The fabric caught on the callouses of his hand but James didn’t care, he just scrubbed harder. He wanted to look perfect, needed to look perfect; and he wouldn’t let the smell of bleach distract him. The prince was coming and James couldn’t help bouncing his feet as he stood by the sink.
When the white shirt was clean, or as clean as a farmer mid-season could make it, he pinned it to the line and rushed back inside. His wood cabin was small, but tidy, and he could offer the prince variety of cushions to sit upon. As he patted a gold and red one, a flush grew in his cheeks. He hoped they weren’t too big for his majesty.
The sun fell over the horizon, the colors of sunset shining into the cabin through the window. He was almost out of time.
James was panting by the time he made it back outside, the shirt damp as he slid it on. And then he was standing at attention by his front door, his farm on display and his house tidy. James knew there were better, more affluent subjects in the prince’s kingdom, but he chose James and who was James to question it?
The trumpets were the first thing he heard, followed by the rolling carriage wheels. The carriage was large, larger than James’ cushions, so some of the stress eased from his shoulders.
The carriage came to a stop. A man hopped from the front with another brass instrument. “Presenting!” He blew into the horn. “His royal highness.”
When the door opened, James fell to the ground. A sign of respect, to lower himself under the prince. Above he heard the sticky steps as the prince hopped down, made his way to James.
“Rise,” the prince said.
James did, grasping the princes hand to place a kiss on the slimy, suction cupped skin. “Ribbet,” James saluted.
In a dark corner
of an equally dark mansion
swung a framed portrait
of a clown.
No one could recall
when it arrived in the corner
but it smacked mistress
and she died.
After that we knew
of the framed clown that swung at will.
Our house versus the clown,
Soon, it turned bloody
the clown killed the heir and the spare
and then the butler.
We brought fire.
Oh, how the clown screamed
trapped in his frame, as he melted
and we did not laugh,
at this clown.
But then the next day,
in the same spot, a frame swinging
and a new clown face
We blocked the corner
kept away the remaining child
who laughed at the clowns
Who placed this mansion
under such a malicious curse?
We would never know.
The child grew
as most children do,
yet, he had vengeance in his heart
for he’d decided,
kill them all.
All clowns, even those
who did not swing from frames at will.
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.
The apes part as he walks through the Valley (or, what passed as a valley in this shit-hole of a zoo.) Once, he had a pack of thousands. Now, he had five idiots and a two-way mirror. “They” didn’t think he’d notice the people on the other side. “They” were idiots.
Ugh, people; smelly, fleshy, people. The humans no longer threw peanuts as tokens of admiration in this new cage-like Valley. It had been a weak token, but it was something.
He sits on his boulder and waits; no tokens, no gifts. Just his youngest descendant coming forward to pick fleas out of his hair. At least someone knew their place.
“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
“I’d like a wife,” her noon appointment explained from across the desk. His hand already held his check book. “Do you have a pen? I’d like to get this started sooner than later. I’m a very busy man.”
“I’d like a husband,” her one o’clock appointment explained from across the desk. She reached for the tissues as her eyes teared up. “I’m almost thirty, still a virgin and –.” The rest of her sentence disappeared in a mess of sobs.
“My mother says it’s time for a wife, so I came here,” her two o’clock appointment explained from across the desk. His eyes remained glued to his cellphone, his finger kept swiping left, right, left. When he looked up and saw her raised eyebrow, a sheepish smile formed on his face. “What? I’m lining up my tinder-mistresses.”
“I need to find a husband for my daughter,” her three o’clock appointment explained from across the desk, eyes wide with panic. “She’s hopeless, almost in her mid-twenties and her longest relationship was with the Harry Potter series. Help!”
She took a late lunch in the garden and tried not to reevaluate her decision to become a Professional Matchmaker.
Written for: Flash Friday
Theme: Marriage // Characters: mother desperate to marry off her daughter; a handsome, slightly snobbish landowner; a cad;
“Perfect,” she sneers. “How is anyone supposed to live up to that?”
Her reflection stays silent in reply.
“I don’t know why they have to build me up, put my face on the side of a building, on the taxi cabs, on buses. I don’t know why they need to tie that word to me, just because my name is Penelope!”
Her reflection stays silent in reply.
“They can’t think of anything more creative so they go with the easy alliteration.”
A knock on the door breaks her focus. “We need for a sound check, time to find perfect Penelope’s perfect pitch.”
Written for: Micro Bookends