The Iron Writer Challenge #170, 2016 Summer Open Challenge #7

The Iron Writer Challenge #170 

2016 Summer Open Challenge #7

The Paul Arden Lidberg Challenge

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

  Authors:

Dani J. Caile, C. S. E. Greenberg, Megan Cypress, Kenneth Lawson, Katie Clark

The Elements:

A man shoveling water

A dragon

Ice cream

A cloud that looks like something.

A Place to Sit

Kenneth Lawson

All he wanted to do was find an original Eames Lounge Chair. Was that too much to ask?  Copies were plentiful. Bad copies, good copies, The better ones had the dimensions right but were off by some other details. The really bad ones had the basic shape and concept, and that was about all.  Cheap vinyl,  that stuck to you like melting ice cream on a hot summer’s day.  The really bad ones felt like sitting on a 1940’s vinyl couch.  You know, the kind that sticks to you when you try to get up.  

Finding an original Eames Lounge Chair was like looking for the elusive Dragon of old.  His search was starting to take his toll on him. He  swore he saw clouds that looked like that chair.  His quest had been compared to the man shoveling water out of the fast filling tub. He was beginning to think there were no more original Eames Lounge Chairs in existence. He knows he could go and buy a new chair identical to the ones made in the 1950’s. But he didn’t want a modern version. He wanted the original.  

After many years of searching, he had finally given up on his dream.  

One day he walked into a little shop in a town he never heard of.  He was killing time between trains and had a couple of hours to kill.  He reverted to his usual habit of cruising antique shops and thrift stores. The shop was overflowing with pieces from every period. After talking to the owner, he asked if he had any Mid Century Modern furniture.  Yes, he did have a couple of pieces he thought might be what he was looking for.   The owner pointed him to a back room.    There in a corner it sat. An Eames Lounge Chair. His heart stopped beating for a second. But was it real?  He carefully made his way through the sea of chairs and tables piled various items that had long outlived their usefulness. He got close enough to really see it. His hand went into shock at touching real leather, not plastic.   He looked it over more carefully. After a half hour’s examination, and doing research on  his phone. 

It was an original Eames Lounge chair, in brown leather, with the ottoman. 

Hiding his excitement as he returned to the owner.   He asked about  where it had come from, and, how much. It was clear he had no idea what it was.    

The price 500.00.  He knew the ottoman alone was worth far more than that. 

He made a call.  He wrote out a check and handed it to the old man.  Telling  him, His wife would be by later to pick it up.

After the man had left, the old shop owner looked at the check more carefully. It had been made out to 5,000.00 dollars. There was a note attached to it. 

He told him the chair was worth far more than the 500 he had been asking for, and he couldn’t in good conscience only give that to him. 

His quest was over.  He had his place to sit. 

Care for Lunch?Dani-J-Caile

Dani J Caile

“I can’t believe they put me on this,” said Apprendice Knight Arthur Legg (Second Class), complaining to his pet chicken Tina while shovelling water from the drainage ditch out of sight of the castle. “Why don’t I ever get battlements duty or jousting or bodyguard to the princess?”

“Buk buk,” said Tina.

Arthur had been emptying the ditch for hours but it always seemed to be full… a sound of thunder filled the bright blue sky. “What’s that?” He looked up to see a small, black cloud, moving with speed towards them. “Funny, I can’t feel any wind today, and that’s going at a hell of a speed… and it’s losing height?” The cloud was getting closer. “Looks like a bird. Or is that…” It dissipated to reveal a… “Dragon!” Before he could duck for cover, it landed in the ditch, covering him, Tina and itself, with mud.

“Excuse me,” said the dragon as they all picked themselves up. “No good with landings.”

“Dragon!” screamed Arthur.

“Buk buk!” clucked Tina.

They both tried to escape from the ditch but failed miserably. Arthur saw that their green, winged intruder was crying. “Nobody loves me!” cried the dragon. “Because I’m no ‘F’ dragon, they say go away!” It took out a handkerchief and blew it’s long, freckled, smoking nose.

Arthur, against his better judgement, slowly moved over to the dragon. Tina gingerly followed. “There, there, it can’t all be that bad,” he said.

“Bad? Bad? My family said ‘go’! I no have ice cream or cake!” said the dragon.

“Ice cream?” asked Arthur. What had ice cream got to do with a dragon?

“Yes, family ask, ‘How many scoops?’ and I say…” The dragon held up two fingers.

“And?” asked Arthur. He was perilously close to the monster. And seeing as he was an Apprendice Knight (Second Class), they hadn’t given him a sword for protection.

“I’m a…” The dragon put his hands together to show a ‘T’. “…dragon. Rare, and dangerous. And dumb!” It started crying again. The ditch began to fill up with more water.

“You’re a…’T’ dragon?” asked Arthur. The dragon nodded. “What does that mean?”

“Whenever I say…” It showed a ‘T’ again. “…I make fire. I use the Hungarian word for fire. See? Túz!” Flames gushed from the dragon’s mouth and the water in the ditch evaporated around them, leaving only solid earth.

“Wow!” said Arthur.

“Yes, but I’m one in a million. Dragons make fire using ‘F’ words. Me, no. I’m dumb!” moaned the dragon.

“So what if you use ‘T’ words instead of ‘F’! Who cares?” smiled Arthur, happy that his work was done. Maybe now he could relax a little, go back to the castle, have a few beers…

“Really?” smiled the dragon. “My name’s Shagwee. Yours?” He offered his claw.

“Arthur.”

“Arfur. And the small bird?”

“Tina,” replied Arthur.

“Tina.” When the flames subsided, a lovely roast chicken rolled to a halt on the ground. “Sorry, my bad,” blushed Shagwee. “Care for lunch?”

The Mighty Dragon(fly)

Katie Clark

WHOOSH… SPLITTER-SPLATTER…CRASH

Drake the dragonfly struggled with the storm, two legs clutched to grass, two entwined with Freya’s.

With a mighty FLASH and ZWOSH the wind wrested Drake from the grass.

They were tossed asunder, until one of Freya’s slender hands slipped.

“Don’t let go!” Her wings beat fast as his heart.

“Never!” His wings matched her wings beat for beat.

But the storm snatched Freya’s other hand. Her silver face and scarlet eyes receded in the distance as she was thrown away from him. His head slammed into a swirling leaf and he lost consciousness.

“SHOVEL FASTER!”

Drake startled awake. He’d landed on top a golden water lily in a pond.

“HELP!” Drake saw a group of ants stranded on a maple-leaf boat.

“SHOVEL FASTER!” a large-mouth bass belched, but the rain refilled the boat.

“Hail, fellow storm survivors!”

“The mighty dragonfly will save us!”

“Have you seen another dragonfly?” he asked. “Her name’s Freya.”

“Only you, our savior.”

“I can’t save you; I must find Freya,” he said. “Why are you here?”

“Captain Halle at your service,” a large red ant bowed, “We’re tricked, we listened to this bass.”

“NONSENSE! I told you that the white sweet frozen treat dropped at the edge of the pond was to DIE for.“ he nudged the leaf.

“Save us!”

“I don’t understand,” said Drake.

“Alas,” said Halle, “we ate it all, and then the rain carried us away.”

“It’s our shame.”

“Come on in little ants, the water is fine!” said the bass.

“Help us!”

Drake looked out across the pond for Freya, but didn’t see her. “How can I help?”

“You can help them swim with me!” laughed the bass.

“Oh no, we can’t swim!”

“Can you push us to shore with your powerful wings?” asked Halle.

“I shall try.” Drake thrashed his wings and pushed as hard as he could.

“Look, it’s working!”

The wind pushed back.

“HA! Look at the MIGHTY dragonfly,” said the bass.

Out of breath and sore of heart, Drake stopped his fluttering. “He’s right; I couldn’t even save my love.”

“Don’t give up!”

“I just can’t”

“All is not lost!” said Helle. “The great NIDO, the storm sprite, rewards all that show strength in spite of sorrow. Try again.”

Drake breathed deeply and once more heaved against the wind. The air around them became still and the water calmed.

Drake’s reflection transformed; dark clouds extended in all directions. As his reflection changed, his strength surged.

“NIDO has come; the mighty Dragon is with us!”

“HA! I see only a fly,” mocked the bass.

Suddenly, an osprey swooped down, captured the bass, and flew away.

“We are saved!”

Drake gave one last push and the leaf struck the sandy bank.

“All hail the Dragonfly!” chanted the ants as they crawled to shore.

Drake’s wings drooped as he watched the ants wind their way through the grass jungle.

“Drake?”

“Freya!”

They flew towards each other and landed the bahiagrass.

“I shall never leave you again,” said Drake.

“You have found your Freya,” said Halle. “The great NIDO rewards those that persevere; you are indeed a MIGHTY dragonfly.”

There Must Be Something in the Water

Megan Cypress

Doug paced around his tiny efficiency apartment as he talked to his lawyer on his government-issued cell phone. “So you’re saying I need to do something to benefit the community to convince the judge not to send me to jail?”

“Yep,” Mr. Lawson replied.

“Like what? People don’t like working with thieves.”

“I’m sure you can come up with something.”

Doug looked out the window at a puddle of water that lay in a ditch. “I got just the thing.”

Doug grabbed a shovel out of his closet that he had previously stolen from the Home Depot.

He ran outside and jumped into the puddle and started shoveling. He scooped shovelful after shovelful….right back into the puddle. He worked on it for a half-hour. “Why won’t this water go down any further?” He tossed down his shovel and lay down on the muddy ground. He looked up at the clouds above him as they passed. He pointed to one. “A dragon! That’s what I need. Come here, Dragon!”

The dragon-looking cloud transformed into an actual dragon and came down to earth and blew the puddle away with a big gust of his fiery breath.

Doug gave the dragon a thumbs up. “Good job, Dragon!”

The dragon flew up to the sky and blended back in with the clouds.

Doug grinned. “I’m going to take credit for the dragon’s hard work.” He snapped a picture of the puddle with his phone. He got distracted though before he looked to see how it turned out because he heard the ice cream truck playing “Do Your Ears Hang Low?”

Doug ran to the truck, his wet jeans weighing him down, but he was determined to get ice cream for his job well done.

Doug caught up to the truck and ordered an ice cream cone and licked the soft clouds of vanilla soft serve off the cone.

When he was finished his ice cream, he looked at the picture on his phone. The puddle was full again in the picture. “I don’t get it. The dragon took care of this.”

“No, he didn’t,” a voice whispered from the sky.

Doug looked up to see the face of the dragon form in the cloud. “I’m only a figment of your imagination. If you want to shovel that puddle away, you better get to work.”

Doug shrugged. “Well, it was the thought that counted anyway.”

When Doug went back to court for his sentencing date, he told the judge all about his attempt to clear a puddle out of a ditch to protect the the neighborhood kids who might fall in it or the cars that might get stuck in it. He even showed him the picture on his phone and told the judge about his efforts. The judge was unamused and sentenced him to spend a month in jail.

When Doug entered his jail cell, he lay his head down on his pillow. “Oh, well,” he said to himself before he fell asleep, “at least I got some ice cream before serving my time.”

A Dragon’s Weakness

C. S. E. Greenberg

Dark clouds spread like ribbons across the sky. An old man looked up from his fields. The scaly black skull burst forth from behind the ribbons, the dragon tangling its gleaming black body in vapor and thunder. The dragon roared, and the old man dropped his rake and ran towards the castle.

*****

“The dragon must be stopped!”

The elder’s face reddened, his voice too loud to be addressing his lord. Sir Maron’s face contorted, and the elder blanched. “I mean, sir, we need your help!”

A stranger approached. “Sir, if you need help with a Dragon, I’d be more than willing to assist you.” The knight’s eyes brightened, and looked at the stranger. He was dressed in the style of an tinker, his pack bulging, a shovel fastened on the back.  

“How can you help?” the knight demanded.

“I can get the dragon to leave. But I’d require as much ice cream as could fill my wagon as pay.”

Sir Maron of Bluebell stiffened. “That’s a knight’s ransom in ice cream—a full week’s production from the dairy!”

The tinker shrugged. “Sir, my methods require much risk. If you’d rather handle it yourself, that’s fine. But the dragon may keep your cows off their feed, and when cows aren’t eating, they don’t make milk.” 

The elder looked towards the knight, his concern for the cows evident. The knight grumbled. “This is highway robbery!” He sighed. “The guards will get you what you need.”

*****

The tinker set up at the edge of a nearby lake, spitting a slaughtered sheep it over the fire. He took off his pack, and set aside his shovel. A slight line of black smoke crept skyward. The tinker looked towards the clouds, fluffy loaves of bread obscuring the sky,  and frowned. The dragon’s head appeared through the clouds. It descended and began feasting  on the sheep. The tinker picked the shovel from the ground, and filled it with water from the lake, then slung the water into the dragon’s face. Steam rose from the dragon’s scales as the dragon flinched. The tinker hurriedly filled his shovel again, and flung the water straight into the dragon’s eyes. The dragon hissed, then fled, spouting flames into the air as it repeatedly shook its head.

*****

As the tinker prepared to leave, his cart filled with his delicious reward, the elder came scurrying up. “Why would the dragon fear being covered in water?”

The tinker laughed. “Dragons die if their fires are extinguished.. Besides, what creature likes getting water flung into its’ eyes?”

The tinker departed, heading past the boundary of the Knight’s holdings. He turned off the road, heading toward a strange, black hill in an empty pasture. The hill blinked at the tinkerer. “Took you long enough,” the dragon mumbled to his accomplice. “And why did you have to spray me directly in the eyes?”

The tinker grimaced back at the dragon. “They wouldn’t believe it unless you made it obvious, which you wouldn’t do. I knew you’d react regularly to that.”

The dragon changed the subject. “Enough about business, let’s get down to dessert. Did they give you any Rocky Road?”

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The Iron Writer Challenge #164 – 2016 Spring Equinox Open Finals

The Iron Writer Challenge #164

2016 Spring Solstice Open, Final Round

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

Authors:

Mamie Willoughby Pound, Richard Russell, C. S. E. Greenberg, Tina Biscuit

The Elements:

Around the Campfire

The Blue Star Kachina

Fossilized remains of a three-legged fruitbat

Main character grandparent was executed

It’s the End of Our World … As We Know ItRichard Russell

Richard Russell

Five teenage boys gazed into the flickering campfire as Alex continued, “And still today you can find the fossilized remains of the grossly disfigured three-legged fruit bats right here in this valley. Some say they still live here, looking to drink warm blood… from their victim’s eye socket.”

Dave shifted, “Okay, Alex, first, fruit bats don’t drink blood. And second, there’s really not much blood in an eye socket.”

Dave turned to the others. “Guys?”

The vote was unanimous; sentence was passed. “Alex, your story is LAME, so you must drink the poison.” Alex threw back his “punishment” and shuddered; bourbon was NOT his favorite.

Sam rose. “Okay, it’s my turn, but be forewarned, this is as gruesome as it gets!”

Several eyes rolled in disbelief as a few more beers were opened.

“This happened right here in the valley, just over there by that oak tree. My grandparents were living in the cabin on the ridge with no electricity, no running water, and no internet service …”

Bob shuddered, “Your weirdin’ me out, Sam!”

Sam smiled and continued, “and the family was starving. So Grampa takes his gun and comes down the river to shoot some dinner. Well, this side of the creek belonged to them Jacksons that lived in the holler, and they caught Gramps huntin’ on their land, so they tied Grampa to that old oak right there and executed him; cut him wide open and all his guts fell out. ‘Course, they were starvin’ too, so they took his body home and ate him. But here’s the thing; this happened just a few weeks ago and I can prove it.” Sam jumped up, ran to the oak and shined his flashlight on an old, dried-up pile of intestines.

They all vocalized their objection to Sam’s tactics emphatically. “So, we’re camping right here with that old stinkin’ pile of deer guts right there!?” Sam, a bit crest-fallen, retorted, “Hey, ya gotta give me credit for creativity!”

Dave conceded, “That’s gross, but he’s got a point. Nobody else has used props. I vote ‘approved’!” The others concurred, and sentence was passed. All but the storyteller had to “drink the poison.”

Spying the blue rays of an LED flashlight working its way through the woods toward them, Bob quickly began his story.

“Have you guys ever heard of the Blue Star Kochina?”

“No.”

“Well, it’s the Hopi Indian spirit of doom; that comes to earth as a blue star to destroy the world due to rampant human corruption. And guys,, I think Kochina’s fixin’ to rain doom down on us … RIGHT NOW!”

They turned in time to see the blue light crashing through the woods as several outraged parents burst onto their camp-site.

“Samuel Thomas Jenkins, you’re GROUNDED!”

“David and Daniel, how could you DO this to your mother?!”

“Robert William Wakowski, you LIED to us!”

“Where’d you boys get this alcohol?”

Bob glanced sideways at the others and whispered, “True story.”

The Coming of Saquasohuh

C. S. E. Greenberg

Hanai tapped his bound feet against the kiva wall. It was difficult for him to keep the rhythm of the sacred dance. Grandfather stood beside the fire, blood dripping from the feathers that Grandmother had carefully woven into his hair. The fire popped and crackled as the Katsina mask that he had worn burned next to the pieces of his Pahos.

“Mighty glad we caught this heathen trying to magic up trouble.” said their captor, his beady eyes reflecting the firelight.

He removed his hat, and turned to the parson brooding near the fire. “Not to say that I’m afraid of injun magic, mind. I’m a good Christian, and ain’t nobody got power over me. But who knows what sorta evil that redskin was trying.”

The parson stared through the hole in the roof into the night sky. His eyes refocused, and he turned to the man. “Shut up, Whittaker. The Lord hates a Christian liar worse than an honest pagan.” He snorted. “Hopefully, the injun’ll see reason before we hang him.”

Whittaker kicked the leather pouch that lay at Grandfather’s feet. Hanai yelped in protest, and Grandfather glared at him. Hanai smoothed his face and remained silent. He knew that white men could not be allowed to defile the fossil of the sacred sawya, the three-legged bat that Saquasohuh had gifted the Hopi as a symbol of their stewardship over Túwaqach, the fourth world.

Hanai kept tapping. Hopefully, Grandfather would find a way to continue the ritual of the Kachina dance, and help guide the sun back from it’s winter slumber. Grandfather shifted his feet slightly. Whittaker kicked him in the stomach, and turned to the parson. “You know the sheriff’s gonna say that he’s gotta hang; why don’t we just kill him now?”

The parson looked over at the man. “You’re right.” He pulled out his Winchester. “Mr. Medicine man, do you wish to confess your sins before you meet your maker?”

Grandfather did not reply.

“Alrighty, then. Boy, cover your ears if you can.” The parson fired. Grandfather, unbowed before any taqaa, toppled. Blood speckled Hanai’s face as Grandfather whispered, “Don’t… let… Saquasohuh… dance.”

Hanai stopped tapping his feet, and instead began to chant. “Oh Kachina of the Blue Star, hear my plea! This world is koyaanisqatsi, corrupt. Use my body to dance before these unitiated fools! Remove your mask and destroy Túwaqach! The ceremonies have ended! No more shall we dance for Soyal, to return the Sun from the slumber of winter!”

Whittaker looked at the parson, confused. “What in tarnation is that youngster going on about?”

The parson turned back to Whittaker and shook his head. “I don’t rightly know, John. His grandfather must’ve turned him injun. Once he’s safely home, I’m sure I’ll be able to bring him back to Christ.”

Hanai stared through the hole in the kiva, out into the star-spotted sky. He smiled as a bluish dot on the western horizon became a streak, then a blur, as Sasquasohuh danced across the sky. Blue fire rippled through the atmosphere as he came to dance the world away.

Big Kachina Burger

Tina Biscuit

The last smile of the moon dropped below the invisible horizon. The campfire flared as chicken fat ignited in violent plumes. As I walked back, I could see my father’s face – telling his story.

There were eleven more faces around him – some of my friends, some of the scouts. We were recreating a battle against Mexico, for the centenary, but apart from the hats, it was an excuse to camp out. I listened to the end of my dad’s story:

‘… and when he chipped out the last piece of stone, we saw’, he paused for a few seconds, ‘a third leg!’

I joined the circle. I saw a light, and knew Billy was on his phone, probably looking up “three-legged fruit bats” – hoping to dispel another urban myth. Unperturbed, my fossil-hunting father stepped over to the fire, and picked out some chicken legs.

‘Anyone still hungry.’ He offered the cremated legs among the group.

‘Only three left.’ He glanced at Billy, who was shaking his phone, still looking for a signal.

‘I’m good’, mumbled a few of the boys in unison.

Tired bodies slumped; shoulders eased onto bedrolls. My father sat cross-legged and alert. We were his soldiers, his platoon, and he was taking first watch. I sat next to him, trying to keep my back straight.

‘Do you remember that, Jim?’

I looked up.

‘Is it Orion?’

‘Yes. Can you still find Sirius, son?’

I traced the line of Orion’s belt, like he had shown me. It was so bright; I didn’t need Orion’s help.

‘It’s almost blue, dad.’

‘I know’, he put a finger to his lips, ‘it’s changed’.

‘Blue Star Kachina.’

We startled, even though the voice was soft. His footsteps had been silent on the sand. His silvery hair shone in the firelight. Everyone sat up, waiting for him to speak.

‘This is the last sign. When the star you call Sirius turns blue, the purification begins’, he announced, and drew two fingers down each cheek.

The boys looked up; I looked him in the eyes; my father answered:

‘We’re heading down to El Paso.’

‘Celebrating another battle. My grandfather fought there. A lot of the Hopi tribe helped you down at Camp Cotton. He was put against a wall, and shot, by order of Pancho Villas himself.’

‘I’m sorry’, said my dad.

‘Not your fault, my friend’, our guest continued, ‘you need to worry about camping on a riverbed; the stars are disappearing’, he gestured with an open palm.

‘Do you mean the Kachina thing?’ I asked.

‘It means the clouds are covering the stars’, he answered.

‘He means it’s going to rain’, my dad explained.

‘It could be the Kachina’, the group gathered around him, ‘the Hopi see it as an apocalypse, the cleansing of souls. It could be water; it could be fire.’

A raindrop stained his palm. The blue star flickered, obscured by cloud. The rumbling started in the hills.

*****

My father pulled up the last of his platoon; the flash flood extinguished the fire, spreading argent rivulets across the desert.

The Hopi chief stroked a finger across his brow, and smiled – again.

Distant FireMamie Pound

Mamie Pound

The desert highway was nothing more than a stone river running through a silent night. The battered Chevrolet sped toward the rising moon.

Slow down. Turn there.” She pointed toward a trail of potholes.

No one will see us,” she said. “Looks like a good place to sleep.”

He gathered sticks and piled them in the clearing.

You hitch-hiked all the way from Baton Rouge?” he asked.

What?” she said. “No, Birmingham.”

You could’ve been murdered,” he said, breaking the brush limbs in half, dropping them into a pile.

Give me a break,” she said.

He lit the dry brush, poked it with another stick.

It went out. He cupped his hands and blew on the embers until they caught. Once the fire was going, their silhouettes danced on the canyon wall.

We could sleep in the back of the truck,” he offered.

I like it out here,” she said.

Scorpions and rattlesnakes,” he began.

I’m not scared. The Hopi say this place is sacred,” she said.

That doesn’t mean the snakes won’t bite,” he laughed.

You know, my great-grandaddy was an indian,” she said.

Hopi?” he asked.

Creek,” she said.”On my mother’s side. A white man took his daughter as his wife, burned his house. Shot him dead. My grandmother, his daughter, buried a three-legged fruit bat under the white man’s house to curse his family. ‘So they would always wander’. Unfortunately, he was also my grandfather. She was pregnant with my mother at the time.”

The fire crackled, smoke tendrils snaked toward the glowing stars. Coyotes’ barks echoed throughout the canyon.

He stared at the expanse of sky.

Why did you pick this place to camp?” He asked.

“I don’t know. Time stands still here,” her eyes found the Milky Way.

“Look at the stars,” she said, waving her arms overhead. “They’re so beautiful. And what better place to see them?”

Except that it’s a million miles from Alabama,” he laughed.

Where’s your sense of adventure? What happened to the guy I skinny-dipped with, in January, all those years ago?” she joked.

What happened to just hanging out downtown? It’s worked for a decade, “ he smirked.

“I’m different now. Something in me wants to be here, where things are real and wondrous,” she said. “Like the Hopi way of life.”

You realize that the Hopi believe that people will be sucked underground when the Kachina shows up? And you’re Southern Baptist. They probably won’t even let you on their spaceship,” he said.

I don’t care about that, or the blue star or the fifth world. I just want to slow time in this world. I want to jump naked into the Cahaba River. I want to go back,” she said. “Just for a while.”

And there she was, standing before him, the girl he’d known all those years ago, before kids and marriage and life, stars blazing in her eyes.

It had been so long.

Yeah. I get it, “ he whispered.

The light of ages past burned as if it had waited forever for this night. The desert sands stilled.

And somewhere beneath them, the earth shifted.

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The Iron Writer Challenge #162 – 2016 Spring Solstice Open, Preliminary Round, There Bracket

balloonfest

The Iron Writer Challenge #162

2016 Spring Solstice Open, Preliminary Round

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Brackets/Authors:

There Bracket

C. S. E. Greenberg, Peter Lusher, Jennie Richmond

The Elements:

A Sky balloon festival

Trash talk

Hot Dogs

A Bow and a single arrow

One ShotJennie Richmond

Jennie Richmond 

Shirley Knott shivered, pulling her coat closer around her small frame as she watched the hot air balloons float gently in the sky for the annual festival – bright colours against a cloudy grey background. The aroma of hotdogs and donuts wafted across to her from the food van. She turned away. She’d been nauseous a lot recently, lost a lot of weight. She was always so tired, too. She knew she was dying. The chemotherapy hadn’t worked, the tumours had ravaged through her system causing all sorts of problems. Realistically, she had a week left at most. She didn’t particularly want to be here, but it was making her family happy, so she smiled and turned to watch some of the activities going on around her to distract her from her morbid thoughts.

“Nanna! Daddy entered the archery competition; can we go and watch him?”

Shirley nodded and smiled, wrinkles lining her face, and took the child’s hand. They walked slowly over together. Her son, Graham, had already shot 4 arrows. All of them had found the target – 2 piercing the blue section, 1 a red, and 1 a yellow.

“Just one arrow left, Graham!” the organiser, also serving as the judge. “You need another yellow, otherwise John stays in the lead.”

“Oh we all know Graham won’t hit the centre again. Beginner’s luck, that’s all!” A tanned, lanky man with unruly hair crowed.

“None of your trash talk, John. Let the man concentrate.” chided the judge.

Graham was ignoring both of them. He lifted the bow and pulled back the string, feeling the growing tension. Ensuring the arrow was exactly on the nocking point, he let it fire. It flew through the air with a swift grace, plunging precisely into the centre of the board. He grinned. John scowled.

A scattered applause broke out from the small crowd that had gathered to watch, led enthusiastically by Shirley and her granddaughter, Marie, and Graham took a mock bow before walking over to join them. Instantly, his look of triumph was replaced by concern.

“Are you alright, mum?”

“I’ll be fine, love. Just need a sit down, is all.” In truth, Shirley was beginning to feel a little breathless and lightheaded.

“Of course, can you make it to this bench over here? Marie, go find mummy.”

Wide eyed, the little girl ran off towards the craft stalls, and he assisted his mother to sit down, Shirley leaning on him a little more with every step. She slumped onto the bench, wheezing. Her chest was beginning to feel tight, her breathing becoming noisy. There was a distinct rattling sound with every breath that Graham hadn’t noticed earlier – had it been happening long?

“Mum? Mum!” the panic in his voice was evident now. Shirley eyes had glazed over, mouth slightly agape – she was staring at something, but didn’t seem to be aware of her son anymore. She slouched further to the side, all of her weight now resting against Graham. He just knew.

“Mum it’s… it’s okay. I’m here. I love you.”

He held her hand in his and watched the light leave her eyes.

Balloons at Eighty PacesPeter Lusher

Peter Lusher

“The archery competition at the 5th annual Midwest Medieval games will be concluded in a sudden death shoot out!”, the announcer bellowed through the P.A. System at the Indiana State Fair-Grounds.  “Our final two shooters are William Granprix and Robin Lepich.  Our sharp-eyed sharp-shooters will have one arrow a piece,” he continued waving an arm at the range, “first at the mark will be Robin Lepich.”  Lepich with his family and friends watching on, leading the cheer from the stands stepped to the line, drew, and loosed his arrow down range, hitting the target in the bull’s-eye.  “My goodness! Folks that is a magnificent shot!  Even our fair William will have a tough way to beat that marksmanship.”  And so did William Grandprix step to the line.  All eyes were on the lone arrow in his hand.  They watched it draw back.  This single arrow would determine a bout that had lasted three days between the men.  Ending the trash talk between them, and their families, determining once and for this year who really was the best with a long bow.  William loosed and the single arrow flew down range.

A few months later the Grandprixs and the Lepiches were in Brooklyn, to cheer on and talk trash about the others’ family.  The families were competing in Nathan’s Annual Hot Dog Eating contest.  The competition only a few hours old had already inspired quite a lot of lines about your mother this, and your auntie that.  The Lepiches reminding the Grandprixs that no one could possibly be hungrier than they.  The Grandprixs suggesting that the Lepiches never had the intestinal fortitude to handle what was going to happen, and that if anything maybe they should instead be in an air breathing contest.  That the father couldn’t shoot and the family wasn’t hungry enough.  The Lepiches promised to show them.

“Welcome to the tulip fields, William.”  Robin Lepich remarked upon seeing William Grandprix.  “Are you hear for the race?  To get beaten just as thouroughly as your family did at Nathan’s?”

“By no means, Lepich.  We are here to enjoy the tulips and the hot air balloon festival.”  Grandprix responded.

“Well.  We are competing.”  Lepich said.

“Well have fun, maybe you’re better at flying than you are at shooting, or your sons at eating.”  William remarked.  “Trivet’s balloon festival is a big deal to win, hopefully the ladies won’t carry the team again and you can have a little glory.”

The men parted ways, looking back at each other only rarely.  

It wasn’t until later in the day, when the  men caught sought of their children walking arm in arm did they speak.

“Your family dishonors mine, Lepich.”

“And what do you think they are doing to mine, Grandprix?!”

“I propose we settle this like men.”

“A duel?”

“A balloon duel.”

“Fine.”

So the men found two ballooners to act as their seconds and reconvened to agree to terms, which were, a blunderbuss, balloons spaced at 80 paces and sent aloft to 100 yards, there to shoot at the other man’s balloon until a victor, and the end of talk were decided.

An Arrow for a Hot Dog

C. S. E. Greenberg

The hot dog glistened, nestled in puffy bun. Bits of beef, surrounded by reddish brown chili, topped with bright yellow cheese, and peppered with jalapeno slices. I bit down, enjoying the blend of flavors as they floated across my tastebuds.

The Balloon and Airship Festival continued around me, voices of passersby and hawkers blending in an indistinguishable meld. Floaters traveled in packs; their affiliation recognizable by checkered bandanas, patterns mimicking the balloons of their gangs. Empty quivers hung on their backs; no gang would break the festival peace. A bright yellow, blue, and emerald checkered pattern passed me; The Floating Fancies had arrived. I hastily swallowed to check their quivers. Their leader, towering over me, gave me a glance that would have sizzled bacon, but made no remark. They had been beefing with the Basket Burners of late. One of the Floating Fancies had even threatened to puncture the airship of the head of the Basket Burners, an act which would cause gang war to rage across the sky. The Marshals of the Sharp had strict orders to give both gangs extra attention, and it would have been just my luck that a ranking Wind would have passed by and seen if I hadn’t properly checked their quivers. The Winds of the order would not hesitate cutting me loose if they thought I wasn’t holding my weight.

A roaming Burner walked by just afterwards, his uniform a bright patchwork design of blue, white and red. His bright blue bow was strung and secured on his back, resting against his scarlet quiver filled with the required ten arrows. He nodded at me as he passed, his eyes continually scanning the crowd, looking for small knives, pins, even sharpened belt buckles. After he strolled by, I sighed. I looked down at the dull patchwork of faded colors I wore. Ballast were the bottom of the basket, disposable at need. We weren’t given anything that wasn’t imperfect or used; clothing discarded by older, more respected Baskets or Burners, food that was overcooked or stale.

I clutched my hotdog greedily and took another large bite, savoring the flavor. Near the balloonfield, I noticed a clutch of Basket Burners drifting near the Floating Fancies section. One of the Basket Burners quickly pulled the bow off of his back, and yanked a bright red arrow from beneath his tunic. He quickly lit a rag and tied it to the arrow. He pulled the string back, aimed towards the top of the Floating Fancies’ sole airship… and fired. The arrow whizzed through the air, crimson in the sun, until it hit the airship…. And exploded.

I’d always suspected that the Floating Fancies used a hydrogen mix. 

Shreds of fabric streamed from the sky like confetti. All the other Marshalls ran towards the scene, freeing bows from their back, trying to stem the coming violence before it washed over them like a wave.

Not I. I sat next to my booth, savoring another bite of that perfect hotdog, my patchwork clothes littered with bright cloth shreds, nine scarlet fletchings protruding over my shoulder from the quiver on my back.

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