Category Archives: July Challenge

July Creative Challenge, day 31: RELAX — St. Michaels

[I’m taking this challenge seriously. First I’m RELAXing a bit on this last day of the July Creative Challenges by recycling and revising an article I did for AtHomeInMaryland.com an online travel magazine that has sadly gone away. Since the article is all about RELAXing and having fun in St. Michaels I thought it fit the challenge pretty well… Here goes…]

Take a walk on the relaxing streets of St. Michaels.

Take a walk on the relaxing streets of St. Michaels.

St. Michaels is a place of history, water, crabs, but above all St. Michael’s is a place to relax.

Finding a home on the river…

The little sea fairing town was built around St. Michaels Episcopal Church which was established in 1677. It was a trading post for farmers and trappers. James Braddock, an English land agent purchased 20 acres in 1778. An early real estate developer, Braddock carved 58 plots out of the land and arranged them around a town green. Along with the houses he included churches, a market and schools. Since the town is on the water fishing and shipbuilding became natural industries. By 1812 a half-dozen firms were building schooners to sail the Chesapeake.
It became the “Town That Fooled the British” in the War of 1812. The English fleet was barreling its way up the Chesapeake Bay headed to Baltimore. St. Michaels, with its shipping industry was a clear target for destruction. But in the wee hours of August 10, 1813 as the fleet approached the town’s residents hoisted lanterns into ship’s rigging and high into the tree tops, and the British cannons overshot the town. Only one house took a direct hit. A cannonball crashed through the roof, frightening, but not harming the inhabitants as it rolled down the stairs. That house still stands on Mulberry Street, it is aptly named the “Cannonball House.”
Over the next 150 years St. Michaels became one of the major seafood processing centers on the Bay. By 1930 a single processing plant was shipping more than a million pounds of crab meat annually, and 12,000 gallons of oysters a week! But, by the mid 20th century the seemingly boundless harvest of seafood began quickly, to dry up and St. Michaels long history as the “seafood basket” of the Chesapeake was coming to an end.
With the establishment of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in 1965 the city turned full-time to tourism as a way of life. St. Michaels beautiful colonial and Victorian homes refashioned themselves as bed and breakfasts, feed stores and tack shops were converted to boutiques and restaurants, and skipjack captains turned from dredging crustaceans to hosting sunset cruises.

Interior of one of the boat barns at the Maritime Museum

Interior of one of the boat barns at the Maritime Museum

Lots to see and do around town…

The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum offers 12 buildings and sits on 18 acres at old Naval Point in St. Michaels Harbor.
The Hooper Strait Lighthouse is the iconic center piece of the museum.  Built in 1879 the hexagonal lighthouse guarded the wicked shoals near Deals Island. It was accessible only by rowboat then, and the keepers spent months alone on the water tending the 4th level Fresnel lense and keeping weather and vessel records at the “screw pile” lighthouse. But by 1954 the lighthouse was fully automated and the Coast Guard began dismantling the old style lighthouses.. The Hooper Straight house was on the list for demo! Luckily the fledgling Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum was able to purchase it for $1,000 and barge is North to St. Michaels. Today it sits safely on the tip of Naval Point, one of four screw pile designed lighthouses left on the Bay. Visitors can climb into the lighthouse and take a self paced tour of the interior, including the keeper’s quarters and the light, and get a birds eye view of the harbor from the catwalk.  The Museum offers a Lighthouse Overnight program for small groups of kids 8-12.
At the “Oystering on the Chesapeake” building visitors board the E.C. Collier and listen in as her long time crew brings in the harvest. Dozens of hands-on, kid friendly displays take you through the history and conflicts of the oystering industry and lets you see how Maryland’s favorite mollusk went from the Bay’s bottom to a restaurant’s table top.
At the museum’s boat yard you can watch as skipjacks and crab dredgers are restored to new life. If you are itching to get out on the water you can take a tour on the Mister Jim. If you want a more hands on approach, the Museum’s Apprentice For A Day program is a unique opportunity to help build traditional wooden skiffs. The museum is open daily year-round (except Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s day).

PENTAX Image

Canon at St. Mary’s Square

St. Mary’s Square lies just to the south of St. Michaels Harbor. See cannons, one of which defended the city in during the War of 1812, and the Mechanic’s Bell that ruled the shipbuilder’s day by ringing at 7am, noon and 5 pm. St. Mary’s Square Museum host historic exhibits centered on the town of St. Michaels. The Museum is open weekends from May to October, Guided walking tours are available at the corner of Chestnut street and St. Mary’s Square on Saturdays beginning at 10:30 am. The tours alternate between “Young Frederick Douglas in St. Michaels” and “Historic St. Michaels Waterfront”. Reservations are required for a docent tour, call 410-745-0530. A Self-Guided walking tour map is also available at the St. Mary’s Museum.

Get out on the water! Go down to St. Michaels’ dock or drive over to nearby Tilghman Island for some water action.  Get up close and personal with some wild life, including osprey and bald eagles, with Peake Paddle Tours. Tours range from freshwater streams, to tidal rivers, to salt marshes all over the Eastern Shore, and skill levels start at beginner. Chesapeake Lights offers a variety of Lighthouse tours on the Bay.  Captain Mike Richards sales the motorized M/V Sharps Island out of Tilghman Island. A 10 hour, 10 lighthouse tour is scheduled for July 24th. The skipjack Rebecca T. Ruark, a National Historic Landmark, also sales out of Tilghman’s.  Captain Wade Murphy, Jr. is a 5th generation Chesapeake Bay waterman, and along with a beautiful ride you’ll get a history and science lesson on the Bay. The beautiful canoe-sterned ketch the Lady Patty is berthed in front of the Bay Hundred Restaurant in Tilghman Island and sets sail three times a day for 2 hour cruises including a romantic Champagne Sunset Cruise at 6:30.  The Salina II, a vintage catboat hosts private sailing lessons and 2 hr cruises for six. You can also take a Wine or Beer Tasting cruise or even an Overnight Excursion on the Selina II which docks at St. Michaels.

Sailing on the Bay

Sailing on the Bay. We took a twi-light cruise on the Rebecca T. Ruark which I found both educational and relaxing. This shot if of another vessel as the sun set to the left.

Spending the night…

There are over 25 Bed and Breakfast establishments in the St. Michaels area, so there’s plenty of variety in cost, location and luxury.

Dr. Dodson’s House at 200 Cherry Street began life as a tavern and the town’s first post office in 1799. Fredrick Douglas visited the house after the Civil War to meet with his former master, Captain Thomas Auld. Much of the house still maintains a historic flavor with original fireplaces, woodwork and glass. The house, which is on the St. Mary’s Square Museum walking tour, remains one of the finest examples of Federal architecture in town. It was brought to new life as a Bed and Breakfast after a bit of modernization (read: Air Conditioning and WiFi). The full breakfast is an “Event” from the eggs benedict, to the fresh tomato tarts, to the banana pecan waffles. You won’t leave the table hungry.

For Victorian charm try the Cherry Street Inn. This 1880’s house built by a steamboat captain has been lovingly maintained. The Inn is an easy walk to the harbor, The Chesapeake Maritime Museum and the shops and eateries on Main Street (Talbot Street).

Five Gables Inn and Spa offers a number of packages for the ultimate escape to the Bay. The signature Spa and Sail package includes two nights at one of their charming Main Street locations, two massages at the on site Aveda Spa, crab dinner for two at the Crab Claw Restaurant, and a two-hour cruise on the Rebecca T. Ruark. Other packages range from a one night champagne and chocolate get away to a four night “Learn to Sail” program that includes three private sailing lessons followed by massages. Five Gables is in the heart of St. Michaels, it is nestled among the Main Street Antique shops and is an easy walk to the harbor and the Maritime Museum. The Five Gables offers 12 rooms and 8 suites and an extended continental breakfast.

The iconic Hooper Light House at St. Michaels.

The iconic Hooper Light House at St. Michaels.

  • re-enactments,
  • boat rides,
  • cannon firings,
  • a Talbot Street parade,
  • horse-drawn carriage rides,
  • an Art show
  • and more.

If you stay an extra day you can enjoy the 4 th Annual Watermen’s Appreciation Day and Crab Feast.

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July Creative Challenge, Day 30: LATE

[ViewfromtheSide suggested “LATE” as her writing prompt over the weekend. Here’s my entry. Unlike the macro story that Maggie and I wrote over six installments for Topsy-Turvy, today I’m going to try to keep it under 1,000 words. This is a actually a scene from a novel I’m working on. Let me know if you are interested in hearing more.]

Marn sat in front of the telecom monitor. She adjusted her headdress. It wasn’t that she cared what she looked like for the man with whom she was about to communicate — or so she told herself — but she WAS the defacto spokesperson for the Brethern. She did have a certain image that she had to keep up.

She gave a clandestine look at her reflection in the window.

It had been 12 years since she had last spoken Tet. She had been younger and prettier then. And, of course, she’d been dressed more simply. Frankly, she hardly recognized herself under all these layers of elaborate clothing. It was all very symbolic, and very stylish, and very modest, but somehow it was very her. Most days, in front of most people, that was fine, but, now, as she was about to see Tet for the first time in over a decade, she felt like a bit of a fraud.

She took a deep breath and meditated as she let it out. ‘Spirit flow to me. Spirit flow in me. Spirit flow through me to others.’ She thought the words of the old chant, but she no longer said them out loud.

It worked. She calmed.

But it wasn’t a sense of Spirit that she needed for this interview. Marn would put aside her natural empathic tendencies for the next 5 to 15 minutes. She’d suppress the characteristic charm and easy smile that made her such a natural mouthpiece for the group.

She wasn’t here to play nice. She needed to channel the authority and leadership of Lonas and Girki, and the frankness of Uci.  She needed to be firm with Tet. But she needed to keep the anger so often displayed by Vetis  in check.

Not that they weren’t all angry with Tet. But she couldn’t let that old wound derail her today.

She would keep to the script.  She would be professional and detached. He deserved nothing more.

There was commotion on the other side of the telecom. A muffled off camera a conversation confirmed that the up  link was already active and that the Brethern representative was on waiting on the other end.

“How long?” Tet’s voice asked — still off camera — as he clipped on the microphone.

“About 5 minutes.” An unseen voice told him. A second later he sank into the seat in front of his own telecom monitor 1200 miles away.

He looked older, certainly,… more worn… Like some one had taken a photo of his sweet, earnest 24-year-old face and had run it through a copier 100 times. Each time he’d lost a little of his youth, his softness, his innocence. Perhaps 7 years in prison does that to a person.

“I’m sorry I’m late there was an emergen — ” His chagrined face broke into a surprised smile when he saw who was on the other side of the communication link. “Hey.”

“Good afternoon, Tet.” She struggled not to smile back, but there was genuine enthusiasm in his smile, his eyes. That disarmed her.

“I thought it would be Lonas.” He told her. For the last two years he’d written the Brethern once a month with a formal request to be allowed back into the capital to visit the Shrine of the Prophet. And every month he had a standing phone call with a representative from the group to tell him no. The last 23 times that had been a very grumpy Lonas.

“Lonas has other obligations today.” She said simply. “So you have me.”

Tet ignored / forgot that their communication was sure to be monitored and recorded. “Marn.” He said gently, warmly, FRIEND-LY, “It’s so good to see you.”

“Yes, well.” She sputtered. “Do you wish to re-schedule?”

“Um.” He gave her a confused look. “No, sorry, why would –”

“Because of your emergency. Do you wish to re-schedule so you can attend to your emergency?”

The question lacked emotion or — quite uncharacteristically for her — empathy.

Tet sobered. Of course… he might be glad to see her, but why would the feeling be mutual. “No.” His smile was gone. “It’s taken care of.”

She looked at her notes. “Shall we get to it then.”

All the wind was out of his sails. He kicked himself for letting his surprise end run his emotions. “Yes.”

“The Brethern thanks you for your renewed request and regretfully –”

“Please” He held up a hand against the monitor.

She stopped and steeled herself. “The decision has been made, Tet.” She said firmly.

“I know…I’m not trying to get you change your mind.” He looked away from the monitor and took a breath.

She could see his lips move as he said a calming mantra.  When he looked back at the monitor it was with resignation. “Yeah, sorry, I just didn’t want to hear it coming from you.” He said, broken.

Despite herself Marn felt a wave of compassion flow through her.

She considered her ex-friend. “Why do you even want to come back to the Capital?’

He tightened and shook his head.  “I don’t want to anger you.”

“Tell me.”  She insisted.

He looked down at the table. “I had a dream. The Prophet called me back to the city. He called me to the tomb, the shrine. ”

“You had a dream two years ago and you keep asking every month?”

Tet lifted his eyes to hers and shook his head. “I have that dream every night.”

There was a brief staring match that ended when Marn scratched something out on her notes. “I can’t give you permission to come to the Capital on an official Brethern visit.”

He swallowed, defeated. “O.K.”

She sighed,  she had utterly failed at her mission in this telecom call. “But I can invite you to the Capital for a personal visit to see me.”

Tet wiped at his eyes. “O.K.”


July Creative Challenge: Topsy-Turvey (Final Installment!)

[Thanks to everyone who has been following along on this long co-operative story. I hope you’ve enjoyed it so far and I’m thrilled to be able to bring you the conclusion TODAY!!! If you need a refresher please go back and re-read PART 1, PART 2, PART 3, PART 4 and Part 5.]

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Rock rose in twisted shapes above them. The whole mountain looked as if it had been a giant black candle, melted down to a series of drips at its base. Jeffry could see clouds before the pointed tops of those drips.

“What now?” he asked Mary-Kate, who was tucking the crochet hook into it’s sheaf beside her. His voice was less exasperated than resigned.

“We climb.” she handed him a pair of long poles with very sharp ends. They didn’t need them for the first mile or so, but by the second mile the path of the mountain had grown steep, and by the third mile the climb was almost vertical. They didn’t speak.

Jeffry started to feel tired, and he began to ponder the events of the past day. What on earth was happening to him? Yesterday morning, less than twenty-four hours earlier, he had been a cowherd in a sheep town and he had been counting his luck to get up with enough time to make a breakfast sandwich before his bigger brothers could take all the bread. What had they said when he didn’t come home last night? Had they said anything? Had they gone looking for him?

Not that it would matter. They’d never find him here — wherever here was. He could only hope that Mary-Kate had a plan to catch up with the others (preferably a plan that didn’t involve more mountains.)

They reached a small platform halfway up the mountain where the waxy rock had melted flat for a few yards wide and a few feet deep.

To his surprise Mary-Kate reached out to the stone side and knocked. A door opened — though no door had been visible before — and she stepped inside. Jeffry followed.

They were on a small platform, identical in dimensions to the one outside the door. But now they were inside the mountain. A set of stairs led from the platform down to the base of the mountain. The stairs went around and around the inside of the outer wall.  A low thick stone wall guarded the inner, inner edge, separating the stairs from the cavity at the center of the mountain. Jeffry could not see to the stairs bottom. They had climbed a long way up, and these stairs went a long way down.

They rested their poles against the side wall and Mary-Kate lifted what looked like a pair of saddles from a hook on the wall. “I had better tie ours together in case you get stuck. I take it you’ve never banistered before?”

“Uh.. banistered?”

“Don’t worry, you can just hold on to me, and you’ll be roped on anyway.” She put the saddles on the stone edge and tied the back handles of one to the front handles of the other. Then she tied a rope around Jeffry’s waist, and through all the handles. “Now sit, like this.” she sat side saddle on the first and he imitated on the second, “Hold on!”

He was not quite sure what to hold on to, so he grabbed a handle with one hand and put his other arm around her middle. Then she kicked off along the stone edge and the saddles moved along the stone wall. They accelerated, zooming down the stone edge of the stairs, around and around the mountain’s hollow interior, narrowly avoiding stalagmites and stalagtites.

The air wizzed by him so fast that he couldn’t catch his breath and he wondered what would happen when they hit the bottom. His hand on the saddle handle had turned white at the knuckles and the rope cut into his waist. They rode, going faster with each passing second, then after about five minutes they began to slow. He could just catch his breath again when they slammed into a pile of dusty old pillows and the ride was over.

It took as much time for Jeffry to get over his own shock that it did for Mary-Kate to get them untangled. “Couldn’t we have gone around the mountains another way?” he asked.

“There is no other way, boy.” a voice crackled in the darkness.

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Three figured loomed out of the darkness, though technically speaking they were only able to loom because Jeffry and Mary-Kate were on the ground. In reality the three old women were much shorter than both travelers, but very intimidating. They all wore odd poncho-like garments that seemed to be made of shimmering light and shadow woven together. This fell to their knees, but Jeffry didn’t want to look further down. Two had seized Mary-Kate for examination while the other seized up Jeffry.

“She’s one of our’s.” crackled the taller of the paired examiners.

“He’s not.” reported Jeffry’s voyeur.

“He’s with me, and he doesn’t have weapons,” said Mary-Kate, “Grannies, we are on our way to the groundless castle-”

“You will stay for tea.” interrupted one of the grandmothers.

“Yes ma’am.” They were seated on slightly slimy rocks, and handed cups of a smelly congealed liquid. Mary-Kate didn’t drink much because the grannies were quizzing her intently on every aspect of her life since they had last seen her (a few months before). Jeffry didn’t drink much because he was pretty sure they had just scraped the cups against the slimier rocks and added hot water.

“So, where is it?” one of the grannies had asked him an unexpected question.

“I’m sorry, what, ma’am?”

“Where is the groundless castle?”

“Ummm… the what?” He had a foggy sense of hearing the word before, but he didn’t know why he should know where it was. To make matters worse, Mary-Kate was looking at him with a mixture of shock and horror.

“You don’t know, do you.” The old woman’s voice had an odd mixture of contempt, annoyance, and satisfaction.

“Why should I know? Isn’t it on a map?”

“No, it’s groundless! That’s the point! Only someone who knows its travel schedule will be able to get to it!” Mary-Kate was now on her feet, “I thought she told you! She must have! All those jumps, and you had no idea?”

“Is the groundless castle where Constance is?” Mary-Kate answered with a sound of derision and smacked her head with the palm of her hand.

“You had better think hard, boy. If you don’t remember some directions you aren’t going to find your princess, and I won’t be so forgiving that you didn’t finish my tea,” Snarled one of her grandmothers.

“Leave him alone. You have trouble thinking under pressure too, and sometimes with no pressure at all.” Another of the crones defended him.

“I do not!” The two began squabbling and carried it over to a fire pit where they began to poke the glowing green coals with sticks. Jeffry took the moment to huddle in a shadowy corner. He was so tired, and he had run out of ideas. He thought about his home and he thought about his darling cow so far away. She was probably scared and definitely in danger. He wanted to cry, but he was just too exhausted. He leaned into his pack trying to pretend it was Sweet Flower’s side. He wanted his cow so he could get some sleep, but his pack was so lumpy, and so glowing.

Glowing? He sat up and looked it closely. It wasn’t the pack that was glowing, but something inside. He dug through it and pulled out some slightly rumpled paper that was definitely glowing and tried to smooth it out. A sketch of Sweet Flower made by one of the Glossys stared back at him… then blinked.

The cow’s tail flicked and she turned sideways then walked her glowing waxy self off the page. The sketch floated in the air before him and walked towards the still cranky voices.

Real Jeffry and sketch Sweet Flower were a few yards away from them when Mary-Kate and the grannies when they looked up and saw the boy and his floating, glowing, cartoon companion.

“Well, well, well I do believe the boy has remembered something.” The cow wagged its tail at the oldest granny in response. The three old women flew into action, adding odd things to a cauldron which was settled over the now roaring fire. As they worked, sketch cow nuzzled Jeffry as he sat with his back against yet another rock. He must have dozed off because he woke when Mary-Kate whispered his name into his ear in a silly sing-song voice he’d heard women use for babies.

“We’re ready.” crackled the shortest granny who then added to the glowing sketch cow, “If you would be so kind, lady cow.”

The sketch leaped forward, and to Jeffry’s horror, into the cauldron. The floor beneath then shook and began to spin. The land leaps felt like calm walks compared to this stomach wrenching method of travel. He quaked along with the floor and thanked his lucky stars he hadn’t had very much of that tea after all. A few sickeningly shaky seconds later they landed on a set of stone stairs in front of a towering oak door.

This time Jeffry knew he was going to be sick, and he wished the grannies would get out-of-the-way so he could vomit off the side of the steps and not on them. One had hold of his arm and another poked his forehead, “Hold still!” she said bossily. He was going to try to push them out-of-the-way when a wave of blue calm burst through her finger and into him, settling both his stomach and his nerves. “That would have been easier if you hadn’t been wriggling like a fish. It wouldn’t hurt if you were all man or all boy, and not something of a mix of the two, but I suppose you can’t help that.”

The granny who had ahold of his arm now patted his shoulder, “Well done boy.” The wax cartoon cow that had preceded them snorted and tried to get back into the backpack.

“Speaking of which,” Mary-Kate raised an eyebrow, ”Do you want to knock, or shall I?”

Jeffry inhaled deeply, thankful that he wouldn’t be meeting the princess with sick-breath, reach up to the door’s elaborate gold knocker and pounded it twice. The two door halves creaked open to the largest hall any of them had ever seen. The room had plenty of light, windows the size of the front of Jeffry’s house stretched from floor to ceiling edge, connected by pillars that blossomed into arches so far above them that he had to squint to see the top. The ceiling was painted gold and vibrant scarlet to match the slightly worn scarlet carpet beneath their feet. The floor adornment traveled out before them to the edge of an elegantly carved wooden platform at the other end of the room.

There were a few figures on the distant raised surface, but two stood out. One looked a little familiar to Jeffry, but to his still tired brain seemed to be the wrong color.

The other was definitely familiar because it was his cow!

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Both princess and bovine towards the boy — the cow with more difficulty because cows are too dignified to run.

Constance threw her arms around him, knocking out the wind he had so recently taken in. She had appeared to be the wrong color because she was now wearing a fluffy golden princess dress that ruffled over her amber skin. She looked much more princessy and cleaner, as did the soon embraced Sweet Flower, now wearing a matching gold bow.

The grannies were giving Sweet Flower a strange look, which gave Jeffry the creeps but didn’t seem to bother her as she told him, “We get to stay in the castle until they figure out a way to get the shoe out — or as long as we like — as guests of the King. You should taste some of the clover they have in the kitchen!” Then she turned as sheepish as a cow can look, “I’m sorry we left you at the campsite, but I knew you’d be able to find us with picture me.”

“Yeah, that picture was brilliant.” Jeffry told her. “But what about the Knights?” He asked Constance. “We should go back and help them!”

Constance nodded to a trail of yarn which led to a small circle of people happily knitting by the fire.  “No need. They came to us.”

“The dead traitors back at the knitted castle were more interested in following the Princess and the cow than fighting the Knitworthy Knights.” Mary-Kate explained. “They would have loved to have gotten their hands on you for ransom, or in hopes that you could lead them to Constance, but once you were gone too they put away their screaming blue arrows,  gave up the battle and followed her on their two-mile shoes.”

“But won’t they be able to catch up? Won’t they find us here?’

Mary-Kate touched his nose gently with the tip of her knitting needle. “But where is here? You can’t find it  on a map, and they wont be able to follow us with their two-mile shoes.” She picked up the end of the yarn trail and bound on. “This is a MAGIC castle.” She started a simple garter stitch scarf. “It moves about as it pleases, and those old gits will never find us here!” She smiled at him and began to knit in earnest, happy that each stitch brought her closer to her troop.

Constance scratched Sweet Flower behind her ears, “we called for a veterinarian, but she said just to wait and see and that the shoe will come out eventually and we can take you both home.” Constance told him, “And you really should try the clover, they have candied clover from Highlandia, it’s delicious!”

“Say, boy,” cut in one of the grannies, “How long have you owned this cow?”

“I beg your pardon! Owned?!” Sweet Flower snorted indignantly.

“It’s more of the other way around, ma’am. I’m her human.” Jeffry said before Sweet Flower’s temper reached its full swing, “We’ve been together for about two years.”

“Two years, eh?” the grannies fell into intent whispered conversation while Constance pulled Jeffry and Mary-Kate to the platform to meet her parents and sisters. King and Queen Middlelaine were very nice and thanked him again and again for helping Constance, while her older sister, Morning Middlelaine, just giggled and her little sister, Hawlie, hid behind her mother’s skirts. Constance seemed oddly embarrassed by her relatives, but Jeffry thought that shy and giggly siblings were better than grumpy big ones that stole his food. The King and Queen were just mentioning something about dinner when the shortest Granny poked Jeffry’s arm.

“What’s your cow’s name, boy?”

“Sweet Flower. She told me- well she wasn’t talking then exactly- but I knew somehow.”

“Ha! Didn’t I tell you!” she cackled to the other two, “It’s the girl!” She flicked her fingers at Sweet Flower and at once she was surrounded by emerald and gold sparks. Her body began to change, became taller and less wide and deep. In a few moments a girl of around his and Constance’s age stood before them in a rather beaten up brown dress the colors of the cows spots and a dirty white apron. A second later Sweet Flower the human doubled over with pain, clutching her stomach.

“The shoe!” cried Constance, “the shoe was in her cow stomach, but they’re too much for her human form!”

“Quick! Get it out!” shouted Jeffry.

“Woops,” said the granny and she flicked her fingers at Sweet Flower again, who gave a belch and spat out a pink satin shoe.

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Epilogue:

The Villagers of Sheepston were surprised when the castle suddenly appeared on the northern hills above their valley, but they didn’t say anything, just as they didn’t when that odd boy who had kept a cow came home with a girl with the same name. The girl was odd too, she ate clover more than was decent in a salad and wore no shoes. When she was asked about the footwear she told the villagers that she had tried them once but they were too chewy. They had shrugged their shoulders and went back to life, because it was no use worrying about it and it didn’t affect them.

When Jeffry’s big brothers tried to steal his food, they would find that tiny knitting needles pinned their sleeves to the table an inch away, or that their knives had been replaced with crochet hooks. Eventually they stopped trying to steal and began conversing about sheep at the table.

The castle would appear for a few months at a time, mostly in summer, then vanish again. The villagers agreed that strange things happened more often when it was there than when it wasn’t, but the family who lived there were nice enough and they were relatively interested in sheep. Occasionally an odd thing would pop up on its own, a tall clanky stranger would wander through, a troop of knit obsessed knights would buy out the entire village’s yield of fleece or a bird man would fly by on his way to a corn field.

The most common odd visitor, though, was the middle daughter from the castle, the one with the dark braid. When she arrived it wasn’t long before she, the boy and the girl would disappear for another adventure.

The End


July Creative Challenge, day 27: More or Less

[At the farmer’s market today I looked over the bountiful produce and baked goods and yummies. What should I get to highlight in my upcoming Muffin Monday blog? As I stood there enjoying a rare cool July morning I decided to get creative and think about my personal recipe. What would I do to alter my own ingredients to make a better “Me Muffin”? ]

Creativity Fairy

I was thinking that I should definitely add several ounces of additional PATIENCE in my daily dietary count of being-ness.

REGRETS?  I have a few… But there I think the scale is balanced.

There is an abundance of little JOYS. And smiles are easy to give, but you can’t really give them away because they bounce back. So the smile bank is always growing, yes?

There’s never enough TIME. And I find myself flitting from one task to the next like a hummingbird gathering nectar. But no matter how fast I fly I never seem to have enough time finish all my tasks, and my nectar meter is never quite full. I would add time if I could, but there are only so many minutes in a day.

I could do with fewer CALORIES. So maybe I could trade in some weight. That be nice. But, honestly, I don’t think in those terms until I look in the mirror, and I don’t really think in terms of mirrors.

If an ORGANIZATION fairy flew into my window I would make her a little plate of berries and tiny cookies and a petite cup of warm sweet milk. I would welcome her with the hope that she would help me straighten out the this and that about the place. Frankly, I would much rather write and create than organize.

Moments of FAITH are there for the taking. A touch stone of belief that never falters, no matter how much I question it or others question me. I could use a pinch more faith in my day, I suppose, but I’d want it well mixed in with the rest of me, and would not like it to be just sprinkled on top.

CREATIVITY is an ingredient in my daily life that tends to be a bit clumpy. It would be nice if it fell in a finely sifted snow of inspiration throughout the day instead of coming at me like chocolate chips morsels of illumination. Then again I don’t think that would prove as interesting as the current spark and dark method I dance.

 

Hmmmm. I’m wondering what YOU would adjust to your personal recipe. Would you turn up the heat? Would you spice up the ingredients? Drop me a line and let me know.


July Creative Challenge, Day 25: Topsy-Turvy (Part 5)

[I have it from good authority that this long story will end in the next installment. So hang in there folks.] You Should read PART 1, PART 2, PART 3 AND PART 4  before you continue here with part 5.

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Step. Step. Step. Step. Step. Step.

“Enough.” Said Sir Walter. “You know you shouldn’t –”

“WHAT? Sir Walter?” Asked Constance with fury, “Shouldn’t try to escape from THAT?” She waved her hand in  a general Easterly direction. “Because we may have defeated Orving, but there were other 2-mile shoes in the castle, and if he found us…more like him are sure to follow!”

She could tell by the look of shock on everyone’s face that she’d been screaming and acting in a very un-princess like manner.

“I- I beg your pardon Sir Walter.”

“No worries lassie.” He told her with kind understanding. “It’s not you that’s speaking, it’s the exhaustion brought on by all that blasted leaping.”

“But we can’t stop.” She said, near tears, “they’ll catch up.”

Sir Walter pulled out a knitting needle and scratched his scalp  as he pondered this. “I’ve got nothin’. “

“We could pitch camp here.” Frank Cottonwell suggested.

A little whine of dispar came from Constance.

Mary-Kate explained, “Not just any camp, and proper Knitting Knight’s camp.”

“We knit ourselves a castle.” Lady Scarlette told her.

Sir Walter gave her a wink, “A magic castle.”

“It’s a tower really, we knit it in the round.”

“What if we kept land leaping?” Jeffry asked.

The Knitworthy Knights frowned in his direction.  “Look at her, boy,” grumbled Sir Walter with a nod toward the exhausted and fretting Constance, The lass can nah take much more leaping.”

“But it seems like only the person wearing the slipper gets effected by it.” Jeffry explained. so far Sweet Flower is ok– right?”

The cow lifted her head from the patch of weeds she’d been chomping and gave him a nod. “I’m alright .”

“That’s probably because we’ve only been leaping for a little while, and the princess has been at it for hours and hours.”

Constance gave a pathetic sigh.

“What if one of us wore the slipper and Constance took a ride for a while? We could get some real distance between us and whoever is following us and THEN we could stop and set up the knitted castle”

Lady Scarlette clicked her knitting needles together and the knights huddled for a conference to consider Jeffry’s proposal.

“We are wasting time!” Complained Constance.

The knights broke the huddle, clicking their needles in agreement. “O.K. We’ll try the boy’s plan.” Said Sir Walter. “Princess, may I have your slipper?”

She slipped off the pink footwear and turned it over to the him.

As he held it in his hand a flaw in the plan became obvious. He could fit his thumb in the slipper, but he’d never get it on his foot. “Oh, dear.”

Lady Scarlette’s feet were too big, so were Mary-Kate’s , and Frank Cottenwells and all six Tweed feet.

Jeffry looked down at his mud encrusted feet.

They ALL looked down at Jeffry’s mud encrusted feet.  “Um… I’ll do it…Unless you think I’m not magical enough.”

“Oh, Jeffry,” Constance said with affection, “you are more than magical enough.”

He put the slipper, which was a little snug, on his foot. “What direction?”

Constance turned him to the right direction.  Then she swooned with exhaustion.

Sir Walter caught her. “I’ve got you princess.”

The third Tweed brother quickly bound something off his needles “Here, Sir Walter.” He said handing it over.

“It’s a sleeping sack for the Princess, we knit it while you all were yacking.” Said the second Tweed brother.

“You sling it over your shoulder and  she can sleep inside while we all leap.”

“We’ll, what are we waiting for?”

Everyone held onto the cow. Jeffry took a nervous breath, concentrated, and took a step.

He made 23 more land leaps before the group stopped again.  At Lady Scarlette’s suggestion they altered direction a few degrees  north for a half-dozen  leaps, shifted a few degrees east for the next leap then went back  to their original trajectory for a long series of leaps.

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The sun was setting when Jeffry finally let go of Sweet flower’s collar. ” You O.K. girl?” He whispered quietly into her hairy ear.

“Moooooo. You O.K.? You look kind of green.” She said with concern.

“I feel kind of green.”  He admitted.

“We’ll, what do you think?” Asked Lady Scarlette, “should we break for the night here, or keep going a bit more?”

It took Jeffery a second to realize she was talking to him. In general, None of the knights ASKED him anything. Commanded, yes. Asked, not so much.

He wasn’t sure. They had covered a lot of ground, but was it enough. “Where’s the Princess?” She would know.

Sir Walter indicated to the wooly knitted sack he was cradling. “Still asleep, poor lamb.”

It wasn’t like he didn’t WANT to stop. Jeffry was starting to feel the exhaustion that has plagued Constance. AND he was getting sick. But he didn’t think they’d put enough space between them and the evil men who were following them. What if Lady Scarlette’s feint to the north a few hours ago didn’t misdirect them?

“Why don’t we go on for a bit more?” Jeffry suggested. “We can stop when the moon rises. Then you can knit the castle and we can rest.” He worried that he was sounding too bossy so he added an “O.K.?”

“You’re the man with the slipper.” Said Sir Walter with a shrug. He put his beefy hand back on Sweet Flower’s collar and the other Knitworthy Knights followed suit. Jeffry aligned himself in the right direction took hold of his cow’s horn and took a step.

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———————

By midnight they knights had finished a tower complete with drawbridge. They built a fire in the courtyard and proceeded to make their dinner. Constance was awake, but still groggy. Jeffry took off her slipper and handed it back to her.

“Thanks for that.” She said sweetly. The rest had done wonders for her personality. She was back to being a kind, gracious, sweet princess now. She made room in her Princess sack — which had expanded as the night wore on — and Jeffry snuggled in next to her. Together the sleepily children tried to stay awake in the warm woolen bag so they could listen to the others tell stories around the campfire.

The trio of Tweeds told a very funny story about pirates kings and treasures and dancing. (Naturally, they acted out all the bits about fighting and dancing.)

Frank Cottenwell told of a farmer who lived near his home town.

Most farmers have trouble with crows, as you know. But this farmer had a much larger and more menacing problem. He was burdened with a homoaviario, a birdman. He/it swooped down onto the farmer’s fields every night and had a banquet of fresh vegetables. Homoaviario laughed at the farmer’s feeble attempts to scare him away. He flew over to the scarecrow and perched on the thing’s shoulder singing a loud cawing song until the farmer came into the field with a pitch fork and chased him off.

The next night Homoaviario  was back, snacking on on corn and lima beans to his delight.“Ach you miserable beast!” Yelled the farmer “get ye out of my field!” And the farmer and three of his farming cohorts shot blunderbusses from the four corners of the field to scare the human/bird hybrid away. And Homoaviario did fly off… but he came back.

The next day when he  flew in there was a skeleton where the scarecrow had been and as Homoaviario landed the skeleton waved its bony arms madly. It did not so much scare the bird man as it intrigued him. He approached the  skeleton and it waved more frantically and a booming voice said. “No, no… let the skeleton be. There’s nothing odd about it… “ The more the skeleton spoke the less menacing it seemed, and more it sounded like the farmer. “I, er, oh, you’ll wind up like me a nasty ole bag of bones if you don’t clear on out of here!”  There behind a hunting blind was the farmer pulling on wires attached to the skeleton like a marionette. Homoaviario laughed at the silly man and took his dinner and flew away.

The next night the farmer was nowhere to be seen, but a strange little man with thick glasses and a large head sat on a blanket in a clearing. He was reading a book and he didn’t look up until the bird man was standing right in front of him.

“Oh,” he said in a squeaky voice, “good day to you, Sir Birdman, good day.”

Homoaviario ducked his head. It had been a fine day, and he was ready for a fine dinner.

“My name is Maximillion Rodulfo Hemingway DeLuc, and I have been employed by the farmer who owns this acreage to attempt to evacuate you.”

The birdman shrugged and blew a rather unflattering snort out of his beak like nose at that idea. Maximillion Rodulfo Hemingway DeLuc could TRY.

“Do you happen to like insects, Sir Birdman?”

This had Homoaviario’s attention he very much liked insects. In fact he usually saved a handful of crickets for his dessert after eating his corn and lima beans.

“Crunchy, delicate winged fellows?” Maximillion Rodulfo Hemingway DeLuc tempted him. “Chewy on the inside crispy on the outside? They even sing for your entertainment, so I’m told.”

The birdman made a noise of longing. He wanted some of those insects right now.

“Well, I have it under very good authority that two counties over they are having a blight of locust. Desperate to get rid of the buggers, as it were.  It sounds to me like a situation you are uniquely qualified for, sir” He held out a business card which Homoaviario took his feathery hand. “Sixteen miles in that direction. Tell them Maximillion Rodulfo Hemingway DeLuc sent you.” He smiled, “lovely doing business with you.”

With a swoop of his wings Homoaviario flew off to the locust invested fields.

Maximillion Rodulfo Hemingway DeLuc put away his book and folded up his picnic blanket. He was a happy man. He solved two problems and got paid twice that day.

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Mary-Kate told a melancholy story about a beautiful girl who was forced to live by other people’s rules:

There once was a beautiful girl who had a bad reputation. It wasn’t her fault. Her beauty made her the desire of all the men in the village. It also made her the envy of all the women. Alas it also made the scorn of most of the women. They often talked behind their hands about the pretty girl and used words like “floosy” and “tart,” when really the pretty girl was the model of goodness.

One day her father arranged a marriage with the wealthiest merchant in town. It made him (the father) very rich, but she was not in love with the merchant. She liked many men who had come courting, but had fallen in love with none of them. She tried to explain to her father that she wasn’t ready to get married. But he was too busy counting the pile of money he’d gotten from the merchant to listen to his daughter.

It satisfied the merchant that he had won his pretty prize and once they were married he stopped paying the pretty girl compliments or leaving her little presents. Soon she became little more than a servant in his house. The highest ranked servant to be sure, but still, a servant to his wants and needs. It was not the life she had dreamed of, but it was what it was.

The girl put away her girlish fancies and was a dutiful wife. She made the bread, and learned to knit, and kept the house, and managed the merchants finances while he went off to faraway lands to find fine and exotic items for his shoppe.

One day he arrived home with a tall dark stranger. “This man here is a silk trader from the Italy and he’s going to teach me all there is to know about buying and selling silks. He’s a guest in our house and you’re to treat him as such.” The husband ordered gruffly — he always spoke to her in a gruff voice now. He had no need for the honeyed voice of a suitor now that they were an old married couple.

The girl did as she was told she treated the stranger as an honored guest. She made him warm home made meals when the husband ate at the tavern with friends. She listened to the stranger’s stories of Italy as they sat in front of the fire if he was lonely. She walked him around the town and showed him the sights so he wouldn’t get lost.

The neighbor women whispers behind their hands about how the girl and the stranger looked at each other. How he held the crook of her arm to guide her around pile of animal dung in the street. How she laughed at the jokes he told in his strange Italian accent.

Soon word got back to the husband that the girl and the stranger had become lovers. He was a vain man. Although he couldn’t believe that his wife would prefer anyone over him he was furious that such a rumor would exist at all. He confronted the stranger and ordered the him out of the house.

Confused — he and the girl had been most chaste in their relationship — the man packed to leave.

When the girl came in and heard the ranting merchant and saw the packing stranger she pleaded with her husband to reconsider. He took this the wrong way. Was it a sign of guilt? His hand came down across her pretty face. Before she hit the stone floor the stranger moved between husband and wife.

NO. The stranger could not allow this. He challenged the rich man to a duel to prove his honor and the honor of the pretty girl. The next morning they met at dawn in the town’s square. Most of the neighbors lined the street or hung out of windows to watch.

A terrible sword fight ensued. Occasionally the stranger would demand that the merchant take back what he said. And the merchant would counter that the stranger should  take back what he did.  In the end both the merchant and the stranger were badly injured. Though both men were better at trading goods than exchanging thrust with their blades, pride and honor made them fight with such venom that in the end neither man would walk away whole.

After a half hour of Coup droit d’autorité  and Froissement  and slicing and hacking the stranger made a move In quartata. The merchant saw his chance and thrust his blade into the man’s unguarded back. With a sickly crunch of backbone and slurp of vital organs he withdrew the sword and the merchant fell dying to the cobblestone of the courtyard. The town guards were called and the death was recorded.

The girl brought the cart from the warehouse and hired two lads to put both men inside it. She took her husband home and put him to bed. She bound his wounds and gave him mulled wine to ease his pain. He was in bad shape, and he might not make it through the night. 

She found that either way it didn’t really matter to her. Anything between them had been dead for a long, long time (perhaps there had never been anything there at all). What did it matter if he died now?

And If he lived? He would never be able to walk again. Never be able to go on his buying trips. At most he would be an invalid, stuck in this house, growing ever more annoyed at his surroundings, at her.

She had nursed her mother, God rest her soul, and had watched that dear woman suffer for years until the angels took her. But it wouldn’t be like that with him.  He would be a beast of a patient and she would bear the brunt of it. The bed pans, she could handle, the abuse… no. It was too much.

She brought him another goblet of wine and put an envelope of powder into it.

“What are you doing?” He demanded angrily, weakly.

“It’s a powder to help with the pain.” It was the truth. The powder would ease his pain. But too much of it would stop his heart. And she helped him sit up to drink the wine. Every last drop.

Then she took a bag of food, a change of clothing, some essentials, a knife and lamp and went back outside to the cart and the body of the stranger.

Poor man. She didn’t even know if he had family back in Italy.  She paid a silver coin to to have him buried.

Then she walk into the mountains and was never seen again.

Mary Kate looked around the campfire, pointed one of her fine Italian knitting needles at them and said mysteriously. “She is still out here today. Somewhere.”

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As Sir Walter started to tell his rollicking story of a Minotaur named Boris who lived in the Glen of Glee Bardon Lady Scarlette stopped knitting and held up her hand. The group fell silent.

“There’s something out there.” She whispered. “Joey” she nodded to the nearest of the Tweed brother’s check the I chords on your portcullis.

“I didn’t knit a portcullis.” He whisper back urgently. “Jamie, check the I chords on your portcullis.”

Jamie gave a little panicked look to their third brother “I didn’t knit the portcullis either, I thought Jackie was doing it?”

The realization hit them all at once that not only had no one knit the I chords to lift and lower the portcullis, but no one had knit the portcullis!

They had essentially knit a circular trap and left the front door unguarded while they built a fire and told stories!

A half a second later the fire was out. Sir Walter had grabbed Princess Constance and was rushing to Sweet Flower.

Jeffry fumbled to free himself from the Princess sack.

Glowing blue arrows were coming from the entrance of tower. The Knights got their shields up in time, but as the arrows hit the blue dissolved and melted into screams of horror.

Jeffry hesitated. He had to dodge those arrows to get to Sweet Flower, Constance and escape. “GO!” yelled Frank Cottenwell.

“What happens if one of those arrows hits me?” Jeffry asked, panicked.

“You’ll die screaming.” Another arrow hit Frank’s shield and shrieked. “Just like that.” He loosed another arrow from his bow. “But if you don’t go right NOW, you’re going to die anyway.”

Jeffry turned toward the cow and the girl and the Sir Walter. He poised himself to make a run for it.

But Lady Scarlette stood and yelled “Go!” to the little group and somehow Constance’s foot moved forward and they vanished.

Jeffry fell to the ground. “NO!”

The death arrows rained down faster and a faster.

Mary-Kate knelt next to Jeffry. She pulled out a large glowing crochet needle and set it on the ground between them. “Which way did the sun set?”

He wiped at his eyes. What did it matter which way the sun set? They were all going to die a terrible death.

She shook him. “Jeffry! Which way did the sun set?”

He pointed to the right. “Good boy.” She shot off an arrow. “Move the crochet hook so it’s facing the sunset.” She shot another arrow. “Hurry.” She shot another arrow.

He did as he was told. “Now throw the hook as high into the air as you can and catch it.”

She released another arrow.

He threw the hook into the air.

Mary-Kate reached back and grabbed his leg.

He caught the hook.

Jeffry felt himself fading away. The battle in the knitted castle dimmed. And suddenly he and Mary-Kate were huddle on the ground in the woods, far away.

[Like the rest of this story, indeed all of my blog, this post is copyrighted.  Don’t even think of stealing it… or we’ll have to send Sir Walter after you.]


July Creative Challenge, day 21: Topsy-Turvy (part 4)

Yeah, I told you it was Epic…

If you haven’t read part ONE, TWO or THREE you want to do that now.

This is a long cooperative story written by myself and my daughter, Maggie.

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A man so tall he had to duck to get under the doorway bounded towards them with a smile the size of a plate. He scooped the princess up in a hug so large she only managed to squeak “Walter!” He released her slightly, accidentally setting her back on the table instead of her chair, where she narrowly avoided landing in her puree. “Walter, what are you doing here?”

“We were on vacation, me and the knights, and the mayor asked us to stay on in case there was trouble at the fair. What are you doing here? You look mighty well! I haven’t seen you since you were up to my knee!” Jeffry was willing to bet that had been fairly recently, but he kept his mouth shut, “How are your sisters? Where are your sisters?”

“I’m traveling a bit with these fine folks, myself,” said the princess, then she leaned into his ear and gave him a quick whispered account of the past week. The huge knight’s face flashed from perplexity to anger to worry as she whispered.

“You must join us, at least while you’re resting! And you know what your father said about using the shoes too much at once.”

“What did he say about using the shoes too much?” Jeffry demanded, worried for his cow.

“Never you mind!” snapped Constance, then she paled. What was wrong with her! “I’m sorry. I’m sorry I yelled.” She straightened, and trying to remember her manners, made the introductions, “Jeffry, this is Walter Whooley. Walter, this is Jeffry and Sweet Flower.” The later gave the knight a bovine nod, “Walter used to be my father’s squire.”

“Before I got too big for the castle,” Walter interjected with a chuckle.

“Now he is one of the great Knitworthy Knights.”

“And there’s about five others back in the party, probably drinking my share of the ale, if you want to meet them.” Sweet Flower slurped up the rest of her puree and they followed him.

The other five knights sat with their pewter shields, emblazoned with a ball of yarn empailed on two knitting needles, slung over the backs of their chairs. They all had and goblets in their hands and several more empty goblets in front of them. Walter pointed to an older woman with silver streaks in her spiky pink hair who perched with her feet on the table. “This is our commander, Lady Scarlette Bamboozle.” The lass with gold curls was Mary-Kate Alpacaloni, and the man with the long red pigtail and beard was Frank Cottonwell. A trio of lads with skin even browner than Constance’s and bulging muscles were the Tweed brothers. One of them was playing with the company kitten.

After the situation was explained and a battalion of small Glossys moved the cow couch into the knight’s dining room, the now ten person company settled down to construct a plan. “From my calculations, Riverside castle is about two day’s leaps or one week’s foot journey from here. We can get you as far as the melted mountains as a group. Mary-Kate’s grandmothers live there and they can travel with you to your parents.” Lady Scarlette pointed to each place on the unfurled map.

“Are your grandmothers alright with leaping? It does a working on the stomach, Jeffry can tell you.” Constance asked Mary-Kate.

“Oh, they don’t need to leap. They can fly.” she responded.

“Could they teach me?” asked Sweet Flower. “I have an odd compunction to jump over the moon, but that requires one to ascend to an appropriate distance and accelerate to just the right–” BOOM!!! BOOM!!!!!

A noise like a cannon sounded outside and everything in the Agitated Poodle went deathly still. At the third BOOM Constance leapt to her feet and jammed her hands over Jeffry’s ears. He had no idea why, but from the window he could see that everyone in the street outside was now walking dream-like towards the river. When they reached the water they just kept walking in until it was over their heads and he could see no more. He felt a pair of earmuffs being pushed onto his own head and saw Constance and the knights running out the door.

Constance was yelling to the others, “Close the doors! Close whatever doors you can find!” the knights and even Glossy ran up and down the street, shutting doors, closing tent flaps, doing whatever they could to impede the gate of the enchanted fair goers. As Constance pushed a malleable crowd sideways into a tent, Jeffry noticed that all the non-dreamy walking folks had on earmuffs like his, or at least something stuffed in their ears to block the cannon-like noise. He wondered why and removed his own. BOOM.

The beautiful music called him to the river. Oh the river, the beautiful river, it was everything to him. He had to be one with the river. If he could but sink into its lovely dark waters all his problems would be solved. There would be no more talking cow, no more stomach aches, no more odd girl with odder friends. No more big brothers who laughed at him and pushed him around and stole his food. The golden sheep and Grandma Fuzzle were waiting for him in the river, and calling him. All he had to do was get to the river. …If only he could get his feet loose from the thing that was holding him. It was like a bramble catching him up. It had hold of his legs and was pleading with him. ‘Jeffry,’ pleaded the little rose on the bramble, ‘Jeffry. Don’t go.’

Sir Whooley took a more direct approach to Contance’s predicament, he tackled the cowherd and forced the muffs back on his ears. Jeffry was brought abruptly back to his senses. Constance, who had been holding on to his legs  as he tried to wade into the shallows got up. She spit out a mouthful of river water. Then Jeffry, the girl, and the knight ran back along the shore, trying to push anyone they could move into the houses and closing the doors.

Due to his size, Walter had somewhat more success with this.

Jeffry had just finished pushing  the last of the dreamers he could catch into a house when a scream cut through both cannon and earmuffs. Far up on the hill, Glossy was screaming. It only took him a moment to locate the reason.

The small Glossy with the crayons in her bun had climbed onto the cow couch and out the window of the Tavern. The knights and big Glossy were too far away to grab her, But Jeffry ran from one direction and Constance from the other. They managed to get to the little girl before the water was neck-deep, but more dream walkers were crowding in behind them, blocking their escape to shore. Constance heaved the girl onto her shoulders and walked as far as she could then started swimming. Their destination was a small island in the middle of the river with a big tree. Jeffry joined her, and between the two of them they managed to get the little girl onto the shore and up to the lower branches.

From their new perch — they had climbed up a few more branches and settled the little Glossy in the “U” of the tree–  they could see the full carnage. The river was filling with people, and not filling with people in a “personal space” way. The dreamers began to walk on one another, forming layers of dreamers in the deep sections, all fighting to get deeper in the water, to drown. Even at the greatest depths they began to fill so high that they formed perversely squabbling additions to the bridge and continued as far as they could see down the river. So many filled the river that the water overflowed it’s banks and ran over the docks and into the streets. BOOM. BOOM.

BOOM. Then a sudden silence. The crayon-bunned Glossy stopped trying to get out of the tree. A man in white robes and a blood-red collar walked towards them. The river’s new human inhabitants froze unmoving under his feet, or so Jeffry assumed. He couldn’t actually see the man’s feet, but one thing was clear: the man carried a brass trumpet in his right hand. Jeffry would bet his left nostril that, when blown, that trumpet would make the noise of a cannon.

“Well, well princess. It seems you’ve worn a hole in those lovely shoes of yours.”

“Not as big as the one in your head.” She replied.

He looked puzzled for a moment, “Am I suppose to have a pair of shoes in my head or a hole?”

“ A hole, you idiot, a hole.”

“Oh, now, don’t be calling me names, princess. They’ll make me your special keeper for this! Just you and me until your father meets our demands. It sounds like so much fun… After I blow this little tent show to bits, that is. So don’t call me idiot.”

“And what would you like me to call you? I can think of quite a few words actually. How about murder? necromancer? TRAITOR?!”

“ I’M NO TRAITOR!” he bellowed, “I serve the true magic! The one dedication! I work that we may rise from the dead!”

“Pity you need to kill to do it.”

He had lifted his trumpet to his lips again when an arrow stuck threw his throat. He fell forward and as his corpse and the trumpet hit the water their spell broke. The river dreamers, those who had not managed to submerge themselves, struggled, screamed,  and stampeded towards the shore. Another arrow, this one attached to a rope, thudded into the tree trunk. Glossy stood on the roof of a riverside building, bow in hand, as the knights tried to pull and carry as many people out of the water as they could. People in the deep water grabbed hold of it and pulled themselves hand over hand to shore, but it was still a sad percentage of those whom the enchantment had carried in. The island dwellers had to wait quite awhile until the rope was free enough for them to use.

Glossy met them on the shore and seized her daughter immediately. After she had stopped frantically kissing the little girl on whatever part of her forehead she could get to, and spitting out a crayon, she turned to Constance, “How far do you think the others are behind him?”

Constance shook her head, “Maybe a day or two at most. I’d find his body and bury it on shore if you think you have time, then hide all the villagers in the woods, make it look like he wiped out the town and moved on.”

“Go back to the house and the cow and go with the knights as soon as you can. I need to stay here and organize this… mess.”

A village man with a bushy grey mustache ran towards them panting and notified Glossy, “The town council needs you, Ira and Mai are already in the boathouse, and Tufton’s coming. They haven’t found the others yet.”

Glossy nodded, then turned to the travelers, “Get going as fast as you can. This could turn nasty. Good luck!” they split in opposite directions, the Glossies to the boathouse and the girl and boy to the pub.

As they trudged soddenly up the street Jeffry asked Constance, “What did she mean ‘this could turn nasty’?”

“She meant if someone knew I was the reason Orving came to town they might want retribution or payment of some kind. They would stop us from leaving, and then more trouble would catch up.”

“Orving?”

“Some evil has a name. This one was called Orving the resurrector for a while. Now he’s Orving the dead-killer.”

“How do you kill…?”

“Somethings that’s already dead? I don’t think I ever want to know.” They had reached the Agitated Poodle and the knights were waiting outside with their packs. Someone had put a cow-sized sweater on Sweet Flower — it was a cow neck sweater (get it?) but she seemed not to mind.

“Ready?” asked Lady Scarlette. They all grabbed a hold of the edge of Sweet Flower’s sweater.
Step.

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July Creative Challenge, day 19: Summer

Finding some shade along my daily walk

Finding some shade along my daily walk

I haven’t gone to school in a long, long time, but even I get that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach when I see BACK TO SCHOOL ads on TV and in the newspaper. Why are they always so loud (in volume, color and style)? We all know that Summer Vacation is going to end. Even those of us who don’t mark our days from June to September with a big crayon “x’s” on the kitchen calendar are aware that Labor Day will come eventually. Is  it really necessary for Target and Walmart to jam the fact that freedom is ticking away down our collective throats? And must they do it with such a gleeful homage to consumerism?

“Look at all this awesome stuff I got for the first day of school for my cool, slim, popular self!”  oh, yeah? “YEAH!”

As today is day 19 of the July Creative Challenge. There can be no denying that summer is past the magical half way point. June weddings have come and gone, the Fourth of July fireworks have faded into the night sky, the MBL All Star players have had their last at bat. It seems all we have left  of this summer is the heat, the bugs and the sun burn…

AND …

  • Shakespeare under the stars with the Baltimore Shakespeare Factory and the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company
  • Zucchini bread
  • BBQ with friends
  • Hot August Blues
  • Mint tea made from the spearmint that grows literally right outside my back door
  • Oriole games
  • Steamed Crabs
  • Flowers from the garden
  • Boxes of veggies from the farm
  • Day trips to small towns
  • Tall ships in the Inner Harbor
  • Homemade ice cream at Bonkeys or Summers

collage of stuff to do

What are you looking forward to this summer?


July Creative Challenge, Day 18, Topsy-Turvy (Part 3)

More on the Topsy-Turvy cooperative story that I’m writing with my daughter, Maggie. Best read PART 1 and  PART 2 before continuing on to part three…

183

The lane in front of The Hogs Barrow Inn was in chaos. Carts were overturned. Rubble and dust was everywhere.

A crowd of townspeople blocked Jeffry and Sweet Flower from actually getting to the Inn, but they could see that the Golem, the Giant and the Metal Man had been at work trying to force their way inside.

The Golem banged his rocky fist against the rapidly disintegrating daub and timber exterior. His deep stoney voice rumbled, “The Great Garbonzo compels you!”

A smallish, balding man stuck his head out a window on the other side of the building’s front facade. In a high, whiny voice he responded, “I don’t have to obey your ring-whatever! I ain’t in your circus. An I gots a full hall here, you ain’t the only circus on the fair-way!”

A metal voice chimed in, “We carry royalty, you fool! Open up in the name of noble blood!”

“I don’t care if you’re travlin’ with the king of the moon and all its pits, you ain’t comin’ in or bringin’ no cow in ta my inn!” The Innkeeper slurred his words, and he looked as if he drank more wine than he sold.

Sweet Flower pulled up at the indignation. “Moo?”

The Giant, who. it seemed. had been gnawing on a corner of the inn stood up and put his hands on his hips. “Give us what we can pay for, if not in the name of royalty, then in the name of MAGIC.” His voice was low, but it managed to carry over the inn-keeper’s rantings and the Golem’s banging.

That seemed to be last straw for the Innkeeper. “I don’t believe in no magic!” He shouted. He seemed to miss the irony that he was shouting at three magically made beings. “That’s unnatural, that is! All them magics oughta be run out a’ town and drowned in the river! Them and all that follow ‘em! Freaks they are!”

“I wouldn’t talk to magic people that way if I were you.” Sweet Flower’s tone was low and dangerous in a way Jeffry had never heard it before. Granted, before today he’d never heard her tone at all, but her ‘moos’ were always gentle and passive. This warning was dire, almost harsh. “I’ve seen what happens when the magic folk get crossed.”

Jeffry gave her a reassuring pat.

“Are you threatening me, cow? Idda sooner make sausage out of you!” the Innkeeper growled.

An ear-piercing whistle came from one of the Metal Man’s Claws and Constance peeked out from behind his thumb. “ENOUGH!” She had to whistle a few more times until they were all looking at her.  “Jeffry, Sweet Flower, and I will travel on and take our business elsewhere.” She slipped down from her hiding space, and gave Ludvinnio’s leg a gentle squeeze. “Thank you for your kindness, dear Ludvinnio.” Then she turned to the Innkeeper “Old man–” the red-faced Innkeeper seemed to have lost his voice temporarily — “may those who have heard you have mercy on you… I fear you’ll need it  when the Great Garbonzo hears what you have said!”

Constance pushed her way through the crowd and got to the cow. Then she attached herself to Sweet Flower’s collar. “Lets get out of here.” Jeffry took hold of Sweet Flower’s tail, and they land leaped again.

182

The town had grown up on both sides of the river. Their leap took them to the other river bank and into the midst of the western part of the village. The Innkeeper may have been an idiot and a bigot, but he was right about there being more than one circus in town. There were more performers on this side of the ferry.

It was so chaotic that no one seemed to have noticed the sudden appearance of two preteens and a cow.

Constance immediately started walking into the crowd and Jeffry and Sweet Flower had to rush to follow her.  When they caught up she spoke in a voice just loud enough for them to hear, “We need to lose ourselves in the crowd, pretend we’re just here for the fair.”

Jeffry’s stomach growled — it had been a long time since his sandwich — “I’ve never been to the fair, but if I had I think I’d probably go for some food.”

She plowed ahead “oh, yes?” They passed Franklin’s Fallafels but she kept moving.

He spotted a shop that looked like a confectioner’s cake. The sign outside read ‘The Princesses’ Tea Room’, “How about there?”

“Rather pink, don’t you think?”

He gave her a pleading look and Sweet Flower added a whiny ‘moo’.

“Fine. You want a sugar coma? Fine. My mother doesn’t let me have those kinds of sweets, so I don’t think much research was done on the “princess” concept. But if YOU think THAT is what being a princess is really all about, by all means, lets go in, and you can judge for yourself.”

Jeffry was beginning to think HIS princess needed to get a nap, and soon!

They never made it inside, so Jeffry and Sweet Flower never did get to  judge for themselves whether the “The Princesses’ Tea Room” embodied an appropriate amount of real princess-i-ness. As they approached the door it swung open and a rather robust figure woman filled the door frame. The owner of “The Princesses’ Tea Room” gave them a stern look. The skinny girl was dressed well enough, but where was her shoe? The raggedy boy could perhaps buy a cup of soup from the kitchen door, but he wouldn’t be entering her dining room.  And the COW?  “No cows,” the  she said with an affected, fake French accent, “not in my tea room.”

A very offended Jeffry put a protective arm around Sweet Flower, “But she’s such a well-behaved cow! She can ever talk!”

“I don’t care if it’s solid gold. I won’t have an animal in my tea room, and that is that!”

“Funny, you don’t seem to mind them on your plate. Seems like a double standard to me.” A woman with a voice like honey leaned out of the window of the pub next door.

It was a much shabbier looking establishment, but her smile made up for it. Her face was the kindest any of the travelers had ever seen. “You folks can come here.” She gestured to the opposite side of the building. “Meet you at the front.”

They walked around and found a sign that informed them they were entering ‘The Agitated Poodle’. On the wall under the sign was a series of poorly drawn, but festive looking flowers. The travelers knew right away that they would like this place.

“I bet my honorable neighbor got her stiff rump from the uncomfortable cushions on her chairs.” The honey voiced woman muttered as she ushered them in.  She was round faced and moved in a way that put Jeffry in mind of a graceful pear blowing on a branch in the wind. The impression was emphasized by her honey brown hair, smoothed back into a green and yellow cap, and with her matching apron. “My name is Glossy Belle. We have a nice cow couch and table over here by the window, and a clover puree I would very much recommend.”

As she walked them to their table the travelers caught a glimpse of a herd of smaller Glossys peering out from the open kitchen door.

Theirs was not the only animal-inclusive group in the pub, a man shared an ice-cream sundae with a rust colored sheep and a huddle of hedgehogs sat around a tiny table playing poker. The rest of the guest were humans, including a rather rambunctious party in a small private dining room off the main hall.

A tall dark-haired boy brought them their drink order while Glossy went back to tending the kitchen. When he brought them bowls of clover puree two of the smaller Glossys peeled off to join him, carrying bread trenchers.

“These are for you.” The older of the two passed around the bread. Her hair was held up in a bun by two colored wax crayons and a few more stuck out of the pocket of her smock. Her companion, a boy Glossy about four or five years old, had an orange crayon conveyed up his left nostril — obviously the pocket of his green overalls was not up to the task. “We make pictures too.”

“Are you the artist of these fresceos?” Constance asked, gesturing to the childlike flowers and birds that seem to have carried in from the sign outside and were clustered in odd groups on the walls.

“We all did them –well not the babies,” the girl Glossy blushed, “but Sam n’ I, n’ Ellie, n’ Malcom, n’ Bonnie, n’ Sage. Them good ones are Momma’s,” she gestured to a row of even and detailed flowers near a window. “We can put ‘em on paper too, so you can take with. Not just flowers, I learned to do horses too.”

“Can you draw a cow?” Jeffry inquired.

The little girl furrowed her brow for a moment then brightened.

“I’ll ask momma how!” she rushed off but not before little Sam promised, “I’ll make youse an orange cow!”

Constance turned back to her companions, “I think we will be well  hidden here for a while. It’s pretty out of the way, and I’ve never been here before, so I doubt we’ll run into anybody who knows–”

“PRINCESS CONSTANCE? IS THAT YOU?”

[End of Part Three]


July Creative Challenge, Day 16 Topsy-Turvy (part 2)

This post continues the story of Sweet Flower, Jeffry and Constance — a cooperative story that is being written my myself and my daughter. If you have not read part one please go HERE and do so now.

174

“What the  moo was that?”

Jeffry looked at the girl “What?”

The girl looked at Jeffry “What?”

“I said,” said Sweet Flower, “What the moo was that?”

“Is your cow talking to us?” asked the girl.

“Uh… yeah I guess she is”  Jeffry couldn’t quite believe it either. “And, by the way… what the moo was that?”

By the looks of it they were clear on the other side of the valley. He could just make out their peach tree way, way, way, way off in the distance.  “How’d we get way over here?”

“Hold on a sec.” She was about to take another giant step when she noticed Jeffry had let go of Sweet Flower’s collar. “No, really, HOLD ON. We’ve got to get a bit more distance behind us before we can stop to have a pretty little chat.”

Jeffry held on to his cow.

The girl concentrated and stepped  and… poof… they were another 3 miles up the valley.

“How are you doing–” Before Jeffry could finish his statement she took another giagantor step. “– that?
”

Step

Step

Step

Jeffry was turning a nasty shade of green by the seventh step. “Please tell me you are going to stop.” She looked at him raising first one eyebrow, then the other, then both.

“Fine. I’d really rather the cow throw up, not you.”

Step

“I really don’t want anybody to throw up, if that’s alright, so could we just STOP for a minute?”

“Fine. We can walk normally for at least a little while before they catch up.”

“Who are ‘THEY’?”

“People I’d rather we not meet.”

“Is it because they eat meat?” Sweet Flower had found her voice again. She blinked her big brown eyes at them. Then, because they were standing in a field of barley, she leaned her head down and started to munch on the barley. “Hmmm… nutty with a note of summer sun.”

“Yes. And they’re also mighty fond of killing humans too.” The girl leaned in to Jeffry as they watched Sweet Flower, “ I can take a talking cow, but a pun making cow… I’m not so sure about that.”

“I don’t think you have much room to make demands, Miss. In fact, who do you think you are? I don’t know where I am or where we’re going, or even what your name is!” He was starting to yell, “ You landed on me! You pulled me out of my village! You’re stealing my cow! You’ve kidnapped me!” Her eyebrows were moving again, but she looked as if she didn’t intend to say anything until his rant was over, so he continued, ”You’re clearly on the run, you’re probably some kind of escaped convict!” He said feeling his rant crest. “I’ve been kidnapped by a cow thief, and… Lord knows what else you’ve done! You’re probably in trouble with the king… or you will be!”

Her arms now as crossed over her chest (or at least she crossed them as much as she could. Here heavy back packs prevented the full “arms over chest” stance of defiance she was going for.) She listened patiently to the last few puffs of his tirade. “The king knows exactly what I’m doing. My name is Constance Middlelaine. I’m the second daughter of King Wyco and Queen Gingerdale Middlelaine. It’s under HIS orders that I travel.”

“You’re a princess? You?” He shook his head, “Princesses live in towers and raise golden sheep and sing to the birdies and their sheep all day. They don’t go hairing round the country getting their shoes eaten by magic cows.”

A stunned look crossed her face for a moment, “How would I fit the sheep in the tower– nevermind. I am a princess and I can prove it. And there’s no such thing as golden sheep.” She lifted her braid to reveal a blue spot where her neck met her chin. It was in the shape of a crown, the royal mark. Now that he took a closer look at her, she did seem a bit more princess-y than most of the people he’d ever met. Her scarlet jacket was made of high-quality cloth, and her tunic was really a pink dress trimmed in gold, just tucked up to look like a shirt. She wore brown trousers, but they were an even, amber-like color, not like his bark-dyed wool ones. Her’s were tucked neatly into socks at the knee (though the sock without a slipper was looking a bit worse for wear at the moment). The final clinching detail was the gold band that fastened her braid.

At last, all he could say was, “Oh.”

“The men that are chasing us think that by kidnapping me or one of my sisters they can make my parents to ban magic from our lands. They hate magic, you see, even though they’re willing to use it to kidnap me. They attacked our castle in Middlelaine while my parents were visiting one of our other domains. I sent my sisters a head through a portal, but some one had to shut that down manually.  I’ve been running by myself  since. My slipper–” She took the pink and gold slipper off her foot  and waved it under his nose “– these slippers —  are three-mile-slippers. They let me travel three miles with each step, but they only work when they’re together, so I have to stick with the cow.”

“I have a name, you know.” Sweet Flower had finished with her meal.

“I’m very sorry, my lady cow.” Constance blinked from Jeffry to the cow. She realized that she had been very rude to the heifer by speaking about her in third person. She gave her a low curtsy, “Pray tell what it is?”

“She’s Sweet Flower,” volunteered Jeffry.

“How do you do my dear bovine Sweet Flower?”

Sweet Flower shrugged “You know, cant complain.”

Constance gave the cow an affectionate pat on the side of the neck. “You are a most extraordinary cow.”

This warmed Jeffry to the Princess. He patted Sweet Flower on the other side of her neck. “You know, I think you’re right about that.” He reached over the cow and offered the Princess his hand.  “I’m Jeffry, by the way,  Jeffry Herdman.”

The Princess softened to an apology, “I do beg your pardon for all this. Rest assured you will be well rewarded when we reach my parent’s castle. It should only be a day or two of leaps away.”

He had to admit, she did look genuinely sorry. He decided that if a Princess with magical slippers was going to bound out of nowhere and knock into him and steal his cow it might as well be her. She wasn’t so bad.

“I promise I will get you home, but we should probably move now. There was a pair of two-mile-shoes left in the castle. They’re bound to be following us.”

177

Just when Jeffry thought he was getting the hang of this land leaping thing they landed in a river. The Colomious River ran deep but not very swiftly in the spot where they splashed.  They sank down to the rocky river bed then zoomed up to the surface.

Landing in a river is not a pleasant thing. “Mooooo!” Sweet Flower complained when her head broke the surface.

Jeffry, whose mouth had been open when they leaped got a mouth full of river water. He coughed it out. “Can we please not do that again?

“Sorry.” Constance apologized. “Land leaping is not an exact science, sometimes you land in the water.”

“Sometimes you land on people!” Jeffry grumbled. Constance and Jeffry began to swim to the shore, Sweet Flower began to cow-paddle in the same direction.

Soaking wet and miserable the dragged themselves onto the pebbly beach and caught their breath. Jeffry began to remove his waterlogged apparel, surely Constance would let them rest a bit while their clothes dried in the sun.

“What are you doing?” She asked as she turned from him.

“Nothing, I’m just getting out of these wet clothes.”

“Mooooooooooooo.” Sweet Flower said in a cow version of a cat call. Sure she could talk now… but sometimes mooing was just as good.

“So they can DRY.” He said defensively.

“How about — um… NO.” Constance pointed down the beach. There was a village a short walk away. “Lets go into the that village and find some dry clothing instead.”

Jeffry shrugged and pulled his wet tunic back on.  As the trio trudged got closer to the village they began to hear music and laughter. When the came arround the bend they saw a fantastic array of tents in a field outside of town.

“Oooh the circus is in town!” Exclaimed Constance. She ran ahead and Jeffry and the cow followed. She stopped at a campfire and spoke to the strangest assortment of people Jeffry had ever seen.

One had double jointed limbs and was practicing his contortionist’s act. He seemed to be doubling into himself, bending himself into an impossible pretzel of a knot, then straightening himself back out again.

The man next to him stood eight feet tall on long skinny legs and the man next to him only came up to Jeffry’s elbow.

There was an organ grinder with a little monkey who danced around when the man played music and sat sullenly when the music stopped.

There were two twins dressed in matching, fancy, shiny, tunics who practiced walking on a wire strung from one tent pole to the next.

“This is Gorlando, the Great.” said Constance as she indicated a man dressed in a dapper suit with silk pantaloons and a frilly shirt. He carried a cane, but never seemed to use it for balance or to actually aid him in walking. “He is Ringmaster here and the finest magician in the land.” She nodded at Jeffry and Sweet Flower, “these are my travelling companions, Jeffry and Sweet Flower. He’s a shepherd from the valley and she’s… well, his cow.”

Jeffry was having a little trouble taking all this in. He WAS just a shepherd from the valley and he had never seen anything or anyone like this before. His mouth and eyes were wide with amazement… until the more sophisticated Constance nudged him and whispered, “It’s not polite to stare Jeffry, dear.” He shut his gob, but not before a bug flew inside.

With as much dignity as he could manage he spit the bug out.

Sweet Flower, never one to pass up a free gift, quickly picked up the dazed fly with her own mouth and started to chew. “Thanks, buddy.”

“Listen.” Constance said, a little annoyed at their country antics, “I’ve explained the situation to The magnanimous Gorlando and he is going to give us some dry clothes and  have a few of his men take us up the inn where we can rest.”

“Oh, that’s very kind.” Said Sweet Flower.

“But is that safe?” Asked Jeffry. “I mean if you” he nodded to Constance “Are so worried about the bad guys catching up, should we be stopping to rest.”

“Ohhhhhh, suddenly you’re the pragmatist.” Constance complained. “Look, FARM BOY!” She poked a finger in Jeffry’s chest, “this is an issue that involves the entire Magic community, and The Great Gorlando is part of that community. He won’t let anything happen to us while we are in his care.” She yawned, and removed her pokey finger so she could cover her mouth. When she spoke again her voice had moved from anger and command to a pathetic whine. “I’ve been Land Leaping for days, and I need a nap. Is that so much to ask?”

“No.” Jeffry felt defeated when he hadn’t even known he’d been in an argument. He was fine with resting for a while. He just wanted to make sure the princess would be safe. “I –”

“It’s alright, little farm boy,” said Gorlando with a smile, “I’ll put my best men on it.” He called over to the group. “Caston, Bator, Ludvinnio might I borrow you for a special assignment?”

The contortionist, the 8 foot tall man, and the midget got up from the fire and hurried over to their boss. “I want get these three some clothing and take them to the Hogs Barrow Inn, tell Old Fellsworth, the innkeeper, to give them a nice comfortable room and to send the bill to me.”

“Yes boss.” Said the contortionist.  The three turned to lead the way to the Hogs Barrow Inn when The Great Gorlando stopped them.

“Just a moment. I think the lad may be right. We need to make a bigger show of force so no one messes with you.” He pointed his cane toward Caston. A puff a smoke came from the end of the cane and blew into his face. When the smoke cleared the contortionist was huge rock encrusted being.

“Yes!” He pumped his enormous rocky hand in the air. “I’m the Golem again.”

With a second poof the eight foot tall man, Bator, was turned into a huge hairy man with big heavy features. The giant held up his hands examined the huge fist with a smile. “Excellent, thank you Gorlando.”

“And what would you like to be?” The Great Gorlando asked Ludvinnio, the midget.

“Something big and impressive, of course.” He said “and maybe something impenetrable?”

Gorlando considered for a minute. “How about this?” He pointed the cane and transformed the midget into a gigantic metal man.

Ludvinnio clicked his claw like hands. “Very nice, mistro, very nice indeed.”

“So, goat boy, do you feel safer now?” The Ringmaster asked as Ludvinnio carefully picked up the sleepy Princess and carried her off toward the town.

“Sheep boy.” Jeffry grumbled.

“What was that?”

“He said ‘thank you very much.” Said Sweet Flower over her shoulder.

The cow nudged the boy and he turned and gave a bow. “Yes, thank you maestro Gorlando you have been very kind.”

As they had to walk on cow and boy sized legs and the Golem, Giant and Metal Man were walking on enormous Golem, Giant and Metal Man sized legs, Jeffry and Sweet Flower were soon out paced by their companions.

To cheer up Jeffry as they trudged into the village Sweet Flower started a little word game… “The Great Garbonzo.” She said with a little heifer snort. “Garbage-io the Magnificent… The One, The Only Garlic-Breath-io.” By now Jeffry was smiling too. “His cheesiest, Sir Gorgonzalo.”

“Don’t forget the Gardinia the sweet smelling.” Jeffry offered.

Sweet Flower snorted with delight. “Ohh stop, you’ll give me the hiccups,” she laughed, “And my milk will curdle.”

“Or maybe you’ll make milkshakes tonight?”

But at that moment both boy and cow stopped laughing. A commotion up ahead warned them that something was amiss. They hurried forward and when the sign for the Hog Barrow  flew through the air and landed at their feet they broke into an all out run.

[End of part two]


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