Heat spread across my cheeks as Mama turned and gave me that look, the one that said, ‘Don’t make me turn this car around, mister.’ I choked on the angry retort that tickled my tongue and drew my clenched fist beneath my thighs in an attempt not to hit my sister, Harriet, across the back of her head.
She always seemed to find humor in making every waking day of my life miserable. Sure we had our laughs every now and again, but mostly it was war; war waged on me by the villainous troll that my parents had spent the last six years trying to convince me was actually my sister and not some rotten changeling that had crept in from the forest.
Changlings did that, came in and made people believe they were someone they were not. I read about it once in a comic, so it’s true alright. Harriet didn’t fool me. But Mama and Daddy, they were goners.
They would learn the truth one day. I would show them. But for now, it was obvious that they were too hypnotized by bouncy curls and rosy cheeks to see anything other than the enemy they tucked in at night.
So it was settled. I was going to make my escape and then show them all the truth later. My bags were already packed to go. I am going to become a changling.
Becoming a changling usually required that a kid be kidnapped and swapped out by the changling gang. I read that too somewhere.
Living in the forest wouldn’t be so bad. I loved climbing trees and creek fishing, and I could definitely do without having to stare at Mrs. Beezly another day. Life at nine was hard enough as it was let alone having to look at her all afternoon.
The only problem that I did have was not being rotten enough for them to change me out. I always managed to get the threatening look from Mama but I had never had the guts to cross…that line…never had the moxy…never…
“HENRY!” Mama screamed at me as the car yanked over to the side of the road spitting gravel, my guilty hand still raised in the air. Harriet was wailing like a stuck pig. She was going to have a nice knot where her forehead kissed that side window.
The shocked look in her eyes made my stomach burn as Mama actually whipped the car around and directed it toward home. Home and my future as a changling.
Far as I could see it, I’d earned my place today. I even managed to snicker. It was a real turning point.
Blog Battle Tuesday! This week's Word: FALLOW. My Genre: WESTERN as we continue with A Horse Called Shenanigans. To read previous installments click Part 1, Part 2 or Part 3. To read other stories written by other Blog Battlers, click HERE and take your journey to Rachael Ritchey's Blog!
All Washed Up: Part 4 of A Horse Called SHENANIGANS
Eldy slide the large buckle belt around her tiny waist before jabbing a stiff finger into the Sheriff’s chest. She’d had enough of all their idiotic words and sorry attempts of pacifying a “female.” Truth be told she was tempted to put a bit of metal in each of their hides for the debacle that had landed her in her knickers and gagged with silks.
No, the only thing to make her happy was a tin badge and some walking papers. Eldy “Elderberry” Milcratt had had enough! Baring her teeth she said, “If another one of you buffoons tries to tell me I ain’t man enough to handle these here fire arms I’ll be liable to show you, draw style.”
The Sheriff’s brow descended in a huff. “Now, Ms. Milcratt there is no need for you to be contemplating violence with men of the law! All we’ve tried to do, all we’ve done-”
She cute him off. “All you’ve done is let a new Bandit ride off with the town’s earnings, my earnings, and then walked Side Nose Willy right out the front door with a wink and a smile!” She fumed. “And now ya’ll have put me in a position whereas I have no choice but to defend my honor!”
Sheriff threw up his arms and turned. “I ain’t got time for this! I have a bandit to catch. No, two!”
“As if ya’ll could. The only reason you got hold of Side Nose in the first place was a’cause of Smokey Patches, well his horse anyway. You lot couldn’t catch a cold not even on the worst day of winter belly sliding in your undergarments.”
That got Sheriff’s attention. “Now you’ve gone and said enough Ms. Milcratt! I swear if you weren’t a skirt I would take you out back and teach you a lesson!”
Eldy flicked his tin star badge. “Tell you what Sheriff. You get your best shooter and meet me in the square in half hour. We’ll do a dual of targets. You win, I’ll hang up my shooters. But if I win,” She raised her chin and stared him in the eye. “Then I’ll be having a badge, a horse and enough rations to go and round me up a pair of bandits, all legal style.”
Sheriff smiled. “Little missy, the world is going to be a safer place with you back in the kitchen with those guns out of your reach. Well, safer with the guns gone from ya at least. You have a deal!”
~ ~ ~
Dalton felt absolutely scandalous sitting in the deep water of the soaking tub. Wasn’t that he was shy of his own skin, he just hadn’t thought that a soiled dove would try to help him bathe. His skin was more red from embarrassment than the heat of the water. He had managed to convince the lady he wasn’t in need of her “care” or her company but she didn’t budge from the room, which only meant Dalton had to keep his eyes way up or way down.
The dove’s corset was so tight that if the poor thing sneezed her goodness and mercy would be exposed on both ends!
“Is there anything I can get ya, sweetheart?” Her long clumpy lashes batted atop her painted face.
“No ma’am. I’m doing just fine so if you’d like to run along…” He saw her blonde curls sway from side to side. She wasn’t going to budge. Dalton swallowed. He couldn’t sit in the water forever, he would catch consumption, and she was sitting on the towel. Didn’t help at all that Shenanigans was making that sound again. The one that said she was restless. That only meant trouble and no matter how many bank notes Dalton had in his possession, he certainly couldn’t afford much more of that.
Dalton snapped his fingers. “You know what, Miss, if you wouldn’t mind grabbing me a paper that would be quite nice.” He offered a smile, hoping that would get her to exit the premises. Instead she gave a saucy smile of her own, pulling a folded paper from beneath her thigh.
“I’ve got one right here. Let me read it to you.” The dove started with the weather moved on to politics and then with a sense of excitement read the part about the new bandit in the territory. A fella called Smokey Patches and his horse Thunder, the pair who’d robbed Side Nose Willy.
With each word Dalton felt the water grow colder and his stomach knot. Shenanigans gave a loud bray. He sank deeper into the water.
~ ~ ~
“Yes sir, the back 40 has lay fallow since that boy and his mare rode off not too long ago. See since his Pa died, things just ain’t been the same. Dalton has had a rough go of it. Life ain’t never been easy on him.” Cleophas blew into a hanky and bowed his head with enough solemnity that anyone passing by would have thought he was witnessing a funeral.
The reporter wrote down all his words. “So you think harsh living pushed him to a life of crime? Turned him to the bad?”
Cleophas’ chest puffed out as if to fight. “Now I ain’t say the boy was a crook or bad! Hell, his the finest kid I done ever met! And if you question it again, you may find yourself answering at the end of Ole Hoot.” He tapped the double barrel shotgun he’d been leaning on as if a cane.
The reporter went pale. “B-but you said he was the bandit!”
“I said no such thing!” Cleophas argued. “I said he was the one in them drawings. But I never said my nephew was a crook. Dalton is a God fearing Christian man. Loves the Lord. This mess about Smokey Patches is all a misunderstanding that I aim to clear up by washing his name of falsehood.” He jutted his chin.
The reporter appraised him. “You do know it was you who sent us the telegraph. No one knew who Smokey Patches was til you said so.”
Cleophas hadn’t thought of that. All he’d thought about was the money he was getting paid for the interview. And with the amount of trouble he had just put on Dalton’s head by the time the paper was printed, he was going to need it to give the boy a decent burial.
Cleophas gulped. He was no better than that old raggedy mare, Shenanigans.
TO BE CONTINUED…
I went 80 words over, but I guess that is alright. I hope you liked this installment. Shenanigans is prepping for curtain call! See you next week!
She held his hand so tightly she felt the circulation in her fingers run cold. As far as he knew, as far as any of them knew, she was cleaving on to him for love.
They were standing at the altar, weren’t they? They were just on the brink of saying their “I dos.”
Imogen swallowed down the groan that threatened to betray her before God, the congregation, and even this man who she had promised to wed til death would they part.
Death? Perspiration tickled her temples and her eyes batted in a game of faint or flight. Both would give her the same end…fainting at least would win her sympathy.
Klein’s thumb rubbed against the back of her hand, his head barely turning in her direction. His thick brow raised only subtly as a wan smile pulled at the corner of his mouth.
His mouth. It drew Imogen’s mind away from her poorly planned escape plans. Klein Marks had a nice mouth, one that was probably really good at kissing, not that Imogen knew anything about kissing.
She had practiced a few times on the back of her hand whenever she lay awake at night pining over Tover Lendhide. Tover was a charming looker, but Imogen couldn’t argue him up against Klein. Klein David Marks was fine as frogs hair!
Heat ran up the back of Imogen’s neck and blossomed over her light brown cheeks. Klein must have noticed because his wan smile shifted and began to expose milk white teeth right before he winked at her.
Wide eyed, Imogen stared forward at the Parson. She hadn’t heard a single word the man had said, all on the account of staring at Klein’s lips that not even once had she ever paid a lick of attention too.
In all truth she had spent the last two weeks screaming her head off about how she didn’t want to marry the man. Her Daddy, for once in his life, held his ground to Imogen’s chagrin saying, “Propriety demands it, Buttercup! You are the one who got your fool self locked in this tangle. I told you not to be on his property. I told you that watering hole weren’t ours no more and to stay out of it. But no! You are just like your bull-headed Mammy-God bless her in glory-and you just had to have things your way. Well here is the price of it!”
The watering hole. Imogen’s eyes closed again as sweat beaded on the bridge of her nose the same as it had the day she met Klein’s acquaintance. The sun was so sharp and the heat was so high that hell might have felt cool compared to it. All Imogen wanted was one little skinny dip, just like she used to take when the watering hole had her name on it and not Marks.
Well the heat rushed away into an icy cold when she dove in, bare as a babe on its first birthday, right into the arms of Klein, who also donned nothing but his birthday suit. Obviously he’d had the same idea about the heat.
This was all his fault…and Lloyd’s!
Imogen’s eyes twisted into a scowl towards her little brother. The twelve year old twerp had followed her, planning another prank at her expense and if this wasn’t the mother of all pranks, Imogen didn’t know what was.
Lloyd moved like lightening when he saw her and Klein falling over each other trying to get out of the watering hole. But by the time he finished telling the tale, even though Daddy didn’t believe it the way he narrated, Imogen was doomed to marry.
Doomed. Locked for ever at the side of East Hawk Counties finest piece of chiseled man candy. It could of been worse.
“Imogen?” Klein’s voice tickled her ear squeezing out a yelp and a “Yes” that was meant to be a question, but as far as the Parson was concerned it was good enough to stand for an ‘I Do.’
The congregation began to clap wildly as the Parson announced, “You may now salute your bride!”
Imogen’s mouth fell open with horror, Lloyd gagged, Daddy cried, but Klein dove right in same as Imogen had that watering hole, kissing her until her knees went weak and she felt like a feather on the wind.
Drunk on the moment, she peeled her eyes open and watched as slices of gold in Klein’s hazel brown eyes sparked. Imogen…fainted…but at least she got her watering hole back.
This story shifted several times as I wrote it. That tends to be the way with freeflow writing…it does what it wants when it wants. At first, I thought this would be somewhat somber and far less humorous. Imogen went from being one who seemed helpless to one who was a firecracker who Klein might need help with in the future. She put a smile on my face and I am glad she introduced herself to my imagination. I hope you enjoyed it.
Sorry about the abrupt ending. I did go over the 15 to 20 min mark by 5 minutes.
New Week! New Blog Battle! New Word: Bun! For more stories dancing around this word, and to get to know Rachel Ritchey, the brilliant mind who started these battles, click HERE to follow the link.
“Well if that just don’t beat all,” Harriet propped a fist in between the space of her trim waist and bottom. “Glendella, do you see what I am seeing?”
Glendella pursed her lips and tried to stifle an irritated sigh. Shaking jet black hair from her eyes she said, “No, Harriet, I don’t. If you haven’t noticed, I am busy.” She flicked her fingers in midair, the gesture looking as if she were conducting an invisible orchestra.
She was…in a sense, doing just that, manipulating the code through Cerebral Helix, ensuring that it remained “delightful” and full of whimsy.
Each stroke of her fingers against the projected functions of the Cerebral computer she manipulated dictated what was happening in the Nursery. One slip of her finger, one misplaced flick of her wrist and-
“Well, then you ought to get yourself unbusy, because all that flicking and fiddling ain’t doing a bit of good.”
“Excuse me? I will have you know, I have been doing this for ninety seven ye-”
Harriet pointed down into the Nursery, her nose in the air, “They’s waking up, ever last one of ’em.”
* * *
Elias, held his breath as he eased within the blanket of darkness of B.U.N Headquarters. He hardly let himself breathe. There were many “last” things that made his list of things he most certainly did not want to happen to him, at the top of that list was being caught and put in the Nursery of BUN…again.
B.U.N or Binary Unit of Narcosis was a vile existence. Nothing short of torture for anyone put in the Nursery. From the moment of a souls conception B.U.N was involved, linking them with their Cerebral Helix, and stealing away everything good; hope, good dreams, wonder and imagination. B.U.N claimed it as its own.
The stolen muse of those who were born to sleep and dream had become the very foundation of the whimsical world that now existed.
People, those seen as Seed and not Tiller, had been reduced to real live think tanks, forced to sleep until their last breath, weaved into a binary code of the Cerebral Helix where their dreams and thoughts were used to create a world beyond anyone’s imagination. A world fit only for Tillers.
Tillers were too busy to dream, far too superior in pedigree to be milked in the Nursery.
Elias shuttered and felt the familiar itch that tickled the skin of his naval, neck and spine. There were no scars to be had for the mental assault he had endured for the first seventeen years of his life.
He was one of the fortunate ones. He had gotten away.
“Very few like us,” Laila Tov had said when she had first found him. “Most people are stuck when they dream, accept everything as real. We know better.”
“How?” He asked. “We just feel it. We know how to wake up.”
And they did feel it, so much so they manipulated their dreams to run contrary to their natural muse. Doing that too often, however, upset the Binary Code, created monstrous environments, which lead to an immediate rejection from Cerebral Helix Coding and the Nursery.
Being rejected…well that meant evaporation. Recycling was out of the question for the “bad seed”. B.U.N could not risk any contamination.
But even that process required a compliance that those like Elias, Laila Tov, and several others just did not embody. People like them not so simply got away.
Elias smiled thinking on their first conversation, before making contact with Captain Laila Tov. “Phase one is completed, Sweet hea- Er, Captain.” It had been three years since he joined the Good Night Project, named for his now wife Laila Tov. He still found it hard to call her “Captain,” not because he didn’t think she was worth her salt as a leader, but because he found her so darn cute!
“How many awake?” Her voice held no lilt of endearment. Laila Tov was all business. This was a one shot gig. Everyone in the Nursery had to be flat-lined from the code in order for phase two to work.
“All of them.”
Silence that was followed by a relieved sigh, opened up for the next command. “Begin Phase Two. The others are prepared to initiate their Binary Uploads.The Tillers won’t have time to rewrite the code before our nightmares begin to manifest. Its going to get darker in there and even worse out here.”
Elias grimaced. “That’s generally what happens when nightmares become reality. It gets dark fast. But hey, we wrote this code so…”
“True. Let’s finish this, Soldier- er Darling.”
“Rodger that!” Elias smiled as if Laila Tov’s last word was a kiss.
* * *
“Stop that!” Harriet hissed at Glendella. “Your going to break your hands clean off at the wrist, woman it ain’t working! Somethings wrong with them!” Harriet suddenly sucked in a strangled voice and pointed a finger at Glendella. Her once raven-esque hair had grown grey and brittle, the coarse strands of it brushing against her sagging skin.
Dreams were always the place of youth, but Glendella had suddenly grown haggardly. “Or,” Harriet took another step back, plastering herself against the viewing bay of the Nursery below. “You are what’s wrong! Glendella you are absolutely ghastly!”
Glendella’s eyes widened, drool slipped from her lips along with several of her once pristine and perfect teeth. “You’re one to talk, your skirts are about to pop!” She let out a horrified mew as she tried to catch her teeth.
Harriet had not felt the strain of the fabric against her once trim waist but couldn’t help but faint to the ground as if shot as the sound of her seams popping echoed through the room.
END OF PART 1
I hope you enjoyed the beginning of this tale. It is very tongue and cheek. I must give a shout out to the “muse” who inadvertently gave me the idea for this story, Blondeusk! Do check out her blog HERE and give it a follow…you can thank me later, that is after your sides have taken a moment from splittling with laughter. She is funny, that one.