Reasons to be cheerful

Small things to feel cheered by:

we got internet back this morning and the problem is apparently close to being solved;

panic over about not being able to send important docs electronically, just slipped in under the wire;

the youngest’s on-going drama of living on her own far away and finding herself locked out of things like cash flow in now in the responsible hands of our bank person;

the doctor’s secretary (who is a nutter) actually agreed to ask the doctor to renew my annual vitamin D prescription without insisting I make an appointment;

the empty nest is going to be visited for a few days by one of the fledglings;

and a magical moment—when I let Finbar out for his early morning pee, a hind and her two young ones were grazing in the meadow in front of the house.

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Through morning mist hanging grey

and faintly shimmering, I

watch the meadow where a shape,

rain-blurred and russet-brown stirs

then another, then three—hind

and her twins cropping the grass,

the only sound falling rain.

 

 

Winter haibun with erasure

Deer pass the window in the mist, silent and distrustful now that the hedge may conceal a raging death. In the valley bottom, the pheasant rattles his mustering cough. Will any hen be missing at roll call? Mist drifts, settles among the ghostly trees with the glue of worm casts and the millefeuilles of fallen oak leaves. Beneath, acorns are sprouting.

Birds flit through the fog

cold as winter dawns remind

me of the lost blue.

 

 

In the silent hedge

a death—

the pheasant.

His hen drifts.

Ghostly with fallen birds,

winter dawns

blue.

Hart in the meadow

 

In the meadow, a hart stands still, watching.

I watch, heart in mouth, still.

Still, I wait though he doesn’t move,

keeps me in his sights.

I’m the one who turns away,

backing into the tree shadow,

letting him know I mean no harm.

Hart waits until I have gone,

antlers balancing held-high head,

graceful neck-curve, watching.

Perhaps he knows,

my heart is with his,

in the still meadow,

beating.

World of winter

This is for the Secret Keeper’s writing prompt. The words to use are:

LIGHT | BLUR | LAD | NEED | RARE

The painting is by Franz Marc.

A brocard is a young male roe deer.

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No sun, just grey light that smears water trails on windowpanes. This world of winter, cold and drear, pitter patters with raindrop feet through the wilted grass. Gold is rare, hen’s teeth rare. I search the clouds but even the birds have gone, even feathers slick and smooth are storm-drenched. In the hedge, the brocard peers through bramble arcs, ears twist, alert to the gumboots’ tread and the pad of dogs. No rest, no peace in this cold and damp, when some are marked to die and never see the spring sun return.

Need and want cry out

to sunless skies where cloud hangs,

trees, grey pallbearers.

Flash fiction: A hungry tale

The official publication date for The Spring Dance is tomorrow, when the free download offer starts for Tales from the Northlands, a collection of stories with a Nordic flavour. This short story is in the same vein. If you like it, you will probably enjoy The Spring Dance stories too.

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The spring had been late and cold, and hailstorms had knocked the buds from the fruit trees. The summer sun was pale and fitful, and the few buds that had swollen stayed small and green. Autumn came early with gales and floods, and the crops, the grains, the fruits and the small rodents were washed away.

Winter was biting, and a skinny roe deer wandered disconsolately through the thinning cover of an oak wood. She chewed a trailing strand of ivy, pulled at a stump of bramble, and plodded to the edge of the big field. The field had been mown on the last day of sunshine, and nothing was left in it to tempt her out from the trees. Nothing except a single, bright yellow sunflower that had no business being there, but shone like a beacon against the drab dampness.

The hind took one timid step, then two, then she leapt into the field and the yellow flower. One, then two, then three shots rang out and the hind staggered and fell. With her last strength, she stretched her neck to touch the precious flower colour of sunshine and summer with the tip of her tongue. Then her eyes clouded over and she died.

One, then two, then three huntsmen stepped from the hedge at the top of the field and strode down to inspect their kill. The first prodded the hind with his foot.

“Small,” he said with a frown.

The second jabbed his shotgun into her ribs. “Skinny,” he said.

“Full of ticks,” the third said, turning away.

The huntsmen dragged the dead deer back into the bushes and left her there. Later, when the sun had gone, and the deer was quite cold, a fox nosed her and licked his lips. He was hungry too. He smelled the deer’s death on her and knew who had sent it. Though he settled down to the unexpected meal, his teeth ground in anger. Later still, a badger snuffled by and feasted on the deer. She also smelled the deer’s death and snorted in anger, but the winter was bleak, and food was scarce. A passing barn owl swooped down and wrenched strips of meat from the deer, and the next morning, crows and jays picked at the flesh still on the bones. When all the animals had had their turn, ants picked the bones clean and left them to be covered respectfully by the long grasses and wildflowers when they came back in the spring.

When the cold was over, the year turned sweet and mild. Later, summer rolled around, hotter and hotter. The stream ran dry, and the shade buzzed with biting insects. Lying panting in a thicket of brambles, the fox smelled a bad smell from the cluster of houses where the huntsmen lived. The air was hot and full of grass stalks, prickly seeds and the tiny insects that whined and hummed and stung and irritated. But as well as the dry seeds and the irritating insects, the air had a bitter, smoky taste that boded no good.

With his mate and his cubs, the fox ran across the big, ploughed field and turned on the brow of the hill to watch. In a little while, he was joined by the badger and her family, a flock of crows, a band of noisy jays and a couple of sleepy owls. They perched or sat or lay on the hilltop and watched, as sparks from the barbecue set light to the grass dry as tinder, ate up the bone-dry gardens, gorged on the wormy wooden floors of the barn, and leapt, a roaring beast, to feast on the window shutters, the carpets and the wooden staircases of the cottages.

People shouted and screamed and milled about with buckets of water, or fled to their cars and the road. In the distance, the foxes, the badgers and the jays heard the belling of a monstrous mechanical hound, surely called up by the men to devour the flames. But the fire merely laughed and danced its wild dance.

“Karma,” said the fox. The others nodded in agreement.

Microfiction challenge #27: Rescue

Another illustration from Virginia Frances Sterret this week. It’s another old French fairy tale (are there new ones?) but don’t let your imagination be limited by the idea of the fairy tale. The story can be anything at all, whatever the image suggests. My eye is drawn to the window behind. Is it stained glass, looking into a cathedral? And the draperies on the left have a distinctly Japanese look to them. Then there are the questions of: who is the girl, is she protecting the deer or is it the other way round, and what’s with the inscrutable cat?  See what you come up with and post the link to your short (whatever) story in the comments before next Thursday. Sod the Christmas shopping; just have fun 🙂

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