Category Archives: Fiction

Buckshot Bryant thinks it is time to remind y’all…she is still here !!!

BUCKSHOT BRYANT

Buckshot early in her career…

Joanne “Buckshot” Bryant was a notorious bank and train robber and is possibly best-remembered as the Queen of the Rustlers in the American West of the 1800′s. It could truly be said that this queen came from a family of outlaw aristocracy. Her parents ran the infamous Bryant Gang in Australia and may have even known the outback bandit Mad Dog Morgan before he earned his enormous reputation. When you consider the fact that the later Kelly Gang, Australia’s most well-known gang of outlaws, often pointed to the Bryant Gang as their biggest inspiration and their own personal heroes, Buckshot Bryant came from the most blue-blooded bandit stock imaginable.

Joanne, or “Jo’s” parents settled in America to live in comfortable retirement from their ill-gotten wealth from Down Under. Jo was always a handful, a very willfull and adventurous young lady who caused her parents no end of trouble. In 1861 Bryant’s parents left Missouri (where Jo was born) to escape the freshly-started Civil War and traveled east. While her family hobnobbed with various east-coast gentry Jo herself purportedly began a fling with THE Samuel Colt, a newly commissioned colonel in the Union army. Colonel Colt never saw action in the field, doing mostly administrative work, but that left him with plenty of time to frolic with the beautiful young lady he had fallen in love with. Jo was in her late teens or very early twenties (accounts vary) and Colt was as old or older than her father. When Jo’s family moved on in their travels Jo insisted on staying behind to be with her lover, remaining with him until his death in 1862.

Rather than return to her parents at this time Jo’s adventurous nature led her to begin frequenting east coast rail lines, bedecked in fashionable outfits and luring well-to-do men with amorous intentions into her coachroom, where she would immediately pull a revolver on them and force them to undress and give her all their valuables. She would then slip out of the room and off the train. When the high-living young beauty was running out of the funds from her latest haul she would once again start riding the rails, relying on her sultry looks and her well-dressed appearance to draw another victim her way. One passenger she did not rob during that period of her life was a young Union officer named Humphrey Bogart,

Humphrey Bogart

with whom she supposedly had a brief fling. Bogart would later marry Amarillo Rose, the most colorful figure of the Amarillo Range War.

Shortly after the end of the Civil War Bryant traveled to Missouri, siezed with an uncharacteristically nostalgic desire to once again see the home where she had spent her childhood, Kiwi Aussie Manor. She found the place a gutted shell because the abandoned home had been used as a headquarters by Confederate forces and then burned during a Union raid. Feeling more rootless than ever Jo boarded a train headed west, planning to resume her usual criminal activities. As fate would have it, once the train got into eastern Kansas it was boarded and robbed by the James-Younger Gang.

Top: Jesse James, Cole Younger, John Younger – Bottom: Frank James, Clell Miller, and Bob Younger.

As various members of the gang made their way through the train cars relieving the passengers of their valuables, Jo sprang into action and nearly shot Frank James right between the eyes before being grabbed from behind by Frank’s buddy Cole Younger. While the now-disarmed Jo stood there cursing the two outlaws in the foulest language imaginable they both stood there eyeing the gorgeous young thing before them with just one thing on their minds and it wasn’t Reconstruction Era politics. Calming down, Jo further charmed Cole and Frank by shrewdly telling them how her home had been burned by Union troops and about her railroad scam. Soon Jesse himself was on the scene ogling Jo and listening to his brother and Cole fill him in on this unexpected development. Jesse offered Jo a place in the James-Younger “organization” and she accepted, riding off with the outlaws.

Jo started out serving as a “plant” on trains the James-Younger Gang intended to rob. Dressed in finery she would pose as a passenger, then once the gang began their assault she would produce a gun or two to keep the passengers in line and accomodate the heist in any other way she could. Ever fiery, however, Jo soon tired of that role and began taking a more active part in the robberies, toting a shotgun and even dressing in the gang’s legendary long dusters and dark cowboy hats like the other notorious woman in the gang, Belle Starr

Belle Starr

(though since this was before her marriage to Sam Starr she was still known as Belle Shirley). Jo and Belle got along famously and Belle herself gave Bryant her nickname following a legendary incident. Bob Ford, a fringe character in the Missouri outlaw world, was often trying to force himself on Jo. After one such incident Jo began loading her shotgun, swearing she would blow off Ford’s manhood so he would stop troubling her once and for all. Bob Ford fled as quickly as he could but Jo still fired off a barrel full of buckshot at his retreating form to drive home her point. Ford was far enough away that the shot wasn’t fatal but it caught him full on the buttocks, making it difficult for him to sit down for several days. Belle laughed uproariously and began calling Jo “Buckshot” Bryant, the name she would be known by forever after.

Buckshot spent a few happy years with the James-Younger Gang, enjoying dalliances with Cole Younger and the two James brothers, sometimes both at once according to Belle Starr in her memoirs. All that Hell-raising took place in between daring bank and train robberies. Eventually, however, Buckshot Bryant wanted to lead a gang of her own and headed west along with her latest lover and fellow gang member Kevin “Colorado” Costner.

Kevin ‘Colorado’ Costner

In Texas, Buckshot and Colorado gathered around them the nucleus of the bank and train robbing gang that became known as the Poker Studs. That name for the gang came about because of Buckshot Bryant’s ever-roaming eye for handsome young men, whom she grew to love having around her as her subordinates. Treating these young men as her male harem, Buckshot was so desired by all of them that she took to having the young studs play poker for the privilege of sleeping with her each night. Thus, they became known as the Poker Studs, a name which was supposedly inverted and became the namesake of the game called Stud Poker, in a Burnside/Sideburns kind of way.

Colorado Costner grew increasingly jealous of this behavior and after a furious argument with Buckshot, blurted out his love for her and rode off. Bryant was surprised by Costner’s declaration of love since she thought he saw it as just fun and games like she did. Sad but too proud to chase after him, Buckshot watched him ride off, not realizing they were destined to meet again.

Oddly stirred by the depth of Colorado’s feelings for her, Bryant tried losing herself in booze, loveplay with her Poker Studs and non-stop larcenous behavior. Eventually feeling that banks worth robbing were a bit too far apart this far out west compared to back in the Missouri-Kansas area, Buckshot decided to move into rustling instead of bank robbing, though the gang would still keep their hand in train robbing with occassional heists. Sitting tall in the saddle and with her trusty shotgun always at her side, Buckshot Bryant molded her Poker Studs into a very lucrative operation. The gang would rustle cattle from ranches throughout Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, herd them below the border into Mexico where they would be either sold or traded for horses, which could then be sold back in the U.S. for a profit.

Once, after rustling some livestock from the High Chaparral, the gang was pursued by Manolito Montoya himself, who attacked the band of rustlers single-handed.

Manolito

Intrigued by this foohardy courage, Buckshot ordered her Poker Studs not to kill the handsome Latino, with whom she checked into a Tucson hotel. There the two reached some form of accomodation, with the result that Jo promised to stop rustling from the High Chaparral and Manolito promised to never reveal the location of the desert hideout that he had trailed the gang to.

Sometimes Buckshot and the Poker Studs would rustle just a few cattle for the gang’s personal consumption and would have a massive cookout under the nighttime desert skies, the beef accompanied by tortillas, rice and beans, all washed down with gutrot whiskey. Bryant would revel in these festivities, comfortable and very pleased, surrounded as she was by a gaggle of toughened hombres who all desired and feared her at the same time.

Joining in the fun with Jo at these events would be Poker Studs like:

Dancin’ Pat Swayze, formerly of the Point Break Gang, who joined Buckshot’s gang when she sheltered him from the Texas Rangers who were pursuing him

Dancin’ Pat Swayze

Lariat Leo DiCaprio, the experienced rustler, fresh out of prison, who helped educate Buckshot Bryant and the Poker Studs in the ways of rustling. His specialty was altering cattle brands

Lariat Leo DiCaprio

Colin “Wild Irish” Farrell, who fancied the rustling trade (and himself) as a continuation of the ancient Irish “art” of rustling as depicted in Celtic Mythology.

Colin ‘Wild Irish’ Farrell.

During this period of her career the Queen of the Rustlers enjoyed tweaking the forces of the law in the frontier as they ineffectually tried to bring her to justice. In the New Mexico Territory Buckshot Bryant made it her personal mission to confound the best efforts of Pat Garrett as she continually bested him at the mental chess game they played. Jo made him look so foolish that she is considered the main reason why he eventually lost reelection as sheriff and moved to Texas.

Bryant held Judge Roy Bean in particular contempt and loathed him as the epitome of the hypocritical, self-serving and corrupt system of law enforcement in the Wild West. Bean had vowed that if Buckshot was brought before him he would sentence her in one minute and hang her in two. Once, when Dancin’ Pat and Wild Irish had been captured and Bean had sentenced them to the gallows Jo mounted and executed what would today be called a commando-style raid to free her imprisoned Poker Studs. This escapade infuriated Judge Bean so much that Bryant took to freeing many of the other prisoners Bean had sentenced to death. She was so successful at this that, from then on, despite the many felons given a capital sentence by the power-crazed Judge only one was ever actually hanged. One of the men Jo rescued from Bean’s demented form of “justice” was the wandering gunfighter Juniper Johnny Depp, said to be a descendant of the notorious pirate captain Jack Sparrow. Depp and Bryant had a brief affair, which ended when the next paying client for his skill at gunplay came along and he rode off.

Juniper Johnny Depp

Buckshot Bryant and the Poker Studs are still a very sore subject with the Texas Rangers since no other band of outlaws was as skilled at foiling their pursuit. If cornered Jo and her minions were more than happy to resort to gunplay and Bryant’s shotgun sent many a law enforcement officer or bounty hunter to their graves.

Ranger William Wallace

Ranger William “Bigfoot” Wallace so admired Buckshot’s pluck that he had an unofficial “truce” with the rustling queen and would often get together with her and the Poker Studs across the border in Mexico to raise Hell in saloons.

Texas Ranger Mark Wahlberg

Texas Ranger Mark Wahlberg came the closest to actually bringing Buckshot Bryant in, but, supposedly smitten with his gorgeous quarry, he let her go free instead. Unable to reconcile this with his devotion to law enforcement Wahlberg shot himself to death after watching Bryant ride off.

Poker Alice

Buckshot’s friendship with Poker Alice, the frequently widowed card-player who roamed the west, is legendary. Bryant was far too shrewd to ever get involved in a poker game with the gun-toting mistress of the card tables but the two loved tearing up the saloons during the many times their paths crossed, often with mutual friend Doc Holliday present as well.

Doc Holliday

The biggest strain on their friendship came when Poker Alice was working as a dealer in a saloon owned by Bob Ford, the killer of Jesse James and the would-be lothario whose antics had led to Buckshot being so named during their years in Missouri. Jo threatened to blow Ford away for his betrayal of Jesse and had to be physically restrained by Poker Alice to prevent her from killing Ford in front of a room full of witnesses. Alice persuaded her old, dear friend to leave, but Bryant vowed to never speak to Poker Alice again as long as she worked for Ford. That promise was kept but after Alice wandered on to another location the friendship between the two legends resumed.

Many books have been written about Buckshot Bryant’s involvement with various Native American leaders. Debate over her motives for assisting them in their battles with the bluecoats of the U.S. army continues to this day. Bryant would see to it that meat from rustled cattle would find its way to hostile chiefs like Red Cloud, Geronimo and Cochise to keep their people fed during hard times. Not only that but horses that she obtained in Mexico in exchange for rustled livestock would sometimes be given to those same chiefs to help fuel their war effort. In exchange the chiefs would help Jo and her gang to hide from particularly dangerous pursuit.

Red Cloud
Geronimo
Cochise

Buckshot was especially close to Cochise, who named her “Shoots Deadly Woman”, and the Queen of the Rustlers was foolhardy enough to visit Cochise in disguise when her old friend was on his deathbed in 1874. Bryant even accompanied the burial party and was said to be the only white person who ever knew Cochise’s exact resting place.

With the death of this friend of hers, Buckshot Bryant’s conviction to assist the warring Native American leaders was doubled. She took to leading her Poker Studs in running guns to the Sioux during the Sioux uprising. These activities led her into contact with former Lieutenant John Dunbar, noted for his years living with Native Americans, who named him Dances With Wolves.

John Dunbar

Dunbar had once been mistakenly arrested for a few days because of his uncanny resemblance to Bryant’s old beau Colorado Costner. Dunbar’s philosophical musings about the plight of the Native Americans helped strengthen Jo’s resolve.

One day in the 1880′s who should come riding into the canyon hideout of Buckshot Bryant and the Poker Studs but that same Colorado Costner. He hadn’t lost his touch, and had tracked the gang down and penetrated their lair without them so much as noticing. He and Buckshot embraced and he related to her how he had been caught and arrested less than a year after riding off following their argument long ago. Luckily, when he left them the gang was not yet under a death sentence so he was not hanged but he had served a long prison term. His sentence was lengthened by his refusal to cooperate by giving law enforcement any information that would help them locate the woman he loved. Kevin told Jo how the thought of being able to one day hold her in his arms again was the only thing that kept him going during his time suffering in the hellish prison conditions of the time. This time Jo wasn’t too proud to admit her feelings for this man who had endured so much for her sake and the two were supposedly wed, although no records to support that assertion have ever been found.

Kevin ‘Colorado’ Costner

Costner enthusiastically embraced his true love’s desire to aid Native American resistance and the two spent several happy years devoted to each other (the gang was now the Poker Studs in name only since Jo and Kevin were deeply in love). Their lives were filled with rustling, periodic train robberies, hair’s-breadth escapes from the law and with providing surreptitious aid to the Native American cause. The two felt a tight bond with the Native Americans, whom they saw as kindred spirits in living on their own terms against the power of outside forces.

In 1890 events came crashing down on Buckshot Bryant and Colorado Costner. After the gang was very nearly caught while running a supply of fresh beef to a suffering Native American community, the Poker Studs were fed up with risking their necks in such endeavors and abandoned Jo and Kevin. The two spent a few weeks in the village and therefore got to be first hand witnesses when the Ghost Dance spread into the community. The Ghost Dance has been classified as a semi-ecstatic state in which the participants were encouraged to believe all the dead Native Americans of the past, as well as all the dead buffalo, were going to return and the white people would all be driven away. This was all misinterpreted as another uprising and troops were sent to squelch it.

Thus it was that Buckshot Bryant and Colorado Costner were on hand at Wounded Knee when the army moved in to massacre the Ghost Dancers, who were all dancing, not fighting. From what has been reconstructed of the scene, Bryant and Costner, presumably sickened at what they were witnessing, savagely fought off the attacking bluecoats for as long as they could before the overwhelming odds caught up with them and they perished alongside the people with whom they had shared their strongest bond of kinship.

Buckshot Bryant has been portrayed in films by…

Rita Hayworth,

Rita Hayworth

Kate Beckinsale

Kate Beckinsale

and Angelina Jolie.

Angelina Jolie

Tristan Ludlow himself was said to be inspired with his interest in the Native Amerian lifestyle by reading dime novels and history books about the legendary Queen of the Rustlers.

Tristan Ludlow

Signed,

The Blackwater Kid

Buckshot not long before The Wounded Knee Massacre

 

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Now admittedly I have posted this in the early days of my blog. But Ed [who wrote this masterpiece] and I got talking on his recent post about: TEN NEGLECTED GUNSLINGERS: COUNTDOWN TO FRONTIERADO and Buckshot, as she tends to do when Ed and I get talking, made a few waves about being forgotten. So…to keep her quiet while I work, I gave in…and I hope those of you who have not met her before will enjoy her adventures as much as I do !!!

If you want your own saga then contact the Balladeer here.

To The Blackwater Kid – thanks for this great story from your friend Buckshot Bryant.

Buckshot is mentioned in The Amazing Saga of Lady London.

And although she plays no part in these sagas – Buckshot recommends you check them out:

Doc Robin and Kid Equus

Cactus Cathy

Buckshot did manage to get her adventures with the Winchesters chronicled: Buckshot Rides Again…with the Winchester Boys. Well worth a read if you ask me.

HAPPY FRONTIERADO! It is one holiday you shouldn’t miss. And to get you in the mood for it…

CELEBRATE WITH A LOST ADVENTURE OF BUCKSHOT BRYANT

 

Another vavavavoom lady for you to enjoy – complete with her own brand of Poker Studs !!!!

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Small Stone #10 January 2013

“Ohhhh look another one, she’s stopping.”

“Do they think we can’t see them staring?”

“What’s that thing in front of her face?”

“Some sort of…what do they call it..?”

“I know, I know a kaleidoscope…look we’re upside down in the sticky outey bit.”

“What would you know? There’s only one of us in there…that’s not a kaliedoscope.”

“Well…what is it then if you’re so smart?”

“It’s a crystal ball. I’ve heard the girl who dusts us talk about things like that.”

“A crystal ball. Funny looking ball.”

“They’re not ball balls you idiot…”

“What are they then?”

“Well they predict the future, see.”

“Ohhhhh…yeah. Blimey, we’re screwed then…”

“Yeah, the whole world is going topsy-turvy…and us with it.

window display

Buckshot rides again…with the Winchester boys !!!!!!

Now Friday the 3rd of August is officially Frontierado Day.

What’s that you ask ???

 Ed explains it here.

There are recipes and Frontierado Poker and Silverado.

Due to some glitches with the computer I have been lax this year in promoting what has to be one of the best thought out holidays there ever was.

And due to Ed…it just got better.

Sam: “Hey Dean, are you seeing what I’m seeing?”
Dean “Wow they weren’t kidding…Buckshot is amazing.”

Because Buckshot has been spending time with TBs. Oh yes she did !!!

Dean “How do you think she does THAT?”
Sam “Who cares as long as we can watch.”

Ain’t time travel wonderful ????

For those of you wondering who Buckshot Bryant is...head here to catch up.

And if you perchance want your own WILD WEST SAGA after reading mine then ask Ed nicely. He has done a few for us bloggers out there, as well as a few other folk.

It’s a tale like no other. Rustling, train robbing, and having her own harem of boys (The Poker Studs) is all in a day’s work for Buckshot.

Some of Buckshot’s Poker Studs were…

Dancin’ Pat Swayze

***

Lariat Leo DiCaprio

***

Colin ‘Wild Irish’ Farrell.

Considered such a badass that Cochise named her “Shoots Deadly Woman”.

Cochise

Even when she settles down with the love of her life Buckshot remains a force to be reckoned with.

Kevin ‘Colorado’ Costner…Buckshot’s one true love.

But…yes there is always a but…Buckshot and Colorado Costner came to a bloody end…as all good swashbuckling love stories should.

It seems that there is more though.

Here is a snippet from the previously unknown saga of Buckshot and her time with Sam and Dean Winchester as they…well if you want to know more you’ll just have to head on over to Ed’s.

Courtesy of a package mailed to me by the late George MacDonald Fraser several years ago, but which wasn’t delivered until a few days ago (you know the mail service) I am in possession of a long-forgotten 1800′s newspaper account of a heretofore unknown adventure of Joanne “Buckshot” Bryant, the woman who keeps the spirit of Frontierado alive all year ’round!

(Clipping from the Dallas Morning News. The headline was like confetti in my hands, but I could see the date was April 19th. The year, unfortunately, could not be made out)

(indecipherable) maintains it was Buckshot Bryant herself, the Queen of the Rustlers, sitting at a table and drinking fine Kentucky bourbon. The two young men who burst into the saloon, supposedly named Sam and Dean, carried Winchester rifles and were dressed in garb the like of which none of the cowpokes or farmers in town had ever seen before.

Now read more…

Find out just how far Buckshot went with The Boys to get what she wanted…and visa versa.

Find out whether The Boys made it out in one piece !!!!!!!!!!

And because she is born on the same day I was (exactly), and is a cowboy slapping, high stepping wench…

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ANZAC – what it really means to an aussie/kiwi…

As an Aussie/Kiwi ANZAC means much more than just the letters or the words they represent.

Australian New Zealand Army Corps.

To me those words represent a special breed.

On the 25th of April each year we commemorate one of the saddest days in Australia’s and New Zealand’s combined history.

The landing at the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915.

The objective was to capture the Dardanelles and Constantinople, opening the gateway to the Bosphorus and the Black Sea for the allied navies.

An ill conceived idea of Winston Churchill’s, the landing at Gallipoli began to go wrong from the start, as the landing parties arrived at the wrong beach. Had they however, landed at the correct point it would have been a bigger massacre as the Ottoman Empire was ready and waiting with their gatling guns.

The Ottoman forces were led by Mustafa Kemal (also known as Atatürk). The bold plan became an eight month stalemate. Losses were enormous on both sides. At the end of the campaign, Gallipoli was still held by its Turkish defenders.

In 1916 the first ANZAC Day was held and it has since gone on to include in the commemorations all service personnel and to honour those who have died in all military operations.

So what is ANZAC Day really ?

Commemorative services are held at dawn, the time of the Gallipoli landing, at war memorials in cities and towns across both countries. The first official dawn service was held at the Sydney Cenotaph in 1927.

Dawn ceremonies are also held at the sites of some of Australia’s and New Zealand’s most recognised battles and greatest losses. Places such as Villers-Bretonneux in France and Gallipoli in Turkey.

One tradition of Anzac Day is the ‘gunfire breakfast’ (coffee with rum added) which occurs shortly after many dawn ceremonies. It recalls the breakfast that was eaten by many soldiers before facing battle. Later in the day, ex-servicemen and ex-servicewomen meet and join in marches through the major cities and many smaller centres.

I will see many wearing the red poppy on ANZAC Day…it is the flower of remembrance.

It has been linked with death on the battlefield since WWI.

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae in his poem ‘In Flanders fields’ linked poppies and death perhaps forever.

Flanders fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

****************************************************

***

I will leave you with a tribute of my own to those who bravely fight for us in war.

A Piece of War…an excerpt

That quiet I was telling you about, it got to one of the boys; kid was just seventeen, pimple-faced, shouldn’t have been here, he lost it. Happens every now and again. Jumped up out of the trench and started running towards the Krauts’ side.

“C’mon you bastards,” he was screaming, waving his arms around. “Shoot me, you bloody cowards,” I think he said. Threw his gun away, tore open his uniform. “C’mon then, shoot me,” he kept yelling, running about. As much as we wanted to drag the silly bugger back, it was too dangerous. Any moment they could start shooting. Well, he kept it up for more than an hour. Could barely make a sound by the end there. Nothing happened. Not one shot.

Would have been easy. Thought about doing it myself, the kid was really spooking some of the lads, but nothing. Eventually he just fell to his knees crying, right there in the middle of no-man’s land. I wish I could explain what it felt like, seeing him out there in the moonlight, his crying the only sound for miles. Does it make any sense when I say he became all of you? His sound was the sound of home. I’ve never felt so heavy.

To read the whole story…

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Other posts on ANZAC Day by other bloggers

Create A World Writing Contest.

Click on this photo to be redirected to the voting page.

Sorry guys…I’m back chasing People’s Choice votes again.

This time I entered a story over at The Dark Globe.

It is an edited version of an earlier story I posted in my fiction pages.

Less wordy and I hope better than the original: The Dragonflies Loop.

I am interested to hear your opinion !!!

You can vote for up to three stories.

Just make sure one of them is Submission #35 !!!!!!

You do need to have a website in order to vote.

And here is my entry.

***

Dragonfly Pond

(C) Jo Bryant

Ariki hovers over the mirrored water, obscured behind a battered Matai branch felled in a furious summer storm. Silver ferns, heavily curved with raindrops, dangle their leaves breaking the water’s surface. They vie with each other for space along its edges. Spider webs shimmer in the mottled sunlight. Spreading his wings wide; he circles over the damp domain silently disturbing the surrounding air. Searching the area for male interlopers, he checks for mosquitoes as well.

Smiling at the vista below he rises higher, wanting the certainty he has enough distance. With the sun losing height in the sky he knows that soon he will be able to hunt; for now, he has time to have some fun. Satisfied with his starting position he descends, rapidly building his speed till he reaches fifty kilometres per hour. Positioning his wings he begins to loop-the-loop. Three times he performs the manoeuvre, each loop tighter than the one before. As he manoeuvres out of the third loop his mouth curls with pleasure. Ariki positions his wings for a synchronised movement, them plummets, doubling his speed before he reaches the mirrored face of the pond.

Before he hits the water he pulls out of the dive and soars horizontally. His 360 aids his visual sweeping of the area. A familiar form, partially hidden in the sword-like leaves of a harakeke plant looks unswervingly toward him with large slate eyes. Marama’s gaze sends a tremor undulating through his body. Relax, take a deep breath, he tells himself. Nonchalance okay. His antennae however, ripple slightly with excitement.

“Hello,” he says manoeuvring to land in front of her.

“Hello,” she replies. Her voice tinkles like water descending over smooth river stones he thinks. Mesmerised by its sound he stays silent.

“Ariki?” Marama smiles joyfully and his legs feel like tadpole blubber. Lowering her antennae she mischievously swats him on the head. “Anybody in there?”

“Oh. Yeah. Sorry. I was a little distracted.”  He watches her smile widen. Nice comeback dunce head, he thinks.

“Distracted Ariki?” she teases. “What has you…so distracted?”

“I was, umm, wondering.”

“Anything I could help you with?” Marama is enjoying his discomfort. She can’t resist stretching out her wings so that they glisten red-gold from the setting sun. Changing the subject she remarks on his flight. “That was an especially fine loop-the-loop you just did.”

“Thanks.”

“Do you think you could coach me a little? I’m afraid I’m not getting it right. My loops are rather sloppy.”

“I’d love to help,” he’s unable to take his eyes away from her wings as they flash in the light. “You’re not as bad as you think. You have a lovely exit, I mean…” Ariki realises he’s admitting he’s been watching her. “You’re probably not getting up enough speed before you start.”

“Do you think that we could start now?” she asks, graciously ignoring his admission.

“Now? Sure.”

Marama stretches her wings, giving them a shake.

“C’mon then. I’ll race you to the other side,” she calls out. Her laughter rolls back on the breeze as Ariki realises she’s managed a head start.

“Cheat,” he shouts, flexing his wings he flies after her. She really is glorious he thinks as he watches her soar effortlessly. Reaching the other side Marama hovers above the flax lining the bank.

“Ha, I beat you.” Her smile softens the words. “But now I’ll let you show off a little while you teach me.”

“Sounds fair,” he replies. “Watch what I do. Then we’ll try it together.” Ariki ascends, signalling for her to follow; he stays close so she can see his movements. Building speed they race skyward. “Here goes,” he yells as he turns and drops. Trailing closely Marama is overwhelmed by the splendour of his movements. God, he’s stunning, she thinks as he goes into another loop. Finishing, he turns and waits for her to join him.

“Oh Ariki, that was more beautiful than before. I could hover here and watch you do that forever.”

“It’s nothing really,” he stammers. “We’ll have you doing it better than me in no time.” Secretly he is pleased. “Want to try? I’ll watch and then we’ll know what you need to work on. I think if you can go faster, before you start, you’ll be much better.”

Together they rise and fall perfectly synchronised. Beams of brilliant gold sunlight add drama to their dance.

“Marama,” Ariki pulls back and hisses at her. “Wasps. By the tree. Fly. Now!” He pushes her with his body. “Go,” he whispers, searching for somewhere to hide in the leaves of a manuka tree. “Higher, we need to get higher.” Keeping an eye on the activity below, they watch as the wasps search in vain between the red flax flowers.

“Ariki, what are they doing? Can you still see them?” Marama slows until he is beside her.

“Keep going,” he turns to look behind. “I can’t see them, but it doesn’t mean they’re not around.” He uses all his thirty thousand lenses to try and track any trace of the wasps’ path. “Keep going.” He hovers while urging Marama on. “Go higher. I don’t want them to see us if they are still around.” With a turn of her wings she soars away. Remaining behind he scans the area below. Satisfied that the wasps have not followed, he follows her path into the security of the manuka branches.

“I don’t think they saw us,” he says drawing level. Surveying the sinking sun he adds, “Don’t worry, they will be heading home soon.”

“Damn filthy bugs,” she shudders. “I hate them.”

“At least we are faster,” Ariki moves closer to her, “and smarter. Some of us are prettier as well,” he said waggling his antennae at her. Marama’s laugh jingles softly as she nods her head in answer to an unspoken question. Encouraged, he strokes her body with his wing.

Together they wait for the sun to set before leaving the security of the manuka. Adjusting his wings Ariki flies in reverse until he is behind her and waits for her reaction. When she slows her flight, he moves to join himself to her. Hovering, their bodies twisting, they form a perfect circle. He grasps the top of Marama’s head as she reaches around with her abdomen to allow him access to her.

“Is this what you were wondering about,” she quietly murmurs. Ariki’s body responds immediately and together they spin around; a shimmering ferris-wheel freewheeling through the softening dusk air, their wings flickering in the reflected light off the water. They slowly rotate until they are within millimetres of the pond’s surface, still joined to him Marama searches for a suitable place to lay her eggs. She seeks out an area by the side of the pond where vegetation is thick. Together they hover just above the surface as Marama expels her now fertilised eggs into a space between the plant’s green foliage.

“I think they will be safer here,” she whispers. Ariki nods in agreement. Once Marama has laid all of her eggs, he slowly withdraws and glides up beside her.

Without looking back they both speed off, leaving the pond’s next generation waiting to hatch.

***

For more info on the NZ dragonfly click on this photo.

Just a BTW – Harry from dribblingpensioner has a story in it as well: Submission #4

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If you want to vote for Chronicles of Illusions just click on the pretty button above and follow directions.

Thank you for all your support.

***

Related posts and pages

A Taste of Honey – Part III

Her name was Honey Murray. You were named after her.” Daddy hands me the photo. “She was different. As she grew up, she felt it more and more. While other girls fantasized about Elvis, or the boy down the road, she found herself having thoughts, about…other girls. Puberty was a horrible time. She hated watching her breasts grow; she used to tie a strap around them, trying to hide them. It was a different time. Homosexuality was a crime. At sixteen she ran away to the city.

She got a job, and after a couple of years she met your mother. They worked in the same hotel. Your mother was on reception, while Honey worked in the bar. They became friends and decided to get a flat together. Finally, one day, Honey confided in your Mother. She was astounded at your Mother’s reaction. She said she’d already figured it out.”

As he speaks I look at the photo in my hands. I wish I’d known the woman Mother was then.

Are you sure we’re talking about the same woman?”

I imagine it’s hard to believe, but your Mother wasn’t always so…your Mother.”

How do you know all this?”

Because…” But I already know what he’s going to say. Staring out at me from the photo are those beautiful greenstone eyes. The hair’s longer, and the features softer, but I realise why I’d always thought I was missing something that was right there. “Honey was me.”

You’re a woman?” Could this get any weirder?

On paper. Yes.”

This is not…what I expected…coming here. A woman? Really? And Mother, Mother was a…my Mother. Really?” I was beginning to feel like the ice cube again.

Honey, are you okay?” He sounds worried.

No. No, I don’t think I am. But I think – before I run screaming from this house – you better…tell me the rest.”

I was in love with your mother, and unbelievably, she felt the same. We had to be careful, being against the law, and socially, well…we kept it secret. It was harder for her, she was raised Catholic. In the beginning, I think that was part of the attraction. As it went on, she started having doubts, damn Catholic guilt. Then she wanted a baby.”

Oh, right, your brother.”

Yes.”

The rest of your family, do they know?’

I don’t know, maybe. They disowned me when I told them what I was feeling.”

But you look like…”

A man? I am in all the ways that count. I just wasn’t born that way.”

How?”

Hormones.”

Hormones? Really? Even then?”

Loving me went against everything your mother knew. She tried, but when she started having doubts, that’s when I decided to get treatment. There was a trial. A doctor in Switzerland. I applied, got accepted. I thought if I looked like a man, we could make it work. Honestly, I wanted it too. I’d never had a typical girlie figure, but when things started changing, for the first time…I felt right. That’s the only way to explain it.

Once I looked the part, we moved. Started again, where no-one knew us. It wasn’t enough though. I loved your mother, but she was dying of guilt because of what we were. And I started dying as well.”

Hormones. Did all this?” Wow. “You still take them?”

Hormones did a lot, and yes. But there are other things you can do.”

“Other things?” He looks like he is about to answer so I shake my head. I’m not ready for that conversation just yet. “If you stop, taking the hormones I mean…you’ll look more like a woman?” This was the weirdest conversation. God, I’d really like a look at his life thread about now.

Some of the changes are permanent, some not so.”

This is a lot to take in.” I am the master of understatement. “Wow. It’s a lot. A real lot.” Babbling understatement.

I understand. My question is, do you want to?” He…she…no…he, was looking at me with those beautiful greenstone eyes. My Daddy’s eyes, and I automatically stroke my necklace.

You still have that?” He sounds surprised. I reach out to caress his face.

Every night, I hung it on the bed-head. It made me feel like you were watching me.” And there, before me, are the eyes that had loved me. I realise that those eyes, like his heart, are my father’s. That they had once belonged to a woman – I’ll need to work on that – but this is my parent. He hadn’t left me. “I’m going to need…a little time.” I still have questions, so many questions.

You’re okay with this?” he asks.

I don’t know if okay, is the right word for it. But, hey…it’s the seventies; besides, I don’t want to lose you a second time.”

Do you want to stay? I’ve got room. I’ll make us dinner, we can talk. All night if you want.”

Dinner sounds good, but I’ve got a motel.”

Honey, you don’t…”

No, I think I do. I want some time to sort through all this. You. Mother. Everything’s spinning. Everything is not what it was.” Please, please understand.

Okay. I get that.” His fingers trace the line of my jaw. “You get that from my side of the family,” Daddy smiles. “And that’s definitely our nose.”

Maybe you shouldn’t push that so much. I don’t much like my nose.” He pulls me up. “C’mon, you can watch me cook. I make a mean lasagne.”

I remember.”

I was hoping you would,” he says. “I always hoped.”

So did I Dad.”

***

A Taste of Honey – Part I

A Taste of Honey – Part II

***

I am experimenting with Split Toning in Gimp…some successes…some duds. The photo above was a picture I liked, felt had potential…but it wasn’t special…so here is the original.

Love to know what you think !!!

Remembrance.

Today is the 11th day of the 11th month. At 11 am I will do what I always do on this day. Close my eyes and remember them. The ones that went away, and the ones that waited for them. This story is for them.

***

There used to be a field that blew red in the breeze. It greeted her every morning as she rose and pulled apart the lace curtains – the ones that broke the light into a million tiny beacons. They still blew red, but only in her dreams. The pain in her chest was the same colour as the field.

‘Nana,’ she tried to shut out the voices. ‘Nana, we’re all here.’ Lucy was her favourite. Of course you shouldn’t have favourites, and she hoped the others never knew it. But it couldn’t be helped. Lucy had his eyes. Chocolate, deep and warm and syrupy. Those eyes had tormented her from the moment he and his men had arrived in the village.

‘We have to make them leave,’ the town’s council had said. It made no difference. Her future was clear in those chocolate eyes. He’d tried to make her see sense, as he called it. They could never be.

‘Nana, it’s me, Lucy. Nana?’ She loved that girl but good Lord she needed to be quiet. She had to remember something, before it was too late.

What was it? Something he had said to her. The soldiers kept pushing him away. Mama had held her so tight. That surprised her. It did not matter how hard she pushed, then pulled, she couldn’t get Mama to let her go. The soldiers kept pushing him. Pushing him toward the truck.

They loaded all of them in the back. She’d wondered if she’d gone deaf – the silence was so loud. No.  As they pushed him into the truck, he’d turned one last time.

‘I’ll be back for you,’ his words bounced across the stony street toward her. ‘I’ll be back.’

Her growing belly brought shame her father yelled. Mama had just raised her eyebrows at him, a smile curling her lips. With that her father was silenced. When her time came close she’d stayed in her room. Watching the field, hoping for just one red bloom. But they were gone, burnt away, as were most of the fields around the village.

‘That will teach you,’ the soldiers had laughed as they lit the fields. She’d watched red burning red from her window. ‘You’re lucky we don’t burn down your house for protecting them.”

Still she stayed in her room. The soldiers must not know. And when the child came she bit down hard, making her lips and tongue bleed so that she would remain silent. They put it about the village that her heart was bad. That made her smile. Her heart was broken, sharp pieces piercing her every waking moment, sometimes even her dreams.

She waited.

At the same time her heart beat against her ribs every time those syrupy chocolate eyes looked up at her as he latched on to her breast.

‘Do you feel it baby, feel the beating,’ she asked him, smiling. His tiny fists balled up and beat in time with her heart as he pummelled her breast. Each time she felt the milk release and flow into his mouth a small piece of peace flowed back into her and settled inside. Slowly it built a wall she could lean on for support.

Waited.

The war was over.

Waited

The years were full.

Waited.

The days were long, the nights longer.

Waited.

The boy was raised to become a man.

Waited.

The son made her a grandmother, seven times. She wondered if he had no self control. Number seven was Lucy. Lucy with the syrupy warm chocolate eyes.

Waited.

In time she buried her mother and father. The son buried his wife.

Waited.

Some days her bones ached after just an hour in the garden. Every year she planted the red blooms.

Waited.

‘Nana,’ Lucy’s voice was faint and her touch grew lighter as her granddaughter stroked her hand. She opened her eyes. Syrupy warm chocolate eyes stared back at her.

‘I told you,’ the voice was as deep as the eyes in his unlined face, ‘I’d come back for you,’ he said holding out one red poppy to her.

***

***

For The Fallen

by Laurence Binyon (1869-1943)

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

***

For more on the history of this poem, and the debate over the word condemn/contemn in stanza four see Ode Of Remembrance.

***

I hate war – everything about it makes me ill. But sometimes the fight is important. And I thank those brave enough to fight for the rest of us.

Why Can’t Every Day Be Remembrance Day? « You’ve Been Hooked!

Inside the National WWI Museum

A soldier’s request for Remembrance Day: Think not of the fallen, but of their families

Friday, November 11, 2011 Veterans Day!

Pinghank…

This post is being compiled as we go – from contributors all over the place.

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So – if you are interested in writing a piece of this tale – let us know in the comments below – we will pass the baton around between interested writers, co-ordinate and assemble this wonder that is being churned out.

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Brynne in the part of…..Meadow Reedfly

She plays reed pipes and sings spellbinding songs.

She lives in fields where wild flowers and poppies grow.

She is only seen by people at midday under a quiet, cloudless sky.

She wears a skirt made of red petals and has deep green butterfly wings.

*******

Sara in the part of…..Feather Goblinfly

She brings riches and wealth.

She lives in high places where the clouds meet the earth.

She is only seen at midday by people under a quiet, cloudless sky.

She wears pale blue like the sky and has gentle green wings like a butterfly

***********

Jo in the part of…..Bindweed Rainbowfilter

She brings good fortune.

She lives at the bottom of tangled gardens and in hedgerows.

She is only seen by people on midsummer’s eve.

She wears tangled multicoloured skirts made of petals and has multicoloured wings like a butterfly.

***********

The Cap’n in the part of…..Blackthorn Deepwater

************

Corina in the part of…..Bumble-Bottom (fairy)

Brings people sweet thoughts that make them smile and/or giggle.

Keeper of the secret lives of bees.

Watches over all sweet-producing plants of the forest (honeysuckle, bee balm, hollyhocks, etc.)

Lives in a beehive.

************

Mooska The Cloud Dragon – he is stunningly handsome.

If you want to see Mooska in ALL his glory – click here.

***************Part 1 by Jo

Bindweed grew restless, the petals of her skirt leaving behind a trail as she meandered between the tangled garden roses. She heard the haunting melody as it danced over the dewdrops and went now in earnest forward, searching, parting the tall grasses that wavered over her head in the breeze. Behind her she tucked her wings tightly together, their multicolours disappearing within the folds.

“Meadow,’” she called. her voice bounced in harmony to the notes that were coming from meadow’s reed pipes. As Bindweed pushed forward she saw a glimpse of Meadow’s red petal skirt. It made her smile. She knew without seeing that Meadow’s deep jade coloured wings would be spread wide, soaking in the dappled sunlight, and fluttering in time with the pipes tune.

As she approached she saw that beside Meadow lay Mooska, belly up, head tilted so that his yellow eyes looked straight at her.

“Pinghank, trr, trr, pinghank,” he greeted her.

*****Part 2 by Brynne

Wait a second, what did he say, Grandpa?’
Grandpa closed the story on his thumb. ‘I thought you weren’t going to interrupt me anymore. This is a very important part, Squirt. And dragons don’t like to be interrupted.’
The little boy hung his head, his hands sat folded in his lap, his feet buried in the down comforter on his bed. “Sorry, Grandpa but I haven’t ever heard a dragon make that kind of noise before.’
‘What? Never heard a dragon say pinghank before? Then I’m afraid you haven’t been reading the right books.’
‘I haven’t?’ said the little boy, his eyes sparkling even brighter than before.
‘Why of course not, otherwise you would know that any time a dragon is truly happy, he says pinghank. Not another word for it, world over.’
‘Pinghank?’
‘Yep, pinghank. But you have to say it almost like you are singing, as if you are happy. That’s the way the dragons say it, anyway.’
‘Like this? Pinghank!’
‘Perfect! Now can we get on with our story? Like I said, it’s a very important part and I think you’ll want to hear it before your mother comes in to tell us lights out.’
‘Oh yes, yes…hurry up then, Grandpa, hurry up…’

*****Part 3 By The Cap’n

Bindweed walked towards Mooska, keeping her eyes on Meadow and listening to the sweet pipe notes, watching as they rose like mirrored bubbles into the trees. Some popped as they snagged on sharp branches, but most carried the tune to the stars, which Bindweed thought, was most appropriate. Reaching Mooska, she ran a gentle hand along his pebbled belly, yellow eyes closing as a deep rumble vibrated from his cavernous belly. Eyes closed, he dreamed then, of clouds, swift currents, and the sky that was his realm.

Meadow played on, but her lips behind the pipes quirked in warmth, as her eyes filled with stars and bright shiny things, sparkling with delight. Bindweed sat back against Mooska, picked a blossom from her petaled skirt and tucked it in her hair. Resting soft against his azure belly, her wings quivered unconsciously as the great dragon drew breath and sighed.

Meadow lay her pipes down as the last notes left her heart, escaping past the holes in the pipe to spiral away, thankful for her gift of creation, but anxious to join their friends. Meadow sighed, laughed at the joy of the moment, then sighed again.

“What could bring greater joy than sharing this beautiful meadow with such bright friends?”

Bindweed slowly opened her eyes, for they had closed with the warmth of bright sun and the soft rumbles behind her. She said “surely there is no more beautiful time….” stopping abruptly, when she was startled by a cough then a deep chuckle from the forest to her left. Scanning quick for danger, she started to rise, wings stretching when she caught site of him, lounging arrogantly against a tree. She settled back, anger quickly fading to annoyance, when she saw the smirk on his face.

Blackthorn Deepwater was handsome, and much to others annoyance, he knew it. Though he never mentioned it, he made sure that no one forgot it. His arrogance was a tailored coat, that fit him true and fine. He was a rogue, and knew it, loved it actually. He longed to find the person who admired him as much as he did himself, but alas, he was oft alone in his admiration.

“Ladies….” he said, drawing it out as he drew their attention to him. He ignored the dragon, for dragons were truth seers, and that was not a sword he wielded often.

*****Part 4 by Sara

Feather Goblinfly already has her hands full of contradictions and cannot easily lay them down, She is in the midst of weaving spiders thread into Blackthorn’s pocket. Upon which she will then hang sticks and other unwieldy clanky things. Goblinfly loves beautiful things, and stages upon which to place them. Especially when a stage is raised up high as this man Blackthorn’s ego.

Goblinfly glanced brightly towards Mooska, who seemed to appear half asleep and absent mindedly scratched an itch with a long blue claw. Fine clouded fur floated heavenward and danced in the currents of Bindweed’s fluttering wings.

Zipping silently away then back again, Goblinfly gaily collected more bits of stuff and fluff.

*****Part 5 by Jo

Blackthorn stood steadfastly still as Feather spun the thread deftly, it’s gossamer shimmer adding much by the way of accentuating his worth, to his already perfectly admirable appearance, he thought. Bindweed and Meadow exchanged glances as he preened about. A tiny smirk tugged at the corner’s of Bindweed’s mouth when she noticed Feather slipping a small shiny object into Blackthorn’s pocket without his noticing.

Mooska’s yellow eyes were now open and fixed on Blackthorn. His belly rumbled and jostled Bindweed slightly as he tried to control the mirth that was building as he too espied the object as it disappeared into Blackthorn’s apparel.

“Perumfell, trr, trr, perumfell,’” Mooska whispered so that only Bindweed could hear him.

“Ladies,” Blackthorn continued to ignore Mooska’s presence. “I come with great and auspicious tidings,” his tapered fingers flicked back a strand of his silver hair that had flung itself about his face.

“And what would we find great and auspicious in your news Deepwater?’” Meadow asked. “Are you about to leave us perhaps? Undertake some great and noble quest?” Or perhaps…”

“If you would but grant me leave to finish what I have come to tell you,” Blackthorn bristled at Meadow’s use of the name Deepwater. Could he but change it to something else. But no. He was forever saddled with the shame of his family’s name as he saw it.

“This eve – I wish to host a feast. As well you know, Oberon has granted us a taste of his illustrious presence, and I, yes, I, Blackthorn Deepwater,” Blackthorn’s voice quavered slightly as the last word passed his lips, “will play host to our King this night.” As he spoke his chest rose ’til it almost reached his chin.

“Have you nought to say in this matter?” He demanded. “That I am thus honoured above all others.”

“Of course it is a great honour Blackthorn,” Bindweed spoke at last, her lips twitching with amusement. She felt Mooska’s claw tickle gently between her wings and her ribs.

“Are we to assume this is your way of issuing an invitation then?” asked Feather. Meadow said nothing, her mind awhirl at the thought of Oberon in their midst. It seemed an eon since he had last visited. Staring at the pocket containing the shiny object she prayed that he still was possessed of a sense of the farcical, as he had been when they were young, and he was not yet burdened with the reins of Kingdom.

She missed him most when the mist settled, hovering just above the earth. In that place that felt as no place – she was often overtaken with her memories. And of the beauty that was her Oberon, before he became the Oberon that belonged to everyone and thus to no-one.

*****Part 6 by Sara

Hearing the pompous words of BlackThorn, FeatherGoblin begins to swoon. “What is this?” She thinks to herself, and being a goblin girl of thick skin she hurredly lookes into her bag of trinkets, wondering if that shiny object she placed in his pocket was in fact the key to her heart and not the tiny gold thimble she intended. What magic has Meadow, sung? She wonders.

*****Part 7 by Corina

“Oh dear, oh dear!” came the small, worried voice from the rhododendron thicket. “They’ll have my wings for sure if we don’t hurry up and get there! C’mon, Bandylegs, get a move on!” Within moments, what looked like a very large, round bumblebee followed by a bright green and black spiked caterpillar emerged from the leaves near the field where the others were lounging in the sunshine. She spotted the dragon’s blue colors and gave a high-pitched squeal of delight upon seeing him.

“EEEEEeeeeeeeeeeee! Mooooooooska!”

It sounded like a bee on steroids as the plump fairy float-bounced towards the group. She was unlike most fairies, in that she was quite a bit shorter and twice as round as any of them. Her wings were like a dragonfly’s, but they were tiny, translucent black things in comparison to the rest of her, though she fluttered them to good effect, helping her to maintain her balance. Bumble-bottom, for that was her name, tended to roll and bounce much better than she did flit or fly. She was very chubby with fat, round arms and legs and a fair, cherub-like face with rosy cheeks. Her long-lashed eyes were a beautiful, tawny gold which peeked out beneath a shock of silky black hair. Despite (or perhaps because of) the way they made her look, her favorite colors were yellow and black. She would usually bedeck herself much as she had today, in a tunic and skirt of petals from Black-eyed Susans and a yellow dusting of saffron around the crown of her curly, onyx locks.

Many of the other fairies in the clan would have nothing to do with her, claiming that she couldn’t possibly be Fae due to her size and overly-bubbly nature. Bumble-bottom had had the unfortunate luck to have her milkweed pod moved at birth to a hive of honeybees. The creature who had done it was a pixie, named Pucksly. Oh, he had laughed and laughed at his impish trick. But Bumble had managed to not only survive, but become accepted and a friend of the bees. It was because of her acceptance into the hive that the fairy colony managed to have honey for all of the great feasts and this was also speculated to be the reason that Bumble, herself, had such a…rather large backside.

In fact, that was the reason she had been in such a hurry to find her friends, Meadow, Bindweed and Feather. She had heard that Oberon would be returning very soon and thought that honey would be needed for whatever celebration was sure to be held in his honor. Her pet caterpillar, Bandylegs, was presently carrying three giant blobs of the golden liquid between his waxy spines. The rush had poor Bumble quite out of breath by the time she reached them and she immediately plopped near Mooska, catching her breath in great bursts of blowing air.

She smiled in greeting at all of them and then her breath sucked in and stopped as she saw…HIM. Her friends knew what a terrible, secret crush she had always had on Blackthorn and she swallowed hard upon seeing him in the shadow of a nearby tree. Twisting her hands in front of her absent-mindedly, Bumble gave a great sigh of longing as she gazed in rapture at the object of her affections. At that moment, Bandylegs finally caught up to all of them and flumped down near the dragon with his burden, turning all twelve black eyes toward Mooska. He couldn’t speak, but grunted in a contented fashion at being warmed by the sunlight.

*****Part 8 by Balladeer

Suddenly another figure appeared in their midst. His name was Pagan Blackwater. Nobody had seen him approach, as usual, he was not there one moment, but present the next. His brown wavy hair framed his face like a lion’s mane and his green eyes were alert but sad. He dressed in a black shirt and green pants with brown Vershkeerskin boots. His weapons were a longsword and various implements concealed in his seemingly bottomless pockets.
This wandering foe of Black Magick was a mystery to everyone in the meadow. Bindweed called him the saddest looking comedian she had ever known, since he was always ready with quips and jokes, but his own laughter never went beyond his mouth. His eyes remained sad and distant even while his audience rolled with laughter. He was never known to even flirt, a quality Feather put down to some heartache in his past, one he could never shake.
“Damn it” Blackthorn exclaimed, “Do you have to just pop up like that all the time, Pagan! Everything’s dramatic with you.”
“I don’t do it just to put on a show, Blackthorn. You know the kind of enemies I have. And recently I picked up word about a common foe intent on destroying all life in this meadow. A menace whose roots go all the way back to the shame of the Deepwater Clan and the horrific fate that befell all the other Water-Clans, my own included.”
Meadow Reedfly flew up to Pagan, hoping it was one of the enigmatic figure’s odd jokes. He had such a strange sense of humor. Unfortunately, he seemed completely serious.
“What do you mean, Pagan?” she asked.
“Mooska the dragon is our only hope. Mooska is the dragon formed by the Pinghank Spell and therefore he is the only one who can ultimately stand against the unholy authors of that spell and all the other spells in the Dark Book of Grimlight.”

Part nine – anybody….STAY TUNED FOR UPDATES…

Brightie’s Unaccountable Allhallows Evening.

 

“C’mon Brightie, we’ll be late,” Arthur pleaded with his wife as she slowly traced the outline of her lips with lipstick. “You don’t need all that muck on, you’re always the prettiest girl in the room.” If they didn’t get a move on, they’d still be here at Xmas Arthur thought worriedly.

“And you are the most charming man,” Brightie replied. “But it won’t hurry me along anymore now than it did fifty-four years ago. I suggest you just go and wait quietly if you want me done any quicker.” Brightie’s smile softened the rebuke. Arthur left muttering under his breath about the unaccountable amount of time it took her to look precisely as she did without makeup. Before he had time to sit down, Brightie bounced into the room. “Okay lovey, shall we go then?”

“All the best tables will be gone by now,” Arthur grumbled. Brightie laughed and shook her head at her husband, while Arthur held open the door to their small apartment. He stepped back to allow her room to pass, waving her through with a gallant gesture. “Mother was right you know. She said you’d be trouble.” Smiling to herself Brightie wiggled her bottom suggestively at Arthur.” As they headed off down the stairs Arthur reached out and took hold of Brightie’s hand.

“I rather thought that was the attraction, besides my horoscope said I should take care with my appearance today,” Brightie said as she squeezed his hand. “After all, it is Allhallows. Reaching the floor below, they made their way to a large hall. Inside the hall tables were filling up fast. Under a large bay window a man stood searching the crowd. Spotting Arthur and Brightie he began waving at them. “All that fuss you made. Silly man, you should have known old Bob would hang on to a place for us Arthur.”

Making their way to the table Brightie was dragged along at a decent pace. “Arthur, for goodness sake. If you keep pulling me like this I’ll break something. I’m not as fleet on my feet as I used to be.”

“That’s not the only thing failing you these days,” Arthur remarked.

“If you are talking about my problem, well it’s not my fault,” Brightie answered. “I can’t help it if I am unable to be continent anymore.”

“If you did those bloody exercises…” Arthur began.

Cutting him off Brightie’s voice lowered. “I blame it all on those fella’s,” she said.

“Give it a rest Brightie. Genetic engineering has nothing to do with it.” Arthur had heard this argument from his wife at least once every day for the past five years. He knew that if he wasn’t quick she would start blaming electromagnetic radiation as well for her troubles. He really had to stop letting her read all those articles. Luckily they were almost at the table, she’d shut up about it in front of Adele and Bob.

“I wondered if you were coming,” Bob rose from his seat and pulled out a chair for Brightie. Arthur walked Brightie away from the chair Bob offered and seated himself between her and Bob. He was wary of Bob, his being known as a dyed-in-the-wool womaniser.

Brightie and Arthur had first met Bob and Adele at the local Jai Alai tournament. Arthur had offered to help Bob in marking the wall for the players. The basis of the game seemed to Arthur to be similar to what he knew as squash. Arthur was however, not one to obtrude, and kept his thoughts to himself. Very unlike Bob, who professed himself to be extremely knowledgeable about the game, its rules and its origins.

Once settled at the table, Brightie began to look around. “Oh Arthur, look outside. The pier is covered in lights. Doesn’t it remind you of the vacation we took by the sea.”

“Yes it does,” Arthur agreed. “You were still a Wren at the time.”

“What was that?” Adele asked. “I never knew you were in the service Brightie. You are a dark horse at times.”

“Yes, I guess I forget sometimes,” Brightie remembered how she and Arthur had danced to the music. The band had played long into the night. She’d found herself completely taken over by the feel of Arthur’s arms around her. “Do you remember the drummer?” she asked Arthur.

“Right,” Arthur smiled at Brightie. “Tall fellow from Africa. Zulu wasn’t he? On some sort of quest to be a famous musician.”

“Yes, you were jealous, thought I had an eye for him.” Brightie was enjoying the discussion.

“Okay, that’s all very interesting but don’t you think it’s time we got on with the game?” Bob was ready to turn the discussion away from the past. Next thing you know they’d be hauling out their old yearbook and this discussion would go on forever. Perhaps he should have taken an extra dose of laudanum to get him through this evening.

“Sorry, old man,” Arthur surveyed the table. He reached out and began picking up the upside down pieces. “I’m starting, if I remember right.” The others in turn reached out and picked up their pieces.

“Brightie, I think you have one too many there,” Bob tried to peer over at the number of pieces Brightie had on her plank.

“I don’t think so,” she replied. “Besides who made you inspector? No. I’m perfectly fine thanks,” she added giving Bob one of her brightest smiles.

“I’ve never said I was anything like that,” Bob seemed a little offended, and quickly renounced any inclination to be anything other than a player. Adele looked slightly amused as she watched Brightie put her Bob in his place. She enjoyed these moments as they happened infrequently.

“I believe I’m going to make a good start,” Arthur began laying down his letters. “T,I,D,D,L,Y, not a bad start.”

“Very good Arthur, now If only I had one more letter I could make tiddlywinks. What a score…”

“Brightie darling, you are not supposed to give away what you have,” Arthur admonished.

“Now Arthur, don’t have an attack.” Under the table Brightie reached across and ran her hand up Arthur’s leg. Tickling his inner thigh, she watched as he squirmed. “The game has only just begun. Right, my turn. R,O,U,B,L,E. What do you know, I’ve got trouble.” Bob and Adele looked on bemused as Arthur laughed so hard his chair fell over.

A Taste of Honey – Part 2

Seven years later, I still don’t understand.

“I’m sorry,” Father Gormbles says. Funny, nothing has changed. I’m an adult now, yet he still looks through me with his vacant milky eyes. “We really must start. I have a christening coming.”

“Right, um…yeah.” I wonder where everyone else is. “Okay.” Jane, her parents, Mrs Morriss, Mother’s boss, and some ladies from the CWA are the only people who came. We fit on the front pews of the church.

Listening to the priest, I want to laugh. He’s talking about Mother like he knew her. Nineteen years…I can’t remember a moment when she let me see behind the person she painted on every morning. Where was she born? Where’d she grow up? Where’d she fall in love? Questions I have no answers to.

“You okay?” Jane whispers. What he’s saying? I’m getting a headache. Concentrate.

Father Gormbles finishes, there aren’t enough strong men to carry her to the hearse, so Mother rolls passed on a trolley; one of the wheels squeaks and wobbles from side to side with each turn. I hope the CWA ladies don’t spread that story about. Oh…wow…I sound like her.

Organising her things takes no time: clothes – Salvation Army, food – Church, the rest – second-hand dealer. All that’s left are some boxes from the attic, her car, jewellery. Mr and Mrs Mitchell make up a room for me, with Jane home as well it feels good, which makes me feel guilty.

“I’m sorry we didn’t know your mother better dear,” Mrs Mitchell is making my favourite dinner, lasagna. I’ve missed this kitchen, bright blue everywhere, the table covered in crisp white linen, her good service and cutlery laid out.

“No sense keeping it for special occasions,” she always says. “Everyday should be special.” I thought of Mother’s – only used for birthdays, Christmases, Father Gormbles visits – now on a shelf at the second hand shop. On her way in from the funeral I saw her caress Buddha with her hand. She feels guilty ’cause she thinks Mother was a nutter.

“When are you planning to go back to uni?” Jane’s asking because she needs to get back, but doesn’t want to leave ’til I do. There’s guilt everywhere.

“I’ll close up the house tomorrow. No sense hanging on to it. I won’t be back, not to live anyway.”

“I agree,” Mrs Mitchell comes and sits down. “Time to start a new life. That’s what I tell Jane. Go find your place in the world. There’s a lot of it to explore. Before I had Jane I was quite the traveller. When Mr Mitchell retires, well…who knows where we’ll go then.”

“All right Mum. C’mon,” Jane’s out the door before I’m out of the chair.  “Let’s go for a walk before dinner,” The outside world is covered in a pink blanket as the sun sets, like a cotton candy village. I steer her toward Mother’s house. She gives me that ‘what are you up to’ look as I open the door.

“I found this…in the letterbox yesterday,” I give her the letter I’d left on the bench. “Read it.”

“Good Lord,” she says when she reaches the end. “You waited ’til now to show me.”

“Hmm.”

“Are you all right?”

“Don’t know really. It still doesn’t explain…everything.”

“What’re you going to do?”

“Go.” What else can I do?

“Well. Yeah. Go…I guess.”

Driving out of town, sitting in Mother’s Torana makes me feel like a learner all over again. By the time I’m on the highway, she feels more…mine. I’ve got two hundred kilometres to travel, though the speedo is in miles, damn confusing sometimes, so I put a cassette on. The sun, wind, speed, Joe Cocker, work their magic and I notice in the rear-view mirror I’m smiling. My first smile since I’d come back.

The directions lead me straight to the house. I drive past and park down the street. I stick my hands in my pockets so I don’t have to see them shaking, I feel…queasy. For Goodness sake, calm down. Where are the cigarettes? It’s a pretty house, fresh, cared for. I’m like a stalker. Ha, that’s a laugh. It’s an hour before my stomach settles.  Right then. You can do this. A spray of Opium, breath mint. Hair – okay. Apply a fresh coat of Lover’s Fire to the lips.

Half way up the drive, the door opens.

“Hello poppet,” he says softly.

“Daddy?”

“Sure is.” At the sound of his beloved voice, fourteen years disappear, and I run into his arms. “I’ve missed you,” he whispers, rubbing his face in my hair. I breathe deeply, trying to suck his smell inside me. When he draws back, I do my best five-year-old octopus impression and cling harder. “Honey, I’m not going anywhere, but if you want to come inside, you’re going to have to let go a little.”

“In a minute, okay?”  Well it was more than a minute, but I had a lot of time to make up for.

The first things I notice inside are the photos. On every surface are images of my first five years.

“I wasn’t sure you’d come,” he says.

“I thought about it. The letter, well…it was a shock, yet it answered so many questions. But not enough, and I need…well, to understand. I missed you,” I accuse him. “Every day I missed you.”

“I know.”

“Why? Why now?”

“Like I said in the letter, I only found out where you were when your mother died. She left a letter to be forwarded to me.”

“But you left. I’ve seen your letter. You didn’t just leave her, you left me,” anger and grief rolls around in my throat. “You left for someone else. She told me.”

“It’s not that simple. Honey, when I left, I planned to come see you, but your mother disappeared, changed her name.”

“God, I have so many questions.”

“I thought you might,” he said.

“Why aren’t you on my birth certificate? What did you mean about not being married, and why didn’t you have any legal right to find out where I was? I don’t understand.”

“Come. Sit,” he gently pulls me down on the sofa. “There’s so much I have to tell you.” I watch his thumb rub over my hand. “I’m not on your birth certificate,” he’s staring at me with those familiar eyes, “because I’m not your biological father.”

“Pardon?” What the hell is he talking about? “Sorry…you’re not…” His mouth is moving again, but I feel like I’m in an ice cube. I’m trying to focus him, when I notice the picture on the table behind. It’s the same one I’d seen in Mother’s album, only larger, and in colour. Mother is holding me, behind her is her friend. Odd.

“Honey? Are you okay?” I hear his voice, it sounds like I’m under water. I look at Daddy. Look into those eyes, only there are two perfectly matched sets of them.

“Umm, sorry. You’re not my father? This is a lot…who…?”

“Biologically – you’re my niece – my brother’s child, but you have always been my daughter to me.”

“Umm, right. Niece? Your brother and Mother…” I need a toilet. “Bathroom?”

“Last door,” is all I hear as I run down the hall. After, I lay my forehead against the cold curve. My stomach rolls, trying to convince me there is more to come up, but I’m empty. Hollow. A brittle shell.

“Can I come in?” The shell has no voice. Daddy, I can’t think of anything else to call him, comes in. He sits on the tub across the room. “I’m sorry.” I sit up against the wall, hugging my knees.

“You’re sorry? For what? For leaving? That you’re not my father? That you all lied?”

“Everything.” He moves toward me, but I hold up my hand. He looks like I feel.

“You’re…my uncle?” Wow. He looks, well, uncomfortable. “Did they…” stabbing imagery, “do it I mean?”

“God no. We used a poultry baste.” Bad, bad image. Gross.

“Honey, come back to the living room?” I’m not sure I want to, but when he holds out his hand, I take it. Back on the sofa I’m drawn to the photo again.

“Why do you have that?” I ask. “Who is she?” Parts of her seem familiar. “Is she a relation?” I always thought she was a friend of Mother’s, but she looks…

“You’ve seen the photo before?”

“Yeah. Years ago. I found it in an album Mother had.”

“Honey, there’s a lot I need to tell you.” He drags a hand through his hair. “I want you to promise me…that you’ll hear me out. Hear it all.” I’m not going to like this. He picks up the photo.

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I haven’t completely finished (rewritten – that means) the ending, but thought I’d post this  – the story so far.

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To read Part 1 – click here.

For Part 3 of A Taste of honey – click here.