“Yes?” The man grasped at his mane of white, wispy hair. He pulled it to his eye for inspection. “What about it?”
My gaze was not the only one that moved towards him. I was the only one that stepped forward and asked the question we were all thinking. We were a lost tour group in a cave and there was a man perched behind the railing with a tall, triangular hat and billowing robes.
“Is your name Merlin?” I ask.
The man pulled a twisted pipe out of his chest pocket. “Sometimes.”
“Can you help us get out of here?”
He kicked away from the cavern and in two long paces he was leaning against the railing that kept us from the cave’s natural terrors. He leaned over so our eyes met. I wondered, briefly, if he was one of those terrors.
“How old are you?” he asked, instead of answering my question.
“What does that matter?”
“You’re tiny, are you an undeveloped human or have I been here for longer than I thought?”
“I’m not undeveloped, or whatever, I’m twelve!”
“Well, that explains it them.”
I wanted to kick him, but kicking people was not the way to get what I wanted. “We need help.”
“So you’ve said,” his eyes narrowed, he blew a tendril of smoke into the space between us. “You’re very brave for asking.”
I step back. “Why? Are you dangerous?”
“Sometimes,” he winked then put his pipe back in his pocket and pulled out a long, long, wand, far too long to fit in a pocket. “But I will help you.”
With a flick of his wand, the cave around us fell away. I flinched at the light, hand rising to my eye in instinct. When I lowered it, he was gone.
Her sister wrapped all the Christmas presents, every year, forever. Even if Nina tried to help, her mother would swat her hands with a rolled up newspaper.
“Don’t you touch your sister’s perfect bows,” their mother would say.
It wasn’t fair. Just because Carla could bend the ribbons with delicate precision, didn’t mean she was Santa’s Freaking Helper. How would Nina learn, if no one let her practice?
With a pile of wrapping paper covering her lap, Carla asked her little sister to pass the tape. Nina threw it. It hits Carla’s knee and ruined her meticulously constructed bow.
“I thought you wanted to help!” Carla snapped.
Nina surveyed the wrapped boxes in the corner – not a single crease. She wanted to kick and stomp on them, do things that would definitely put her on Santa’s naughty list. Instead, she picked up the tape and handed it to her sister.
“You saved my life!” The sheets shriek when Ana pulls at the pile to reveal the flushed face of her little sister.
“It was an accident, I assure you.” She drawls, dropping the sheet to cover the face again. “What are you even doing?”
The pile moves into a seated position, shifting until her little sister’s head emerges from its depths. “It’s fort time! We’re working on the blue prints. The engineering held strong until you switched on the ceiling fan and then it all came tumbling down. Bear lost a leg and Suzie may never recover but I’ve escaped unscratched and ready to build another day.”
“Right,” Ana says then starts pulling at one sheet then another, bunching them up into separate piles.
“What are you doing?” Her sister screams. She grabs at one sheet and then another, all slip through her tiny fingers. “You’re destroying my world! That’s the draw bridge – no, not the kitchens. You save my life only to take it all away. You monster! The horror! Not Bear’s tower, Bear needs his tower. All see, Ana the Horrific!”
Ana snorts and reaches for the sheet, beginning to fold. Her little sister stomps over until her feet hit Ana’s knees.
“We will avenge our lands, Ana the Horrific.” She bends low and tries to meet Ana’s eyes. “Of this we swear it.”
A head appears in the doorframe to their right; their mother’s smile is tired but still reaches her eyes. “Everything all right in here?”
Her little sister snarls and throws herself onto the carpet. “Ana the Horrific!”
“Yup,” Ana replies, meeting her mother’s eye as they both pointedly ignore her little sister. “Almost done with the laundry.”
Inspired by: Cracked Flash: Year 1, Week 27
It had been three weeks since their mother brought home the drum set and Linus was still not a rock star. He couldn’t believe it, after a full twenty days of practice and everything.
In the next room over, separated by an inch of plywood, Margaret had a headache. She missed silence.
“Is this life now, Momma?” The woman continued to pour cereal into two bowls, her back turned. She could not hear her daughter. Margaret noticed her mother’s neon pink earplugs and thumped her head forward, letting it hit the granite counter with a bang.
No one in the house heard her over Linus’ drum set. With her head pressed against the cool stone, she clenched her eyes closed. It was time for a plan.
Their family computer lived in the kitchen. She was not allowed to use it while eating so she scarfed down each bite of cereal, finishing her breakfast before Linus even entered the kitchen. She ignored him when he entered the room, even though he said hi and pulled one of her pigtails.
“What’s up with her?” He asked their mother. The ear-plugged woman turned on her heel and left the kitchen without a response. He had gone unheard, as well.
Margaret cherished the silence; she even tried to type softly on the keyboard to not break its precious relief. After reading one webpage, she had a plan. While Linus tapped, tapped, tapped, on the granite counter, Margaret slid from her chair and ran down the hallway to the playroom that now acted as a music studio.
In the doorway she stood face to face with the drum set, her nemesis.
Her eyes zeroed in to the corner where her teddy sat on a wooden rocking chair. The pudgy bear was about the size of the main drum and a worthy sacrifice. She snatched him up and ran behind the instrument.
For a moment a thought hung in the air. She tightened her hand around the bear and thought how easy it would be—how simple—to lift her foot and slam it into the largest drum. She would get in trouble, sure, but she would win. Their mother would not buy a second drum set and there would be no more waking up to the blaring drum beat. But then she remembered Linus, sitting on the counter tapping his beat. She tried to recall the last time she had seen her brother so dedicated to something and pictured his heart breaking at the sight of the broken instrument. She lowered her foot.
Instead, she returned to her plan. She pushed the bear into the large space behind the drum, smushing him until he fit into the round instrument. She didn’t have long. Linus ate his cereal quickly because he liked to slurp down the milk, so Margaret raced to their art supplies box.
She grabbed tape and construction paper. After writing a message on the paper she taped it to the metal rim of the drum and stepped back to admire her handy work. The paper wall kept teddy in his place and the message read loud and clear:
“Remove this teddy and your drum set will pay. Love, Margaret.”
She ran from the room and returned to the computer, fingers twirling in her hair as she tried to pretend everything was normal. Linus still sat at the counter tap, tap, tapping. She held her breath when he finally pushed away from his bowl and walked to the playroom. She heard, and promptly ignored, when he called her name.
Her breath held still until she heard the drum, no longer a bang but a soft thumping beat, hardly able to penetrate the walls. It was only then that Margaret leaned back against the desk chair and smiled. Success.
Check out more Adventures with Linus and Margaret!
Margaret sat by the window, bouncing with excitement.
Linus let out a groan and opened his eyes to stare at his younger sister. Her face was glued to the double-glass of the airplane window, taking in the view from thousands of feet up in the air.
“You’re blocking the window, Margaret,” Linus said, although he could hardly bring himself to look. He dug himself deeper into his chair, clenching his armrest with all the strength his eight-year-old body could muster.
Unlike his sister, Linus did not take well to the concept of flying.
“How are you still so excited?” he asked. “We’ve been in the air for over seven hours.”
“But we’re flying! Over an ocean!” answered Margaret.
Their mother hissed at both of them to ‘be quiet’, even though only Margaret was yelling.
It wasn’t fair.
“I don’t think you seem to get it, Linus.”
“After hours and hours of make-believe and pretending to be superheroes, here we are,” she waved her hand around as if she were presenting the window as a work of art. “We are flying in real life.”
“With all the real-life risks too,” Linus grumbled to himself.
“And when we get to LandIce –”
“It’s Iceland, Margaret.”
“Oh, right. But when we get there, we’re going to see colors in the sky!”
“And we’re going to see snow!”
“We have snow at home.”
“Yea, but it’s not blue like the glaciers. You told me that, Linus, so it must be true.”
“Yea, yea,” Linus conceded, hands coming up to grip his forehead. He started to agree with his mother; they all could use some quiet time. He hesitated before opening his eyes, worried still that at any moment they might plummet into the ocean.
He chose to make his baby sister a distraction, instead. “You know Iceland is really old?”
“Like Auntie Nell?” Margaret’s nose crinkled at the memory of her great Aunt, who yelled when they threw snowballs in her direction.
Linus snorted. “Way older.”
Margaret looked back out the window. “Imagine all the make-believe stories a place that old has inside it.”
“Some of the best, I imagine” Linus said.
“Tell me!” Margaret demanded. “Then you can forget how scaredy-cat you are on this plane.”
“I’m not scared.” Linus insisted.
Margaret grinned, knowing she was right. “Then, tell me.”
Linus groaned again but this time for another reason. “Well, I don’t actually know any of their stories yet, but I bet they have mountains that are really monsters and fairies that deliver snowstorms or –“
“Or magicians that turn the sky into coloring books!” Margaret added.
As they made up tales of a foreign land far away, Linus let go of his fear until the plane began its descent. After sharp drop in elevation, he reached for the armrest again.
“It’s okay, Linus, look.” Margaret pointed out the window, where the sunrise cast a glow over their newest adventure. “If we fall now, Iceland’s giants will catch us.”
Check out more Adventures with Linus and Margaret!
For more Adventures of Linus and Margaret
“Whale!” Margaret shrieked.
Linus was equally as excited but, at nine, he had to show more self-control than his younger sister. There was a book in his hands and by the time he looked up, the whale was gone.
The wind whipped his hair into his face as they captain accelerated. It made it hard to finish the chapter.
“Linus! We’re getting closer.”
“Leave me alone, Mar.”
Then, from the direction of the ocean a spray of water hit his cheek. He turned his head and, closer than he ever imagined, was an eye.
Margaret laughed. “See, whale.”
Written for: Warmup Wednesday
This week’s Warmup Wednesday 100 word challenge: make the first and last words of your story “whale.”
“Jazz,” the man explains.
“That’s it, Grandpa? Jazz is your answer?”
The man catches his grandson’s eye. A twitch of a frown is all it takes for the boy to drop his head and, hopefully, his attitude.
“You asked, ‘what made me the saddest in life?’”
“But your answer was the same for, ‘what made you the happiest.’ How is that possible?”
“That’s jazz for you.”
He could see his grandson’s frustration, his fist clenching the pencil with teenage fury.
“My saxophone controlled the emotions of the audience, and myself. That’s why they called me the Master of the Age.”
Written for: Micro Bookends
Written for Flash Frenzy Round 77:
“And she keeps drawing the same face, then faces within the face. I’m not kidding, Doc. It has to be a problem, right? I should’ve changed her afterschool program. Or, at least kept her away from the movies her brother likes. You have to help us! I don’t know what else to do.”
The Doctor turned to Harriet. “Why do you draw this face?”
Her mother sighed.
The Doctor waited.
“I like it,” Harriet finally whispered.
“Why do you like it?” The Doctor asked.
Harriet bit her lip.
Her mother sighed.
The Doctor waited.
“Because it scares Mother.”