A few days ago I wrote a verse using an almost-obsolete word, GLOAMING. As you’ll see, the story I’m posting today includes several rarely used words, so get out your dictionary. 🙂 And since there’s no ending to my tale, you’ll have to use your own imagination to finish it.
A Sombre Tale
The night was rayless, the moon mist-embalmed, stars lost in the opacity. A solitary bobcat, its pupils expanded to let in what little light there be, listens for the slightest rustle.
Its ears twitch as unusual crunches echo though the bosque – something large and careless is lumbering by. The bobcat sniffs, detects the scent of a human on the nearby trail, and abandons his hunt. Not far away a rabbit, terror-frozen, listens as the pad of the cat’s feet grows faint. The rabbit, sensing hope of escape at last, bolts into the underbrush.
Unconcerned with other drama, or rather too consumed by his own, a man stumbles along the tenebrous trail. Leading the way, his flashlight’s beam flickers off small lumps and bumps on the path. In the circle of light slicing the darkness, the man finds courage to go forward with hesitant steps.
Just as his feet grope for safe footing on the rutted trail, so the man is feeling his way through the murk of his misgivings. As he advances, his mind sifts through the potential consequences that loom so large in the semi-darkness around him. Should he turn around? Should he forsake this quest?
His eyes strain to see village lights ahead, seeking encouragement and a moment of camaraderie at a place where shadowed souls like himself are gathering. A pinprick of streetlight winks through the trees, beckoning him on.
“One last time.” He whispers the promise into the darkened brake. “Just this one last time.”
The Ragtag Daily Prompt for today is SPRUIKER. An Aussie word meaning (carnival) barker, or hawker of goods (like at a fair or flea market.) My fantasy tale shall carry on from yesterday’s description of pour art.
Grandma’s New Passion
My husband and I were strolling through the farmer’s market yesterday when we heard a shrill spruiker a couple of rows over. I turned to look and saw a teen girl in front of a really colorful display of art. She was calling to passing shoppers: “Pictures, beautiful pictures. One look and you’ll fall in love with them.”
Curiosity aroused, I tugged my husband over to that booth. The girl was delighted to have an audience. “Can’t you just see one of these beauties on your wall…for only $20.
We spent a moment gazing at the marbled canvases, with every color of the rainbow drizzled or splashed across in random patterns.
“Um.. What are they supposed to be pictures of?” Jaycen asked. My practical husband doesn’t go much for abstract art.
“All kinds of things. Fields, trees, flowers…whatever. Wouldn’t you love to have one on your wall? You could have your visitors guess what it represents?”
“You have such a variety,” I said. “Someone has been very busy.”
“You can say that again! Last month my grandma discovered “pour art” and got so enthused about it, she’s made hundreds. She keeps trying to get the perfect picture.” The girl rolled her eyes.
“Oh, yes. I had a grandma like that, but her thing was afghans. All of us grandchildren got half a dozen. I suppose your grandma has gifted you well, too?”
“You got it! We have two or three on each wall. So does everyone else in our area. When Grandma started buying paint in five-gallon drums and canvases by the truckload, Mom said we absolutely have to do something. So she rented this booth and I’m stuck here trying to sell as many as I possibly can.”
“You do have a problem.”
“I sure wish she’d go back to making quilts. She’s doing a dozen pictures every day.” Her tone became desperate. “You want one, don’t you, people? Or two or three? Only $20 each. Even if you don’t like them so much right off, they’ll grow on you.”
Soft-hearted sorts that we are, we bought a couple. We just grabbed two at random. They’ll grow on us.
One day Lois’s good friend and work colleague, Ed, tells her how he has planned his retirement from the hectic life of big city news. He’s bought a newspaper in the peaceful town of Green, Louisiana. Owning and operating a small-town paper was his dream, but just as he’s about to take the reins as owner of The Green News-Item, he has a fatal heart attack. He’d made a will and Lois is amazed to discover that he chose to leave this new business to her.
Thus Lois, a thirty-year-old single city news editor, finds herself in possession of a small town newspaper in the deep South, a world unfamiliar to her. While she had been hoping for a promotion in her own sphere, Lois goes down to Green and has a look around. The town and the small local newspaper appeal to her, so she decides to give it a whirl — for Ed’s sake.
Meeting the staff, learning the ropes, getting used to the community; she sees why the adventure had so much appeal to Ed. Most of the Green citizens she meets are kind, friendly, easy-going folks, great to work with. She also meets the kind high school coach who lives down the road from her new home and drops by often just to chat. She realizes this is someone she’d like to get to know better.
But even small towns can have their greedy types and corruption. Her main reporter gets a whiff of something rotten in some local VIP’s proposed property development and she gets glimpses of possible racial prejudice involved in the new development scheme. Ready to stand up for civil rights, Lois encourages her reporter to go after the story, but if they expose local dirty-dealing, the paper may be headed for a hot gumbo.
The plot thickens when she gets a call from another former colleague, suggesting an attractive offer’s coming up back home. “A great offer…you should grab this opportunity.” A big newspaper chain comes up with an offer to purchase the Green News-Item. Decisions, decisions!
I really enjoyed this book and give it five stars. It’s well written, believable, holds a readers interest, and has an old-fashioned flavor. No immorality — and the story line is great. Makes you want to visit the place, drop in on her and say “Hi.” And this is the first in a series, so we can keep on reading about Lois’s newspaper newspaper crusading adventures in Green, LA. I’ve read the second book and enjoyed it just as much. I see three more have been published since.
Writing prompts: today the Ragtag Daily Prompt was FIXER-UPPER and I was able to work it in with another writing challenge, the one I gave to Judy Dykstra-Brown last night. You’re welcome to try it too, if you like. The goal is to Use at least three words in a poem or story.
Judy has already written her poem in response (Click here to read it) and now here’s mine. I hope you can bear with this long tale. 🙂
Sunshine and blue skies. A glorious day to start on an adventure!
One of the scouts stuffs a couple of flasks in his saddlebag as I pass. He nods when he sees me observing him. “Strictly for medicinal purposes, ma’am.” Then he has the nerve to wink at me. I don’t know about that fellow. Altogether too forward. Heaven knows what kind of women he’s associated with ’til now.
I smile to myself as I reached my wagon. What I have in my luggage is strictly for medicinal purposes also: two medical books. Father would never hear of me studying formally, but from these I’ve learned a lot about human anatomy.
The scout probably sees me as a frightfully brash thing, attaching myself to this train like I have. My family thinks I’m mad. You should have heard the gasps when I announced that I’d bought a covered wagon, hired young Clancy Fitzhugh to drive it, and was heading west to assist old Dr James in his practice.
My brother Charles sputtered and eyed me suspiciously. Did he think I’d robbed a bank? Or was stealing some of his inheritance? And my sisters-in-law! “Foolishness! Far too daring! Out there among gunfighters and thieves. No respectable woman would ever…” and on and on. They see me at thirty-one as a spinster for life. A lost penny that will obligingly roll along from house to house. Well, I refuse to be dependent on them for the rest of my life.
It cheered me very much this morning to receive a letter from my good friend Sally. Won’t I have things to tell her when I get the chance? She’ll be astounded.
I miss her so much! We were good friends all through school, after all. Then a year after we graduated a young man from England stopped in our town on his tour of the American Midwest. He courted her and won her heart, married her and carried her back to England. Now she writes such interesting letters about her life over there – so different from anything we know! In her last letter she sent along a picture of a hedgehog that her son drew. She told me her children think they’re cute and put out treats to lure them into the garden.
Something catches my eye, a glitter by the front wheel of my wagon. Someone has lost a penny – and I’ve found it! I snatch it up and examine it, feeling lighter of heart. Surely this is a good sign?
Isn’t it amazing how things happen right at the time you need them? If I hadn’t happened to catch Mother sliding a small hearthstone into place one day, I’d never have known about the money she was squirreling away. Someone else would have gotten that windfall if I hadn’t discovered her secret.
“Your father will no doubt leave everything to your brothers in his will, with instructions to look after us,” she explained. “And knowing how careful your brothers are with money, even if they’ll let us have a little house of our own I can see us having to give account for every dollar we spend. I want us to have some money of our own when that day comes.”
Mother was right. Father was generous to her, but he’d will everything to the boys. I can just hear him saying, “Why would women need money when they have family to look after them?”
I knew Mother was good at lacework and sold some from time to time; now she told me she was setting aside some of the housekeeping money. She was looking ahead, but didn’t foresee they’d die together. Their deaths happened when our horse spooked and upset their carriage; Mother died instantly; Father lived only a few days.
My parents’ dear friend Dr James made a special trip back for the funeral. Some years back, hearing about an acute need for doctors, he’d gone out West to a small mining town in Montana to set up a practice and we hadn’t seen him since. Chatting with them I could feel he was happy about what he was doing, even patching up gamblers and gunslingers. The day after my parents’ funeral I shared my own dream with him, knowing he’d understand.
Ever since we lost my sister Millie I’ve had a burning desire to help other women make it through childbirth. Could Millie have been saved if she’d had a more competent midwife assisting her? Who can say? But since the day we buried Millie and her newborn girl, I’ve studied and assisted one of the local midwives, with the dream of saving other women’s lives.
He commended me, said my services would be most welcome in their area, especially since one of the midwives there had such a rough time with her last delivery she may never assist him again. I should consider joining him there.
“I’m sure you can could get a room with Mrs. Greggs will take you on as a boarder. In fact, I’ll even pay for your board for the first few months if you’ll do nursing for me. Mrs Greggs is an older widow, quite a respectable woman who swears by ginger tea as a cure-all and feeds me gingersnaps every time I stop in.”
I had to wonder if he stopped in quite often…
Three weeks after the funeral Charles came over to announce, “We’ve decided to put the house up for sale. This property is too valuable for you to live here alone. But you needn’t worry; you can live with one of us. Or we can buy you a small cottage.” I can still see him standing there, a glass of iced tea in his hand, handing me such a bleak future, with not so much as a “by your leave.”
Oh, yes, they said they’d see I was cared for if I stayed here, but I know how that would go. The thought of being shuffled from one home to another, an obligation, an unpaid servant, underfoot too often. Or in a little fixer-upper cottage, dependent on them to do the repairs. Once he left I pulled Mother’s savings from the niche in the hearth and counted it, breathing a sigh of thanks for her foresight.
I’m striking out on my own, come what may. The wagon-master’s shouting and the teams are all shaking their reins impatiently. Time to head West!