The Iron Writer Challenge #114
The Jordan Bell Challenge
500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements
2015 Annual Champion
2015 Miss Gypsy Universe Pageant
A pick pocket contest
A red nose
Ailsa awoke with the first hint of gray light that stretched across her cheek. It was Beltane. She waited for this day that brought the first sign of spring. The winter had been harsh that year. People huddled in their crofts around the dying fires and salvaged the last of the meat and vegetables that had been scarce.
She sat up and wrapped the wool blanket around her. The chill of the morning had made for a red nose and aching fingertips, but Ailsa didn’t care. She hopped out of bed and ran outside to see the snow giving way to bright green and the heather on the hillsides broke through to stretch across the land. The village was setting up for Beltane. Maypoles dotted the distance and multi-colored ribbons and flowers were strung on the scattered crofts.
“Did you hear?” Ailsa’s brother asked.
Ailsa turned around to find Ian smiling wide, his red hair curled wildly over his forehead.
“Hear what?” Ailsa asked.
“Gypsies are coming this year! All the way from the Western Isles. They’re coming here to celebrate Beltane. I hear they’re coming in horse drawn carriages and they’re even going to have a Gypsy Universe Pageant!”
“No, Ailsa, I’m serious!”
In the distance, Ailsa and Ian heard music. It seemed to be coming on all sides of the hillside, and grew louder as the sun rose higher.
“Do you hear that, Ailsa? Gypsies!”
Ian was right. Ailsa narrowed her eyes and saw four, maybe five carriages coming up from the valley. The music was mingled with sounds that mimicked larks chirping and flutes singing.
Ian and Ailsa twined their hands together and ran out to the middle of the open land. The music drew them closer, and the people of the village slowly came out of their crofts, curious eyes all around, watching the Gypsies come.
When the carriages were close enough for Ailsa and Ian to reach out a hand and brush the mane of one of the horses, the carriages stopped. All eyes of the village were on them. The carriages and the Gypsies alike were dressed and decorated in brighter colors than they had ever seen and the horses were painted in reds, blues and yellows that made them look like creatures that the Goddess herself had molded with her own hands.
Ailsa kept her eyes on a Gypsy whose body jingled with chains, beads, and jewelry as if she had won a pick pocket contest. The Gypsy half-smiled at Ailsa and stepped down from the carriage straight toward her. She bent down to Ailsa and looked straight in her eyes with the half-smile still on her face.
“Here, mo-charaid,” The Gypsy said.
She covered Ailsa’s hands gently and when she let go, Ailsa stared down to see two finger cymbals in her palms.
“What are these for?” Ailsa asked.
“They’re only for those that have the heart of a Gypsy and the eyes of a seer. Keep them close, Ailsa.”
Ailsa held the cymbals to her heart and listened as the music and singing began again and rose with the commencement of spring.
The summer night is warm but a gentle breeze blows through once in awhile. The smell of burning wood, different kinds of incenses and aromatic candles assault the sense of smell. The flashing lights, the colorful tents, the gypsy garb all feed the sense of sight. The different kinds of food and the any different libations pleasantly feed the sense of taste. The ears are filled with a joyful cacophony of music, laughter and barkers calling people to play their games, eat their food and have their fortunes read.
This is the highly anticipated International Gypsy Festival. It happens every year around this time in July and gypsies from around the world converge on this forty acre farm on the east coast. Non gypsy people also travel here from nearby cities and states to absorb the culture for the three day festival. Of course with an event like this, crime comes with it. There are pick pockets, drunken fights, muggings, gambling, and there are even a couple of tents on the outside of the main festival that are “houses of ill-repute”. However, it is a good time had by all overall.
There are carnival-like games but most come with a twist like one called the “Drunken Mannequin”. This game is like the carnival water gun games except that beer is used in place of water, just for effect. The object of the game is to fire the beer into a mannequin’s mouth and the first one to turn his mannequin’s nose red, is deemed the winner and there is a cash prize of fifty dollars for the winner and it costs five dollars to play.
The culmination of the festival is the 2015 Gypsy Universe pageant. This year the pageant was huge because of the stars involved with it. The pageant is hosted by author Stephen King, who wrote the book, “Thinner”. It was made into a movie and three of the stars of the movie are here as judges. They are Joe Mantegna, Kari Wuhrer and Robert John Burke. Of course, the whole pageant was kicked off by pop singing icon, Cher. She sang a few songs but finished up with two of her 1970’s classics in “Dark Lady” and “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves.”
As part of the talent portion of the pageant, the contestants had to participate in a pick pocket contest and the winner of that is a gypsy woman named Olga Romani and she won the contest because she was able to lift a set of finger cymbals from another gypsy, who is also in the pageant. Olga Romani finally did win the pageant to become Miss Gypsy Universe and will be the Grand Marshal in the parade that will wind through much of the town where the festival was held.
On Tuesday morning, the tents came down, the lights were put away, the tapestries were rolled up and the camps were broken down. After that, the parade led the gypsies out of town with a promise that next year’s festival will be bigger and better. Everyone is looking forward to it.
Alis Van Doorn
Bella, Emilia, Agatha and Merevale sprawled on the river bank, mad with excitement and the giddy feelings that make girls, about to celebrate their 16th birthday, fairly unbearable.
“Do you think we’ll see him first thing in the morning?”
“Who, Mere?” asked Bella feigning puzzlement.
Aggie threw a handful of dandelions Bella’s way. “TMRN!” Emilia intoned dramatically. Before Mere could respond, Roman popped up out of nowhere, as he usually did, chirping, causing hilarity. “Look! His outfit! SO gaudy!” shrieked Emilia. Roman proudly doffed his jaunty feathered cap, sweeping into a bow, tail swirling into a curl around tiny feet. But where Roman was, was pesky Baltran, Bella’s ‘baby’ brother. ” Bal”, Bella yelled, “Get out here!”
“Who cares about the stupid prophecy, and the silly pageant tomorrow night? Or your stupid birthdays. You think this entire festival is about you.” Bal said. “There’s other stuff! Like amazing shows with never before seen acts!” Roman chirped, nodding knowingly.
“Well, smirked Bella, “let’s see…., I turn 16 , which as the last of the four of us, means the Man with The Red Nose comes; the prophesy will be fulfilled, it’s Spring Romany Festival, the festival pageant winner goes to the 2015 Miss Gypsy Universe Pageant. Clearly, it’ll be Mere or Aggie. So yep, all about us!”
“Watch this!” “Roman, come!” And whipping out a tall drum, Roman hopped up, and as Bal started with a haunting harmonica riff, Roman snapped forward, started punctuating the beat and chorus with a flourish of tiny finger cymbals. It was utterly enchanting; Bella’s heart swelled with love and pride, Emilia’s moth dropped open watching in wonder, awe. Aggie and Mere watched with jealousy and resentment. ” Not fair”, Aggie thought,” tomorrow is MY day to be celebrated.”
Mere’s heart, mind twisted. “It’s not fair, I’m so lovely, everyone says so, but MY father will ruin It with the pick pocket contest, of course he’ll win, that’s his profession.”
Bella and Emilia clapped with joy for Roman and Bal; Mere and Aggie fake clapped. Bal and Roman bowed delightedly, then Bal glanced worriedly at the dark getting sky.
“Bella, come on”, jerking his head.
“BAL, we’re ok, they’re staying with us tonight.”
“Let’s go then….Bella, (in a soft aside to his sister as they trudged up the steep hill) do you really believe that prophesy stuff?”
“Oh I don’t know, Bal” Bella teased, “if Aggie’s grandrom’s right…and she was Rom, It’s possible.”
“But, ‘On the last of the four in May birth of day, when the red nosed man is seen, so will their hearts, so shall their faces there ever after be seen.’ Huh?”
Early next morning, Bella and Bal’s Da stumbled in, breaking glass, rousing everyone. The four girls stared at him in shock; his huge red nose undeniable.
And as they looked at each other, there were 2 screams, two gasps, laughter and chirping.
The face of an angel, and one of grace stared at the face of a weasel and a peacock.
There was a hush over the crowd as the four contestants meandered their way through the busy New York street corner. Whichever contestant pick-pocketed the highest value of items from the crowd, without getting caught, would win this event in the Miss Gypsy Universe Pageant.
I, Gitana Colbert, wasted no time. Pulling my blouse low to show more cleavage and slipping on my shiny brass finger cymbals, I began to dance and sing through the crowd. Many people stopped to witness my antics as I sang with a heavy Romani accent. Between songs, I flirted with the men and ran my hands over them, much to their delight and misfortune! Oh, what suckers they were for cleavage and bare legs!
At the stroke of noon, all four contestants returned to the auditorium on stage and displayed the treasures they had gleaned. Myri Rudyard had done well, but even she could not surpass the bounty of my practiced skills. In just under an hour, I had pick-pocketed $1,450 in cash, seven gold watches, an insurance policy, 12 wallets, six sets of keys, a granola bar, and a yellow-and-orange pacifier.
I had won! Not only had I won the title of Miss Gypsy Universe, but the prestige this afforded would carry me very far for years in the future. I was elated. Standing on the stage, I bowed before the adoring crowds. Flowers were tossed on stage and the people were cheering my name, “Gitana, Gitana, Gitana!”
Then, as if the wind had changed, the cheering turned to taunts and jeers. The sound of my name inflicted shame upon me and the flowers turned into eggs and rotten tomatoes. I was terrified. I turned and ran off stage, but everywhere I ran people were angry with me and lashing out, crying, “You have broken mirime – our sacred code of conduct!”
I turned to face a large mirror, and gasped as I registered the image of my reflection. My legs were uncovered, and my breasts were revealed. From my waist down, I was smeared with mud, and my head was uncovered.
“What have I done?” I cried as I crumpled to the floor. My mother and father, their mothers and fathers, and their mothers and fathers would all be ashamed of me for I had disgraced the code of the gypsies.
Weeping as I lay on the floor, I awoke from this disturbing dream as my husband shook me. “Gitana, wake up. We must finish packing. The eviction notice stated we must be out of this house by midnight.”
“Where will we go, Gillie?” I asked.
“We’ll go to family up north. Pack the car. You saw this coming when our children were nudged out of this school and we started getting eggs thrown at the house. Come on, Gitina, it’s time to move on again.”
Standing up, with tears in my eyes and nose red, I began to collect our things together; relieved I had not broken Mirime.