bloody from beating the walls
and every splinter earned
in repurposing wreckage,
so that my children might never know
this hollowness of being
unaware of yourself in the dark.
When asked what I was like as a child, my go-to answer is “pretty much your average paperweight.” Leave me in a spot with a book and there I’d stay until someone came to pull me out of my mental Narnia. As you might imagine, I wasn’t all that physical of a child (unless music was involved—I did and still do love to dance).
I first started working out as a teen because of vanity, then kept it up because of the mood boost I get. As I’ve mentioned other times on the blog, I even learned to appreciate playing sports as an adult. Fitness is a regular part of my routine.
I was proud of myself for keeping up with working out through the pandemic, because even when I was tired, I still wanted that endorphin bump and feeling of accomplishment. Then a few days after I came back from vacation, I rolled my ankle and managed to tweak a ligament on the top of my foot.
I won’t lie. I had lots of ‘poor me’ thoughts for the first few days (especially when I was told I might have broken something). And it didn’t help that I relied on that mood booster in the months that followed a very dear friend’s death (to be honest, I still have horrible days where grief swallows me whole). But I remembered the example of another dear friend, who keeps getting some wicked curveballs thrown at her fitness routine. If one way is closed, try another, and another, until something works.
Turns out YouTube is quite helpful for finding routines you can do without putting weight on your foot. I don’t get the same rush, but it was mentally soothing to me to be able to do them, and then graduate to walking around the block later. Last week I got cleared to go back to my usual routine. I’m glad I took it slow and didn’t reinjure myself.
My long-term fitness goal is to be the abuelita chasing her grandkids on the playground. But I have a new appreciation for the short-term mood boost benefits too. My body and brain are finally on the same page.
Valeria was alone. No one was here to see if she turned back. She flipped the switch on her sky skiff. The sail extended with a whoosh as the base lit up. The familiar hum told her everything was working fine. She had done a good job rebuilding it.
She could power it off now. She could loan it to another rider so they could make the flight down the mountain and scavenge food or old tech from the cloud covered valleys below. Plenty of potential riders recently passed the qualifying tests, just as Valeria once did.
“There’s no shame in being a shaper,” Marco had said in a tone designed to needle her. But he had a point. Without shapers, there’d be no sky craft, and no way of getting the things they desperately needed. The other shapers also had been nothing but kind to her. It helped that Valeria had become quite skilled at building and fixing skiffs.
“There’s no shame in falling,” the head shaper had said. And that was true too. Better and more experienced riders had fallen during the sudden storms that popped out over the valley. A better one had the last time Valeria had gone wind-riding.
At that thought, the tears came again, just as Valeria knew they would. There’s no shame in tears, Marisol would have said.
Valeria looked out at the sky around her, clothed in the purples and pinks of dawn. There was no pride in keeping from doing something you loved either. Marisol never let anything or anyone keep her away from the thrill of the sky.
She could continue with the shapers. Valeria had made a place among them. But there was nothing to say a shaper couldn’t be a rider too.
Valeria wiped her eyes to get a clear look at the sky she adored. She felt the anticipation of being in the air eat the last bit of her fear and most of her sadness. In one quick move, Valeria got on the skiff and pushed off from the mountain. And then she flew.
It was never meant to be permanent. But as Madame Veritas said, few things were, notable exceptions aside.
Sandra didn’t know how long she’d been at what the others called “the way station”. She only knew that she had been standing on the train platform with heartache behind her and heartache in front of her. When she saw the wind move the branches of a willow tree to reveal a hazy looking patch near its trunk, Sandra didn’t hesitate. She had been reared on tales of Narnia, and just enough of her heart remained alive enough to whisper, go look.
She did. Then she was here.
Not everyone who found their way here stayed long. She had seen people who managed just one nervous glance around the place before they went back the way they came. But then there were the ones who arrived with looks of both wonder and relief on their faces. They, like her, remained.
They found things to keep them busy, ways to help Madame Veritas and each other. The peace of the place made it easy to find a rhythm between work and rest. But no one could stay forever and eventually they all took one last walk with her before leaving.
The pull to go on that walk finally came to Sandra. It was kin to the impulse that made her go to the willow in the first place.
“Ready to return?” Madame Veritas asked.
“No,” Sandra said. “I betrayed the two people I love best. They have no idea of who I really am.”
“Do you know who you are?”
“I know myself better than I did before I came here,” Sandra said.
“That’s a good place to start,” said Madame Veritas.
“Is it good enough?”
“That’s up to you.”
They walked through the garden in silence. Sandra had spent many hours here learning how to bring out the best in her favorite flowers. She gathered a few seeds before looking at Madame Veritas and saying, “Yes, it will be enough.”
She walked out from under the branches of the willow to find everything was the same as when she left.
Not everything, she thought, holding her seeds. That will be enough.
Song Choice: Integrity Blues by Jimmy Eat World
Liner Notes For This Groove: This flash fiction piece was created for the Weekly Scribblings prompt at Poets and Storytellers United, On My Way.
Shayla had noticed Lisbet before the woman who ran the dairy farm told her to go mentor the new girl so she could learn how things were done. Shayla had apologized profusely when she realized Madame had only done it so that Shayla could provide distraction while Madame tried to seduce Lisbet’s beau.
“Don’t worry,” Lisbet said. “I was about done with him anyway. She’s welcome to him and his diseases.”
It wasn’t long after that they found they had a shared interest – magic.
“What can you do?” Lisbet asked.
“This.” And in a blink Shayla cast an illusion that blurred her edges so that unless you knew where to look, your eyes would slide over her. “And you?”
“This.” Lisbet said, casting a small orb of glowing light.
The witch trials were coming up. They had both secretly wanted to go for several years now, but it was only upon meeting each other that they decided to do it.
“Nothing stopping us from going as a team,” Lisbet said. Shayla agreed.
They whispered back and forth during the orientation session about what they thought the trials might be. Shayla was sure the witches were dropping hints in their words. A serious faced witch interrupted them to ask for their names.
“I’m Moth. She’s Firefly,” Shayla said.
The witch went away muttering something that sounded like “not likely to hug bears but still silly.”
“It was a little silly,” Shayla agreed later that night in the woods. “But names have power, and I didn’t want to share mine right away. Not until I was sure we’d pass.”
“We will. We’ve got 6 out of the 7 things we need to find with plenty of time left. Why those names?”
“Based on our powers,” Shayla answered. “And one time Madame compared me to a moth because I was a pest.”
“Shows what she knows,” Lisbet said. “We need your magic now.”
Shayla’s magic covered them both as a bear wandered through the clearing, ignoring them.
“My turn,” Lisbet said. Her orb illuminated a mushroom, the last item on the list. “We make a great team.”
“That we do,” said Shayla, following Lisbet back to the cottage and their future.
Song Choice: We Are Going to Be Friends by the White Stripes
Liner Notes for This Groove: This piece of flash fiction was created for the Weekly Scribblings prompt at Poets and Storytellers United, Butterflies and Moths. It was also inspired by the short story I wrote a couple of weeks ago, Witch Trials, just to see if I could find more to say.
The moon had moved as far as the second highest branch of the oak tree. Melli sighed as she ruffled Gorgon’s fur.
“Soon, baby,” she cooed at the beast.
“Not soon enough,” fretted Gladys as she stirred the cauldron. “I want to know now if any make it through. Last year we didn’t have any.”
Cara set several bundles of herbs on the table. “None’s fine by me. I’d rather be sure they’re suitable than let just anyone in.” Several of the other women in the room nodded.
Melli laughed. “I can’t decide which ones are worse, those who faint at the first twig they step on or the ones who try to snuggle a bear?”
“That only happened once,” said Gladys. “Gorgon and I were able to whisk her off before anything bad happened. It didn’t take much effort working the charm of forgetting on her.”
“It’s always easy on the daft ones,” Cara said. The room exploded in cackles.
Melli agreed with both Cara and Gladys. It was always a happy day when they welcomed a new witch to their ranks, but she didn’t know what was in the minds of some of the applicants. The forgetfulness charm meant some had tried more than once, but if they weren’t just the right sort of bold mixed with a generous dollop of sense, they would never be happy living this life.
“Still, I think we’ll have at least two new ones to welcome,” Gladys said.
This time Cara smiled. “The two chatterboxes? Yes. I heard them discussing how they might deal with some of the things they might encounter. They sounded sensible at least. I’ve never seen two that decided to team up before.”
The moon was just touching that top branch now. “It’s time to check on them,” Melli said.
The ladies grabbed their brooms or shapeshifted depending on their preference. The local dryads hadn’t raised an alarm, so no candidate was in danger of anything greater than embarrassment. Melli did hope those two girls did make it through. They were spirited enough not to shiver in the dark and sharp enough to know it’d be helpful to go together. Those seemed like promising signs to her.
Song Choice: Which Witch by Florence and the Machine
This flash fiction was inspired by the Weekly Scribblings prompt at Poets and Storytellers United, Waiting.
Song Choice: I Like to Walk in the Rain by Shirley Temple
Liner Notes For This Groove: This poem was created for Poets and Storyteller United's Weekly Scribblings prompt, Listmania.
Well this looks like my lucky day, thought Adira as the room came into focus.
She was in the drawing room of her ex-fiancé’s townhome. Lord Bradley sat in his favorite chair, sipping a glass of wine, and watching her.
“I’m sorry, Adira,” he said. “But I thought this would be more comfortable for you than a cellar in Cheapside.”
“Very thoughtful,” she said, as she smoothed her hair back towards the untidy bun held by her favorite hair stick. “But it might have been nicer to have left me near the opera house.”
He made a tut-tut noise. “And left you at the mercy of Nightshade? That would have been rude.”
“I don’t know what you are talking about.”
“Let me tell you a story,” he said, refilling his glass. “There was a naïve girl, whose romantic notions made her an easy mark for Nightshade, a notorious criminal who has become something of a hero to gullible young women and a nuisance to my guild’s interests. She unwisely agreed to be a lookout for one of his capers. Thankfully, a concerned friend was there to intercede before she had to face serious consequences.”
“Charming,” she said, stretching out her hands and fingers. “But what’s the price for his intercession?”
“Information. Everything you know about Nightshade’s organization, including the contact you were supposed to meet tonight.”
“And if I don’t?”
“It’s my duty to turn you in to the constables. Considering the trouble Nightshade has caused, that cellar is going to seem nice in comparison,” Bradley said.
“So you haven’t told the authorities yet?”
“Of course not. Adira, I can protect you. If you cooperate.”
Adira looked down at her lap. “I don’t want to go to jail. What if I told you I know who Nightshade is?”
He jumped out his chair. “Really? Who?”
“Me.” Adira pulled her hair stick free and threw it at his throat. It hit its mark. As he tried pulling it out, Adira picked up the bottle of wine and cracked it over his head.
“I have a story for you,” she said. “There once was an unscrupulous and overconfident man who wouldn’t shut up. So I fixed that. The end.”
The dung landed in front of me with a wet plop. I turned my head, and as expected, saw the sneering face of the urchin who had been following us for the last few days. Before I could stop her, Yoli picked the dung up and flung it right back at the urchin. It hit the child square in the face.
“Yeah, well… you only hit me because you’re good at throwing,” she screeched, before diving back into the undergrowth.
Yoli’s face went from satisfied, to confused, to moody. I gave her the space of a few seconds before I spoke.
“That didn’t feel as good as you thought it would, did it?”
Yoli scrunched up her face. “No. But she’s been annoying us for days, mistress. And what kind of comeback was that? Good at throwing? I ought to be, as a squire of the Kingsguard.”
“We do prefer that our squires have good aim, yes,” I said.
Yoli glared at the bushes, then slumped. “Good aim against another trained fighter, not some little kid.”
“Did you see what she has wrapped around her arm?” I asked.
“A piece of the enemy’s uniform,” Yoli said.
“A piece of the uniform that could have been her father’s, her brother’s, or someone else she loved. We’re the villains in her story.”
“How can that be? They’ve tortured innocents, put children to death. Mistress, they wouldn’t even respect you as a fighter.”
“Their respect isn’t as important to me as my respect for myself. Tell me, Squire Yoli, how is your self-respect at this moment?”
She looked at the ground. “Not good.”
“Because I picked a fight with a dumb, and obviously sad, little kid. And that’s not who I want to be.”
“Save that aim for an actual opponent when we find one. It might keep your hands cleaner,” I said, smiling. “Let’s find a creek and get them washed off.”
“She’s going to keep throwing shit at us you know,” Yoli said.
“Then it’s a good thing that we train our squires to dodge as well.”
“I’m fast enough for that,” Yoli said. “She really does have terrible aim.”
For the longest time, I was the only one in my family with thick, curly locks. Then I had my Darling Eldest. We didn’t know how much his hair was like mine at first. He got a lot of regular haircut throughout his youth. But when he went away to college and haircuts weren’t as high of a priority as say anime club, we all finally got a look at what his mane would do when left to its own devices.
He had been home for a bit because of the pandemic before he finally approached me. He likes keeping his hair long but had been resisting the idea that maintenance was needed. Could I help?
Well during the pandemic I’ve been hard-core upgrading my curl game (it was a reliable bit of self-care that always made me feel better). I was delighted to share techniques I learned, product suggestions, while being sure to let him know the ball was in his court as to how he chooses to deal with it. I have to say, his satin lined hat is cooler than my cheesy sleeping bonnet, but both of them protect our curls.
There was one morning when we were wearing our respective caps when my husband made the observation that not only do we look alike, we both act in very similar ways when we get angry or frustrated. He looked at me in horror and said, “I think I’m turning into you.” I told him not to worry unless he suddenly got interested in planners and picking out cute stickers to go in it.
Of course considering we both just got excited over recognizing a familiar voice actor in an anime series, I’ll be sure add an extra pack of cool-looking, anime-inspired stickers to my next stationary order. Just in case.
Song Choice: Hair from the musical of the same name.
This post was created for Poets and Storytellers United's Weekly Scribblings Prompt: What You Resist, You Become.
I’ve been up all night thinking I’m a stranger to who I wished to be.
Strange times, strange words make for strange fates even under sympathetic stars.
I scream out the questions that she’d never have had it in her to ask.
Song Choice: Nobody Told Me by John Lennon
Liner Notes for this Groove: I decided that I needed three American sentences to make one whole response to the prompt given at Poets and Storytellers United's Weekly Scribblings Prompt: Something About Mary. I riffed off the phrase, 'all night they had thought of what they would like their lives to be'.