and I saw that his eyes were wet, on the verge of spilling tears. Before I could stop myself, I blurted out “Ethan? You alright?”

He mutely offered me a cigarette, lit it for me, and leaned back against the brick wall, one leg going up to prop himself. He was wearing his black boots, I noticed. I stood beside him, puffing away, feeling more intimate with him than I ever had before, despite being his neighbour for over six months, and despite us having many mutual friends. It seemed that I saw him all the time – around the building, at clubs and pubs. He was a fixture of the Soho night-life, and I often found myself dancing just a few people away from him. It wasn’t that he was a snob, exactly. He wasn’t posh, his father didn’t go to Eton and he hadn’t even finished university. He was just a regular bloke like me. Of course, I couldn’t pull off half the image he had, but then, that’s me.

“Boyfriend,” he sighed. He took a last drag and then threw the butt down. He stomped on it with a force that made me shiver a little. He looked at me, and I think I must have looked a little guilty, since his eyes flashed from heartbroken to angry to resigned in quick succession. “You knew?” He’d already ducked his head, pulling out another cigarette from his pack.

I couldn’t deny it, but I didn’t want to let him in on the fact that, well, we all knew. We all thought he knew it, too. We’d seen them together almost every night of the past few months, but we all knew. The boyfriend lived in Manchester, only came to London every month or two. He’d been over just three weeks ago. So, obviously, we all thought that Ethan knew.

“Sorry, mate.”

He shook his head. His hair flopped, looking perfect no matter what he did. That hair, that hair that my eyes always fixated on, it was still as glossy, as perfect, as natural as it always was. But the rest of him… Well. For the first time since I’d met him, I wasn’t intimidated.

“When’s your birthday?” I asked. I knew it didn’t matter one whit, but I asked anyway.

“February. February 9th, ’88. Why?”

“No reason. You’re two days younger than me. I always thought you were older than me. Never mind. Come upstairs, come on, I’ll make you some tea and we can watch whatever football game is one tonight, right?”

He chucked his smoke way across the street so it hit the building across and a little spray of sparks shone red-hot before falling to the ground. Brushing a hand through his hair, he followed me into the building.

2. Amanda [4]

She led her little pack into Oakwood’s front hall, and up the stairs to the fourth floor, where the new students were roomed. She asked whose new roommates had slept in, and then made everyone start pounding on doors up and down the hall. A few tousled heads poked out of doors, only to be dragged laughing or scowling into the hall in their pajamas.

“Hey, this is your orientation-leader talking – and no, I don’t mean I’m going to help you figure out if you’re gay or straight, you’re on your own there – and I’m telling you all to put some clothes on so we can get going! Believe me, there are some awesome secret places on this campus, and if you choose to go back to sleep now, you might never be able to tell your future kids how you crawled through Acorn’s airway ducts to try to get to the Dean’s office.”

A silence followed this little speech, and then some titters. But as Amanda left Oakwood, her pack had almost doubled, although most of them were still half-asleep. That’s okay, though, Amanda mused, I can’t wait until I show them the secret passageway in Treemont Dorms. They’re going to love those.

It was a true and rather odd fact that Valley U’s buildings had been designed by a slightly eccentric architect with an endless fascination for old palaces. Although most of the buildings looked merely classic and collegiate, some even with ivy clinging to them, they were all filled with some secret passageway or hidden nook or secret cellar room. Amanda knew that the professors knew about them all, as well as the staff – well, she assumed they all did anyway – and merely chose to turn a blind eye because of the fun and unique character it gave the university.

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.

Victoria’s Secret [Part I]

Victoria stood at the window of her big corner office and gazed out at the view. It was days like these that made working in an office like this worth it – the sky was full of white, fluffy clouds that changed shape constantly, and the city gleamed in the rays of sunlight coming through the gaps between the clouds. A crow flew perilously close to the window and Victoria marveled at the way the bird stretched its wings and glided on the wind, seemingly without effort. She closed her eyes and imagined what it would be like to be that crow, free to fly on the currents and soar through the sky. The crow gave a loud caw and jerked Victoria out of her daydream.

She sighed, turned her back on the window, and picked up the cup of tea on her desk. Gulping some, she choked and spit it back out into the cup – it was stone cold. She sat down heavily in the big leather office chair that came with the big corner office and glanced at the open notebook on the desk. It was her daily planner, full of ink blots and cross-outs and arrows pointing to other dates and times. Being head of department was no easy job, Victoria had found out, and the useless secretary she had been given was more interested in fighting with his girlfriend on the phone than in doing his job, so Victoria found herself needing to check and double check all her appointments. Not to mention, of course, the constant changes caused to her schedule just because of last minute things that tended to crop up in the department.

Shaking her head to clear the haze that was settling over her, Victoria got up and pushed open the door to her office.

“Patrick!” she snapped. “I’m going out to lunch. Please make sure to answer the calls I get in the meantime, all right? And I beg of you,” she added as an afterthought, “to write them down and not try to remember them. That’s how I missed Michelle’s message yesterday.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” grinned the twenty-something year old. He looked like he could have been an underwear model, with his blond hair, blue eyes and the muscles bulging under his slightly too sheer white button-down shirt. Victoria had almost laughed outright when she’d first seen him, a few weeks ago when she’d started her new and improved position. Talk about a blast from the past, she’d thought then, as she tried to keep a straight face. Ever since, she’d felt a strange mixture of humor and exasperation towards him. The one person who didn’t seem to think of her as The Big Scary Boss was also the same person she needed most to help her out on a day to day basis, and his lack of fear or respect towards her or the office as a whole wasn’t helping his job performance.

“I mean it, Patrick,” Victoria yelled back over her shoulder as she walked down the corridor towards the elevators. “No forgotten messages, okay?”

“Totally, Ma’am!” he answered in his surfer-dude voice.

Better make it a quick lunch, then, thought Victoria as she heard the unmistakable sound of Patrick’s cellphone go off and the subsequent beginning of an argument with his girlfriend. She pressed the elevator’s DOWN button a few times impatiently, knowing it wouldn’t make it come any faster. There’s another annoying thing about working up in one of these big, cold offices – the damn elevators never seem to come all the way up here.

The elevator finally arrived with a loud “ding-ding” and Victoria entered, nodding politely to the man and woman already in there. The doors shuddered to a close after her and the elevator began to descend. All of a sudden, with an ominous thump and a disturbing creak, the elevator stopped jarringly and the lights abruptly went off.

The three in the elevator simultaneously cursed.