The Iron Writer Challenge #30
2013 Iron Writer Autumn Equinox Challenge #8
Angela Yuriko Smith, Mamie Pound, Jordan Bell, Robin Harding
A Jousting Female Knight
A feathered boa
A Bag of Doorknobs
Angela Yuriko Smith
Mia stared despondently at the old red and black velvet wallpaper, watching for faces. Once, one of the other girls had told her that seeing faces in random designs was called pareidolia. “But that’s what guys like, right? A pair a dolls, eyeah?” she had asked with a wink. The other girls had broken down giggling. Back then they really were girls. Now most of the group she had come in with was gone. Some had left, most had died. Either way, they were better off. Mia flipped over on the thin mattress to stare at the wall behind her.
Her eyes traveled up the raised velvet scrolls to a new tear in the paper. The last man must have done that. She shuddered, remembering, and trying not to. He had been rough, slapping her around and using a belt. No one had busted in the room to throw him out this time, not like when she had been younger and… less used. She had seen it happen to other girls before. Like nylon stockings and feathered boas, when they started getting worn they got less valuable. When that happened, the customer was always right.
The rip in the wall paper tore a scroll into a sharp point, and before her eyes it turned into a girl holding a lance. Something stirred in her memory, a small statue of Joan d’Arc she’d been given. “You must always fight for yourself,” the priest said. Her eyes had been clear topaz back then, and she had blinked at him, not understanding. “You may find yourself in evil places. Always fight your way back to the light.” Mia sat up.
Her eyes, now yellowed and dull, looked around the room. Why had she remembered that now? She had come to this life on her own. When she was 12 this life had seemed so glamorous. The men always hung around the girls, telling them they were in love and how pretty they were. The girls bought her candies and let her wear their lipstick. At 12, it was all she wanted to be.
That was before she knew that the men that flirted in the street were not usually the ones she had to entertain. The ones that came in with money weren’t flirty and fun and they never brought candy. They were angry and cold and only interested in getting their money’s worth. The cheap old bastards almost always complained afterwards, hoping for a deal, but it only meant beatings for her.
She would have run away if she could, but at night they were locked in. Those that tried to run were almost always found. Not many were willing to help girls like her. The ones that got drug back were beaten with a bag full of doorknobs; all the old knobs from when they had to change a girl’s lock were in there as a warning. It had worked for her. She never ran.
Heavy steps approached her door, jingling keys. The last one must have complained. Again.
Mia started crying. Again.
At the Faire
Huge, white cumulus clouds drifted across the sky spawning a thousand scenes in relief. Heather loved to cloud spot. She recalled many fond afternoons spent with her mother, staring up at the sky and picking out curiosities in the clouds. Her mother loved unicorns and was always on the lookout for one. Heather spotted dragons and giants. There were whole hosts of monsters for her to swish her foam sword at.
Heather was still just a little girl when a different kind of monster took her mother away. Breast cancer was a real monster, not some cottony pareidolia in the sky, and Heather could not save her mother from its clutches with any number of swords.
Even before her mother’s death, Heather was very much a tomboy. She never wanted to play the princess in the tower. Heather wanted to slay the dragon. As she became an adult, she never lost of her love of fantasy. Heather and her friends were bona-fide geeks. They were into cosplay, role-playing games, and anything with magic.
Heather had ridden horses since she was a teenager and always dreamed of becoming a real knight. She used to charge along with makeshift lances trying to catch loops on its end in the riding circle. Every year the town hosted a four day Renaissance Faire. This year she had entered into the joust tournament.
The crowd roared when Heather walked her horse out into the arena. She hand made most of her costume. She was very experienced at designing and making fantastic outfits. This time she wore real armor in addition to her outfit. Around her neck, dangling down her back was a light green feather boa. It was her mother’s.
Heather used to play with the boa as a child and after her mother died, it became an invaluable relic. Many nights, she fell asleep clutching the boa to her chest, comforted by her mother’s memory.
The tournament was a blast. She put her best foot forward in the tourney and Heather finished in second place. She thought her mother would have been proud.
After the tournament, Heather worked with her friend Morgan. Morgan was a wood carver. He made the most wonderful things. Some were practical, some whimsical, but all were simply delightful. She sat with him at his tent, selling the things he made while he kept busy carving stuff. He stood next to a small table with a bag of cabinet door knobs next to him. Morgan was carving Celtic knots into the faces of the knobs. His work was very intricate and detailed. Heather loved his work nearly as much as she loved him.
Today had been a good day. She finally got to be a knight. Heather looked up. The sun shown behind a great white cloud, illuminating its edges in the brightest white. It was in the unmistakable form of a rearing unicorn. Heather lowered her head and smiled.
You would have been proud, love you Mom.
A Bag of Dreams
The ceiling fan spun moonlight across her ceiling. As she went off to sleep, she imagined herself a girl again, at the farm with her sister, late summer sun squinting their eyes.
“There was a house here, long time ago. It burned ” Louellen said, considering the spot where the house must’ve been. “People used to hide their money in their chimneys.”
“You think there could be a bag of money in there?” Cora-Lee asked.
“Last time, there was nothing but black stuff as far as I could see.” Louellen said. They both looked at the chimney.
“Could be a portal.” Cora-Lee said.
“Yeah. Or a dead body. Or a robber. He coulda’ set the fire and took off, to keep people from looking for him,”Louellen said.
“Yeah.” said Cora-Lee.
“I heard that in Medieval times, there were bands of women knights who rode all through the Delta, wearing boas made of hawk feathers and rattlesnake tails. They cast spells and hunted bad guys with their jousting sticks. They hung them from trees. See? There’s one of them men’s faces right there. Look how tortured and miserable he is, cast into wood forever.” They studied the old Oak.
Louellen walked over to the chimney and poked it with her stick.”Something’s up there.” She poked at it again, breaking off a piece of the stick.
“Hear that?” Louellen said, hitting the inside harder.
“What?”said Cora-Lee, trying to hear.
“Listen.” she struck the inside again. “I can almost get something lose.”
A thud and a cloud of black soot sent a burlap bag from the chimney’s innards.
Louellen poked the bag. “Feels like bones.” she said, taking a step back and raising her eyebrows at her sister.” But I heard it’s a sin to disturb a body’s resting place, unless it’s like family or something.”
“Yeah.” Cora-Lee said. She stuck the stick into the dusty earth and both girls stared at the bag.
“But it could be gold,” Louellen said, grinning.
“Yeah, open it.” said Cora-Lee.
“It can’t be a sin if we don’t do it on purpose, if we’re just trying to find out what’s in the bag,” Louellen said.
“Alright,” said Cora-Lee.
They pulled apart the burlap with their sticks.
“Door Knobs?” said Cora-Lee.
“Yep,” Louellen said.
“They could be magic. Maybe that’s why someone hid them here.” said Louellen.”We should hide them, until tomorrow, after school. I heard that door knobs from the Civil War are worth about a million dollars.” She looked at her sister.
“Maybe a spell was cast to turn the bones to door knobs and they’re destined to spend eternity in this sack in the chimney until someone builds the house back, and then they will turn back and rest in peace.” Cora-Lee said.
They burst out laughing. “You’re so weird!” Louellen said, as they pedalled home.
“Guess what? I heard, if you are real quiet, right before you go to sleep, the moon will play your favorite dreams back to you,” Louellen said.
“Even when we’re grownups?” Cora-Lee asked.
“Probably so.” said Louellen.
And so it was.
“It’s a mystery,” Juana explained to the foreign guests as she served them breakfast.
It was the day before Christmas and the visitors were asking about the empty manger. Every year Juana and Carlos set up the nativity scene in the hotel dining room. It was an elaborate construction that included clay models of Mary, Joseph, shepherds, kings and animals. There was no Baby Jesus. That’s how it was on the Isla de Mujeres and through most of Mexico, and like the other nativity scenes across the island, there were elements that confused the tourists.
For example, Juana and Carlos stood a Mickey Mouse figurine among the sheep and there were a few smiling frogs that were three times larger than the Kings. With the cows sat a Barbie doll with a tiny feathered boa around her neck. For Juana these extras added to the atmosphere of festivity. Father Paolo said it showed the timelessness of the story. This would be her last Christmas.
After she cleaned the breakfast dishes, Juana made her way through the buckets of paint, the old sheets and the bag of doorknobs that Carlos left displayed in the hall to indicate that he was a busy man. As he was not in the house, she assumed he must be down the road at the bar.
Juana sat in the front pew of the church with Father Paolo. “How are you feeling today, my child?” he asked tenderly.
Juana felt tired all the time. She knew this was to be expected. The treatment had failed and Father Paolo was helping prepare her for the end.
“Father,” she said softly, “I’m afraid of death.”
“That’s understandable child, but don’t be. It is just like walking through a doorway. In a moment, you will be in the next room.”
“How can you be so certain?”
“I am certain because it’s all too complicated to be accidental. It is just so random and inexplicable that it must make sense to God.” Father Paolo held her hand. “I have been reading something in a journal they send us. It’s quite interesting about how the human mind tries to make order of things and see patterns. In fact there’s a name for it. Pareidolia. Remember when Alberto and Miguel caught that turtle and its markings looked like a crucifix? And Seniora Diaz saw the face of Mary in her pastry. We try to make sense of what we see. It’s impossible; just have faith in the mystery.”
When Juana got back to the guest house, Carlos was there proudly holding a figurine of a jousting knight. “I got this from Miguel and his wife put the little skirt on her. It’s a female fighter. It’s for you, Juana. You are my little woman warrior. You can combat this, you know.” Juana kissed his nose but she did not say that she had finished fighting.
Christmas morning the guests came into the dining room and exclaimed “The baby’s there!” Juana smiled, “I told you; eventually it all makes sense.”