The Iron Writer Challenge #36
2013 Iron Writer Autumn Equinox Finals
Dani J Caile
I felt like a weekend dad doing the tourist route with my eldest beside me. But it was okay, I knew better, crammed into the back of a cut-off Polski rickshaw, whizzing through the sights of Budapest.
“Tell me, why are we doing this again?”
“Because I want to.”
We bumped around in the backseat, my daughter busy with some weird kind of embroidery I’d never seen before.
“You could’ve asked for something else, like a tandem bicycle, a horse-drawn carriage, or even some of those 2-wheeled contraptions, a couple of Segways. There’s even a motor boat…”
“Next time, Daddy.”
The way she was engrossed in her craftwork, we could’ve been anywhere. Watching a DVD at home, for example, my favourite pastime.
“What are you doing?”
“What are those things? Are they shuttles?”
“Yes, they’re tatting shuttles. I’m making a lace necklace, see?”
She held up the half-finished article, quite intricate in design.
“I’ll have it done soon.”
Always give encouragement, that’s what they say, but this embroidery was yet another hobby to add to the rest; swimming, Hiphop, Judo, and her favourite, music. At first, she wanted to play the bagpipes after seeing them in a movie, but as there were no bagpipe lessons in the whole damn country, and that we already owned a piano, we persuaded her to start with that. The main thing was, she got what we could give, and I gave her my English. That extra knowledge made her naturally hungry for more. Unfortunately, she wasn’t too good at Maths or Science, but she showed talent in the Arts. Perhaps that was her direction. The lace necklace was coming along fine, better than her earlier attempts at knitting and crochet.
“So, you really like creating things, huh?”
“Yes, I want to create things when I grow up. I want to be just like Miley Cyrus.”
If I had been drinking, I would’ve spat it out.
“Miley Cyrus, I want to be like Miley Cyrus.”
“Last time I checked I wasn’t Billy Ray.”
“Don’t you mean Hanna Montana?”
“No, Daddy, I don’t! I mean Miley.”
I needed a little time to compute.
“Isn’t she going through some kind of ‘sadomasochistic Machiavellinism’ at the moment?”
“All that twerking douchbags, wreaking walls…”
“It’s ‘Wreaking Ball’, Daddy. Get it right, please.”
“She destroys walls with a ball in that video, naked, I might add. ‘Making history’? A bit more like desperate to leave her teenage image behind, if you ask me.”
“Sorry, Daddy, I don’t understand.”
The best defense from a bilingual child.
“She’s not exactly a good role model.”
“I like her music.”
“Right, music. I did music once, you know, I was…”
“Daddy! Don’t remini…remini…”
“Don’t reminisce in a rickshaw, Daddy!”
“Sorry. But Miley?”
“Look Daddy, I’m only following your example.”
“Yes, I watch what you do and I do the opposite.”
She unpicked a few stitches while suffering from the giggles.
Oh The Tangled Web She Weaves
Scotland the Brave drifted through the halls. Inmates echoed the bagpipe’s gentle rolls with their own dissonant caterwauling while others shouted, “End that infernal jig!” Miguel just smiled. This was a big day. His girl was going home.
He knocked. “Good morning, Ms. Cross,” he said, turning the glass doorknob. Intricate doilies draped over every antique side board and bureau. A silver haired woman sat, focused on a nest of thread.
“What did you have Conrad play?”
“Farewell to Arms,” sang Rosa. Miguel was hypnotized by the way she handled her lace-craft, her aged fingers and the bejeweled shuttle dancing a delicate pas de deux. She shrugged. “Conrad’s limited repertoire will suffice. Oh!” Wincing, Rosa bled on the loops and whirls. Miguel was beside her in a moment.
She rebuffed him. “Oh, don’t be foolish. I’m fine.”
“You must shed pints using these contraptions.” He scowled at the wicked barbs that tipped the golden shuttles. Her only response was a wry grin and a glance over her bifocals.
“So what are you doing?” he asked. “I figured you’d be packed, ready to be received by family and friends.”
“Everything is in order, Miguel. The next step of my plan must be attended to.”
“Yes, Rosa,” his eye-rolling was evident in his voice. “You were here when the Sanatorium de Saint-Germanois opened and will leave when its doors close.” Miguel’s voice lowered, “Didn’t we agree not to speak of your fantasies?”
Rosa waved a dismissive hand.
“I don’t want anything to jeopardize our hard work. You’re going home, Rosa.”
“Yes, dear.” She tucked a final thread behind other rows and declared her work finished. Donning a coat and gloves, she gestured for Miguel to carry her bags.
Patients, doctors and orderlies stopped to watch as she sauntered toward the hospital exit. At her passing, haggard expressions relaxed and forced grins turned to elated relief.
She led Miguel down the opulent halls and through iron-bound gates. The pair marched across the verdant lawn to cul-de-sac, empty save for an elegant rickshaw.
“Where is your son? Your family?” Miguel lifted the arm of the rickshaw, testing its weight.
With a smile, Rosa unfolded the new lacework and draped it over Miguel’s arm. “You’re going to take me home.” She closed her eyes and muttered thrice in Latin, “Ianitori opus ad transfigurentur iumento.”
The orderly watched as wicker tendrils unraveled from the taxi’s handles and wrapped around his arm, slicing through flesh. He screamed.
“Ssshhhh.” Rosa put a gloved finger to her lips. “The unpleasantness will only last a moment, my young friend.” She glanced back, finding solace in the peaceful visage of the sanitarium.
Miguel’s eyes shrank to brown points in a sea of white. He tried to pull away as more of the rickshaw grappled with muscles and tendons, tethering his other arm. His legs buckled under him. His body twisted and bubbled beneath his clothing.
In a few moments, a web of rattan and sinew bound a small horse to her carriage. Rosa pulled a riding crop from the vehicle’s floor.
“Good boy.” And she rode toward the afternoon sun.
Karen had met him at work. He had quite the reputation. People said his first wife was powerless around him – that the day she moved out, she had to face him with her dad standing next to her – otherwise, he would have talked her into staying.
He was charming. An understatement. Karen had fallen under his spell at once, despite her friends’ warnings. “He carries around a copy of The Prince?” Lisa had said, incredulous, her psychology degree finally coming into play. “He’s textbook Machiavellian! And he flaunts it. Messing with your brain. And he likes to hurt people, too. What a great couple you’re going to make – a sadomasochistic ideal.”
Karen didn’t care. She was crazy about him. And she was sure he had changed. They were going to go to New York for their honeymoon and ride a rickshaw around the city. She had seen that once in a movie, and she was going to make it happen. She wasn’t getting any younger, after all.
She had big plans for the wedding – the full regalia, for her father’s sake. Even bagpipes. This would make him so happy. And her mother’s wedding gown, antique cream with yards and yards of lace. Grandma had reportedly spent weeks working on it with her one tatting shuttle.
She wanted to show him the itinerary for New York. When she knocked on his door (because he hadn’t found the time to make her a key yet), the Ex opened it. Karen frowned, remembering her from the pictures. Not worthy of him, Karen had thought then and still thought now.
“Hi,” the Ex said. “I’m just picking up a few things.”
Karen began to enter, but the Ex stood firm, for once. “You might want to come back later.”
“He’s my fiancé,” Karen said. Shouted. He appeared behind the Ex, without his shirt on. He was beautiful, and Karen felt that frustrating twinge of yearning for him.
“We’ve just gotta sort a few things out,” he said.
She wandered the streets of Georgetown. The gorgeous students returning for school. The tourists, still wearing shorts, looking at everything but the path right in front of them. In the Puro Café, she ordered a dirty martini and called Lisa.
“She was there. She was there. The Ex,” Karen said.
“What did I tell you? He’s not good for you.”
She felt herself getting dizzy, stretched out with the drink. Lisa’s words had finally penetrated. Karen was ready to reconsider…everything.
Her cell rang then. His name on the screen. She didn’t hesitate to put Lisa on hold and answer the call.
“Come on back,” he said. “She’s gone.”
She searched through her purse so violently for money, she almost overturned the martini glass. When she ran back, her shoulders collided with many of those tourists and returning students. All she could picture was the two of them sitting in the rickshaw kissing, with the romantic skyline of New York behind them.
Jack and Jill
Jack walks his way through the subway to the multiplex. It is after a very long time that he will meet his childhood friend Jill. They have planned to catch-up over a movie and dinner. Excitedly Jack’s eyes search for her on reaching outside the multiplex at the meeting place. Disappointed not to be able to find her, then he looks in the direction of the commotion and music. There she is, watching a handful of people performing songs by playing music on the bagpipes. The uncannily beautiful face soothes him.
He too joins her to enjoy the show. They enjoy the street show and skip the movie. They decide to walk to the Italian Restaurant a few blocks away. There is so much to talk about and so less words. Jill shares with him her college experiences on the way to eat.
As they walk, they come across a shady dark street. It has circus pamphlets stuck to the walls. The picture showed a swinging joker, lion, ring master and a rickshaw overloaded with people. The right corner of the street has a lot of things just fallen down, like someone owns the messy corner. There is a heap of stuff – like watches, tatting shuttles, beads, glasses, dishes, toilet paper, blanket, and the list goes on. Looking at it makes one wonder how one lives there.
They continue walking in the direction of the main street, towards the restaurant. They also come across a teeny tiny man reading an article on Sadomasochistic Machiavellinism in the newspaper. It so happens that, he is sitting on the newspaper trying to read it. He gave Jack and Jill a look as they stare at him in wonder. Then he suddenly stands up and start running towards them. They reach the crowded area just in time. He dared not enter the hustle – bustle of the city life. As they walk to the restaurant with a sense of relief and the feeling of joy to be with each other. Even the silence feels theirs as they wait for the food to come.