Purple's Platitudes

nothing but words …

Billie & Brindle Chapter 2

Billie & Brindle Chapter 2

 “Do watch where you are stepping, please!”

             Billie shouted and waved his arms and hands wildly in the air above his head and jumped nearly a foot off the ground.

 “Geez you scared me but boy am I glad you found us. The flashlight went out and then Stephanie wouldn’t answer me and I couldn’t find the way out and you’ve got to find her and help her!”

 “I say, do try to control yourself!”

 “Who are you?” Billie demanded excitedly. “I think Stephanie is hurt or something, you’ve got to help her

             Billie heard a resounding plop off to his left.

 “Hey, did you hear me? Billie inquired, but to his dismay, there wasn’t any response.

             He wondered if he was imagining things, but even when he replayed things in his mind, they just didn’t make sense, Stephanie’s strong admonition to be quiet, the sudden plunge into darkness, Stephanie’s apparent disappearance, and what about the grass or whatever it was he pulled up? Nothing added up.

            He did a slow pirouette, trying to see something, anything, in any direction. He couldn’t make out any walls or any hint of the cellar door anywhere.

 “Hello?”

 “Perhaps you should spin around three times with your eyes closed and then open them again? That might clear your head!” the voice suggested.

             It was that same voice again, a bit muffled, almost like it was coming from underwater.

 “What?” Billie asked, hoping to listen more closely and focus on where the voice was coming from. “Didn’t you hear me, Stephanie needs help and I don’t know where she is.”

             After several minutes of silence, Billie accepted the obvious fact that whoever had spoken was not going to answer him apparently. So, although it sounded ludicrous and silly, Billie closed his eyes tightly and began to slowly turn around in a circle. He kept his arms fully extended, just in case. After three complete revolutions, he opened his eyes and blinked. He shut them tightly again and reopened them. What he saw around him was unbelievable!

            He was standing in a green grassy meadow. Off to his left was a pond that stretched around a bend further than he could see. To his right, the meadow was flanked by a wooded area, white birch and silver maples overshadowed by towering oaks and clumps of evergreens. Astounded, Billie just stared open-mouthed from one direction to another. How did he get here, and even more importantly, where was here? What had happened to him and where was Stephanie?

 “Can we go home now, I’m certain she’s waiting there for you, my dear boy.”

             It was that voice again. But, where was it coming from and how did it know what he was thinking? He hadn’t said anything out loud.

 “My, my, my, I’m sure you’re a trifle confused young master, but please, try to concentrate.”

             Billie turned towards the voice and stared.

 “Oh all right, must I explain this yet again?” and with that a creature emerged from the pond and approached him.

             It resembled a frog, except for the fact that it was dark purple and had six legs not four. Billie giggled despite himself as this creature waddled up from the pond  and roared as it bowed to him, unable to disguise his astonished amusement any longer.

 “I suppose you don’t remember me, do you?” it whined, sounding almost hurt or offended.

 “Should I?” Billie replied, forgetting for the moment that this creature shouldn’t be talking to him in the first place.

 “Well, I would think after all we’ve been through together, after all I’ve done for you and Steph…”

 “Steph, wait! You know Stephanie? Is she okay? Where is she?” Billie fired questions rapidly, without pausing for answers. “Where are we exactly?” How did we get here? What is going on?”

 “Tsk tsk tsk” the creature shook its head from side to side. “Can we perhaps grapple with only one or two questions at a time? You are going to have to remember who you are my young friend and start acting like the Prince, or people are going to talk.”

 “Prince?” Billie retorted. “What do you mean, the Prince? I’m no…” but he paused in mid-sentence as he watched the creature bob its head, silently affirming that, yes, Billie was the Prince, as if he should already know that somehow.

 “I think that tree you fell out of has scrambled your brain a bit. Do you seriously not know who you are, or where you are?”

             Seeing the blank look of confusion on Billie’s face, the creature settled back on its two hind legs and sighed.

 “All right, I’ll humor you then. Here’s the condensed version, just for argument’s sake. You are the first born son of King Algoran, so that makes you the Prince, see? Anyway, you are in Kipporferlandia, the central part of the nine kingdoms which you will one day rule over in your father’s place, assuming they don’t lock you away for feigning insanity. Stephanie is your younger sister, of course, the most beautiful maiden in all of the nine kingdoms if I do say so myself, but then, I am a bit biased. Is any of this making sense to you yet?”

             Billie just stared and shook his head slowly from side to side.

 “I’m thinking we should get you back to the castle and perhaps a visit with Wyndel might be in order.”

             Billie sat down on the grass, believing it was better to sit down rather than fall down. His head was swimming. None of this made any sense to him at all. He tried to remember, yes, just a few minutes ago, Stephanie had dared him to see what was under her house. She had forced open the cellar door, they squeezed in and made their way back to that chest, yes, he remembered seeing that old pirate’s chest with the big padlock, and then Stephanie had dropped the flashlight and everything got crazy after that. He remembered panicking, running, falling, expecting mud and finding the grass under his hands…

 “Who are you?” Billie asked.

 “Me?” the creature sputtered, “Why I am your guardian silly! I’ve been by your side from the moment you were born. You really aren’t feeling all right are you lad?”

 “No, honestly, I am really confused, about everything.”

 “Let’s get you home and I am sure one of Wyndel’s warm concoctions will restore your mind.”

             Billie stood. Apparently he was somewhere strangely different than where he remembered he was, just a few moments ago. This couldn’t be a dream, could it? Just in case he pinched himself on the forearm. He definitely felt that. So, what choice did he have? He had no idea where he really was, how he got here, or if he could return to where he thought he was supposed to be.

            So far, this purple, six-legged frog, was his only connection to anything real, no matter how little sense any of this made to him at the moment. What did he have to lose by going along with it and seeing where it took him? With a flourish, Billie motioned for the creature to lead on.

 “So, what do I call you?” Billie inquired.

 “Oh, we are being silly today, aren’t we?” it replied sarcastically. “Everyone knows me!”

 “Well, for my sake, you know, falling out of the tree and all …” Billie laughed.

 “Brindle, my scattered young Prince, just plain old Brindle.”

19 September, 2009 Posted by | Fiction | | Leave a comment

It came in a box

25 June 2004

 

 

It came in a box

 

            I was sitting at the dining room table, eating a slice of peanut butter toast, when someone knocked on my door. Peering out through the blinds I saw a U.P.S. driver holding a large box. Normally, I wouldn’t even think of answering the door wearing only my nightgown, but he rapped again, a little louder and more insistently.

            I opened the door and he smiled politely and said, “Good morning.” Glancing down at his electronic clipboard he announced he had a package for a Miss Dorothy Cline. He scanned the package and then handed the clipboard to me along with the plastic stylus and I scrawled something resembling my signature in the tiny window. He punched a couple of buttons and handed me the box, then said, “Thank you ma’am, have a nice day,” and bounded back into his truck and sped off down the street.

            I closed the door and set the box down on the table. It was clumsily wrapped in plain brown paper without a return address. I noticed it did have old stamps and postmarks in several places, most of them crossed out crudely with a black marker. My name and address were clearly printed on the box, but I couldn’t imagine who might be sending me anything.

            It was larger than a shoebox, but unusually light. In fact, as I gingerly shook the box from side to side, I couldn’t hear anything rattling around inside. It might have been poorly wrapped, but someone had used plenty of extra tape and it proved to be more than my fragile nails could handle. I padded into the kitchen, grabbed a serrated steak knife, and returned to the dining room.

            Once again, I shook the box, holding it up against my ear, but I heard nothing. Puzzled, I moved the box around, a bit more vigorously than before, but still no sound or movement.

            Finally, I set it down on the table and gently sliced through the tape. Delicately, I lifted the lid and discovered that the box indeed was empty. There was nothing at all in the box. Isn’t that peculiar, I thought to myself, why would someone send me an empty box?

            Then something caught my eye and I noticed a white envelope taped to the underside of the lid. I removed it, opened it up, and found a small, hand-written note. Unfolding it, I read the following:

            “Hi! My name is Anna. I am almost six years old. I live at the West Side Children’s Home. Would you please put one of your memories into this box and send it back to me? I don’t have too many of my own yet, but I hope you have some you’ll share. Anna”

 

Grateful acknowledgement is given to Black Widow’s Web of Poetry, Issue 19 May/Aug 2005 where this story first appeared in a slightly different form.

19 September, 2009 Posted by | Fiction | | Leave a comment

Game, set, match

Game, Set, Match

 

“Where were you last night?” No, that seems like an accusation he thought. He tried again, attempting to blunt the edge, soften it, to make it sound like he was sincerely interested, yet unconcerned. No matter how he tried to say it, he knew she would think that he was prying into her business and his mental rehearsal became even more desperate.

            He was still struggling to find the right way to ask her about last night when she came out of the bathroom glistening, beautifully nude, and padded into the kitchen. She scavenged in the refrigerator, dramatically posing in silhouette for his benefit. She ignored his mumbled greeting at first, allowing the tension to build. He tried to halt the movie in his head, the inevitable fight he knew they were going to have. He wished he could find another starting point, something less explosive, but he felt helpless and defeated in her presence. He had nothing to say to her, nothing at all.

            She stretched gracefully, like a jungle cat, and paused with a cold, calculated precision, knowing, without even looking back at him, that his eyes were riveted on her taut, perfectly tanned naked flesh. She basked in the power she knew she had over him and then nonchalantly turned and smiled at him.

            “Where were you last night?” he blurted out, sounding even more accusing than he had imagined.

            “Out.” she replied calmly, meeting his gaze without flinching at all.

            “Out where?” he persisted, realizing that he had already lost this battle once again.

            “I said, I was out.” She had that nuclear look in her eyes that defiantly challenged him to say anything more.

            “Who were you with?” he pleaded weakly, knowing his jealousy was undisguised. Sheepishly, he lowered his eyes, unable to meet her confident superiority and control. He never got any answers from her unless she chose to reveal something, and, even then, she only shared what she knew would drive him crazy. It was always her game, played by her rules.

            “I … was … out,” she replied once more, slowly emphasizing each word, punctuating her reply with an almost sardonic smile.

            He wanted to scream at her, demand an answer, maybe even lash out at her and hurt her until she told him, just once, what he so desperately needed to know. But he was powerless to do or say anything at all.

            She sauntered past him, not so subtly allowing her body to graze him. She knew she had already won, but she had to rub it in, gloat over yet another victory. In a few minutes, he would calm down and come crawling to her like a scolded puppy. He would apologize. She would allow him to grovel a little, attempt to curry her favor, and eventually she would relent, after all, she had gained yet another notch of control over him. Best of all, she knew she could exploit his penitent heart for her own pleasure.

            She waited by the end of the bed, listening for his quiet approach. He slid his right hand across her stomach, then gently coaxed her closer to him. Combing through her long wet hair with the fingers of his other hand, he began caressing her bare shoulders tenderly with his lips. She smiled and pretended to resist. But he moved to the soft, downy hair at the nape of her neck, lightly brushing across her skin with his lips and the moistened tip of his tongue until she shivered with desire. 

            He smiled, knowing, at least for the moment, he was back in her good graces, that this was now his game, his  rules, and it didn’t matter where she had been last night. Right here, right now, she was his and he slowly pushed her down onto the bed.

            She surrendered, at least for the moment, wanting more and more of his attention as it became more intense, more passionate, and more demanding. She smiled to herself as she thought, game, set, and match!

19 September, 2009 Posted by | Fiction | | Leave a comment

Call it a loan

            “Call it a loan, a debt I owe, or a bet I lost, but please don’t hold it against me if I say I’m not sorry. Nothing’s ever permanent; we live and we die.”

             Her silence made Chris uncomfortable, so he pressed on in a subdued tone.

             “My days are like those autumn leaves out there, falling from that red maple tree. They fade in and out like the sunset, saying good-bye and mingling with the night. I love and I leave. It’s just the way it is!”

             A half smile creased his lips as Melody glanced up at him in anger. How typical of him to wax poetic at a time like this, she thought to herself vehemently.

             “That isn’t the way it is supposed to be!” she managed.

             “It never gets easier to leave someone,” he continued, “and I understand you are feeling hurt, frustrated, and angry, but things change and eventually you’ll get over this.”

             Valiantly trying to hold back the tears that were welling up, Melody crossed her arms and squeezed tightly, desperately drawing in a sobbing breath. Chris glanced over Melody’s shoulder, focusing beyond her to avoid meeting her tear-filled gaze.

             “I go through so many different stages in my life and often it takes years to learn those lessons from the past, if I’m ever honest enough to admit I was wrong to begin with. Sometimes I burn the bridges I’ve crossed, attempting to forget. I don’t even want to remember that farthest shore.”

             Disgusted, Melody rolled her eyes, but Chris didn’t even notice.

             “Sometimes I wonder why it seems so difficult to take that step. Am I so filled with pride that I can’t confront my own shortcomings, admit my failures and mistakes? ”

             He wasn’t really expecting her to answer, but Chris allowed himself to look into her eyes briefly. She turned away quickly to stare out the window at the tree outside, unable to disguise her sniffling.

             “Do you know what keeps me from dwelling on those times I’ve fallen? Pride, that’s all it is, my own foolish pride. And maybe fear? I’m fickle about opening myself to others. I don’t want to be burdened with ridicule and shame – just forget them ancient ghosts.”

             Tenderly, Chris drew Melody’s arms open and cradled her hands gently in his.

             “You and I have had moments when I was able to dig up some of those half-buried memories and share them. But you also have to admit that at other times I was so withdrawn and secretive that even you could not break through. All too often, I’ve treated you like an outsider and a stranger.”

            Abruptly releasing her hands, Chris slid his chair back away from the table and stood up. Throwing his hands in the air he turned and began to pace the room in slow circles.

             “Maybe,” he almost whispered, “I inhabit the dark side so much it has become the only place I know? I find peace only when I am alone. Solitude is my only true companion.”

             “That’s not true!” Melody blurted, but he ignored her.

             “It’s my choice, my curse! And do you want to know why? Because I am still afraid to allow anyone to see me as I really am. I will never give anyone the key to unlock my inner complexities. My inner self will always remain shrouded.”

             Unexpectedly Chris turned and rushed her, slamming his open palms flat on the table, his face inches away from where Melody cowered, suddenly afraid of his explosive temper.

             “Can you tell me why I am so frightened to be exposed?” he demanded, grasping his T-shirt with both hands and ripping it apart, exposing his chiseled, muscular chest.

Pounding his closed fists against his chest he pleaded, “Why must this be all I have to call my own? I feel like I have been condemned to wander aimlessly through life, never finding any meaning or purpose, forever chained to this invisible prison. I’m innocent I tell you, but no one listens!”

             Unable to hide her mounting fear, Melody stood and slowly began to back away.

             “Everyone withholds a part of themselves, that deep inner self that no one else is ever allowed to see,” Chris declared.

             As Melody tried to shrink away from him, Chris punctuated his words by stomping one step closer to her with each word he growled, “Is… that… such… a… crime?”

             “Don’t all of us create our own personal private worlds, some place we can escape to at times, that perfect little island utopia?”

             Wildly, Melody shook her head up and down, trying to agree with whatever it was he was saying, although she felt only panicked confusion and stark terror.

             “I don’t deserve to be punished for refusing to participate in society’s carnival!”

             She managed to mouth the word, No, but her voice failed her. Chris was slowly forcing her back into the corner of the room, allowing no chance of escape.

             Throwing his arms wide, fingers splayed Chris screamed, “Why do you label me an outcast and ostracize me like a leper?”

             “I …” Melody tried to respond, but he cut off her words with a threatening gesture.

             Grabbing her arms Chris pinned them to her side and roared, “I am not some heartless, unthinking cog in this Great Machine called life!”

             Suddenly, he kissed her passionately.

             As the lights dimmed and the curtain swished closed, the audience responded with enthusiastic cheers, piercing whistles, and echoing applause. Chris and Melody stepped through the gap in the center of the curtain, smiling broadly and holding hands. They stood for a moment soaking in the praise, and then bowed deeply once, twice before disappearing once more behind the stage curtain.

19 September, 2009 Posted by | Fiction | | Leave a comment

Burning candle

   I wasn’t frightened by the darkness that enveloped me. Sitting on the rough earthen floor of this cramped holding cell,  with my back against the slimy, moss-covered wall, my senses nearly overwhelmed by the nauseating stench of dried blood, urine, and both human and animal excrement I wasn’t frightened. Even when the silence was pierced by the distant muffled screams of faceless tormented souls begging for release I was not afraid. In those rare moments of quiet, when I could hear the faint scratching of tiny unseen claws or the grating gnawing of teeth on bone, even then I was not frightened.

 

     I smelled the unmistakable pungency of burning sulfur long before the shuffling of padded feet on stone reached my ears. I waited breathlessly as the approaching footfalls grew steadily louder and closer. Suddenly they stopped just outside the heavy windowless oak door. I recognized the jangle of keys, then the grating scrape of the key being inserted into the lock, followed by  the loud release.

 

     I shielded my eyes with my forearm as the door was pulled open and the torchlight flooded my tiny cell. Suddenly illuminated, creatures scurried to retreat from the light, leaving behind the horrifying evidence of previous guests – bits of bone and pieces of rotting, decaying flesh. Framed in the doorway loomed a dark silhouette. A black ceremonial robe shimmered in the flickering light, but the face remained shrouded in deep shadows, hidden underneath a concealing hood. Without a word, he commanded me to stand. Then, as he stepped aside, he motioned for me to proceed ahead of him.

19 September, 2009 Posted by | Fiction | | Leave a comment

The alarm’s shrill voice

            The alarm’s shrill voice protested the silence and in his own form of protest Jason cursed and lashed out at the alarm clock, silencing it in a violent portrayal of his mood. He threw the covers back and swung his legs to the floor. He heard footsteps approaching his door and became annoyed. His mother entered without knocking and asked if he was up. Angrily he snapped, “I’m up ain’t I?” His mother quickly retreated and said, “Just checking” on her way out.

 

            After she had closed the door he waited until he heard her footsteps receding. Then he stepped to his dresser and quietly pulled out the top drawer. But, instead of getting anything out of the drawer, he reached carefully underneath and withdrew a dark, small bottle. It was only half full, about two ounces, but he opened it and in one quick motion, emptied the liquid, swallowing in one gulp. Replacing the now empty bottle in its hiding place, he quickly dressed and went out. He was halted by his mother’s attempt to get him to eat some breakfast, but he gruffly refused and pushing open the screen door, disappeared out into the damp, cold, darkness of morning.

19 September, 2009 Posted by | Fiction | | Leave a comment

Facing the dawn alone

            Facing the dawn alone, for some, peaceful; for others, the empty echo of true loneliness within a searching heart. When I think of the dawn, I think of the first time I saw the ocean. Almost instinctively, I kicked off my shoes and removed my socks, discarding them, as if I knew it was somehow sacrilegious to wear them there. I rolled up my pant legs as high as I could manage, and threw off my shirt to enjoy the caressing touch of a temperate midnight wind. I was standing on holy ground that stretched away into darkness in either direction.

            I felt the cold dampness of the sand underneath my bare feet and heard the hypnotic ebb and flow of the breakers quietly swishing up and out on the beach. I watched the foaming tendrils reach with gentle fingers, to swirl and play around my feet, and for the very first time I noticed the often unheard voices that incessantly whispered my true name from within those strange depths. Hypnotized by the pleading, the taunts, and the enchanting promises – “Come away with me, flow through me and we will be one”, I found myself unable to escape her charms. Suddenly, I wondered how many have surrendered to her, embraced her outstretched arms, only to discover the emptiness of her words and promises. Above the cries of desperation, a seagull intruded on my reverie, releasing me from her spell and encouraging me to move on. Turning into the moonlight, I slowly wandered away…

            … only to return. She is still there, waiting patiently. Her apology is even shallower than her invitation, but out of compassion I yield and step cautiously into her depths. Almost unwillingly, I lose myself in her and we move together towards the rising sun in the company of silence and things unspoken. At her urging, we run hand-in-hand to the top of wind-carved dunes to watch the sunrise paint its canvas from east to west. She turns to me and I am lost in her sweet, tender eyes, melting into her as she melts into me until we are one. Closing my eyes, I try desperately to grasp onto this moment, knowing that even attempting to hold on guarantees she will be gone when I open them once again. And so, I walk away, trying to remember what it is like not to face the dawn alone…

19 September, 2009 Posted by | Fiction | | Leave a comment