October 9th, 2009

Creative Joyous Cat

Flash Fiction: Painted Pebbles

Katie stared at the delicately painted pebbles in her hand. Where had that bum got them? She couldn’t believe any artist would leave something like this laying around. She looked at the delicate depictions of flowers and insects, even a funny smiling face in wonder. “Let me see. You’re saying I buy you dinner and these are mine?”

“They’re real purty!” The man scratched a filthy neck with filthier fingernails.

Katie made a face. “They’re…ok, I suppose. Where did you get them?”

“They were left down by the stream. I found them, fair and square.”

“Just lying loose?” She tried to sound even more skeptical than she felt.

“Well, yeah, just them and this hat and some old brown leaves.”

Katie reflected that the hat, at least, had not been his for long. Except for the muddy memory of four fingers along the rim, it was clean. “Show me where you found them!”

“Ah, miss, if you don’t want to buy them, I’ll have me rocks back, now.”

So she had taken him to Emma’s Diner. Ruth—the owner, ever since Emma retired—had ushered them to a lonely table in the back, and insisted that the man should wash up before being served. Once he vanished into the bathroom, she leaned over to Katie. “What are you up to, buying food for such as that? You’re not—“

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Creative Joyous Cat

Misadventure with a Limb

“ Lirli, wait—“ Rainbow tried to remember what she’d said that set her friend tearing through the trees like that. They’d been talking about so many things, like they always did. She couldn’t remember which was last. “Lirli, what did I say?”

Rainbow flew through the trees, trying to catch up with her friend. Lirli, being woodborn, could stay pretty high in the trees, leaping from one to the next and catching herself with her claws. But she couldn’t soar above them. Besides, Rainbow didn’t want to be spotted by either of her parents, and called to do chores.

Lirli leapt neatly from tree to tree, her long, clawed hands and feet grabbing them as securely as Rainbow’s would have. But she had arms, not wings, and the best path for her was sometimes quite hazardous for Rainbow. Normally, they kept track of each other using the whistle-language, but with the parents looking for them, neither one of them was about to do that.

Rainbow dared to call a bit louder. “Lirli?”

Lirli just kept on, climbing, running along branches, and leaping from tree to tree.

“Lirli!” Rainbow put on an extra burst of speed, and her foot smacked against a branch, hard, spinning her out of control. She curled into a ball and tried to grab a branch with her foot as she plummeted downward. She let out a sharp cry—the pain was intense. Eyes leaking, she managed to grab at the too-thin branches near her with her hands, risking tearing a wing.

Her hands connected, but the thin branches tore off the tree. It did slow her a bit; she let go of those and reached for more, grabbing with both hands and the foot that didn’t hurt.

Under the last of the branches, she spread her wings and grabbed some air. It was enough, barely, that she could guide her crash a bit, land in some bushes instead of on the rocky ground. She rested there for a few minutes. Then she stretched each arm, checking the wings. Scratches—she was scratched all over—but no tears. And her shoulders, elbows and hands were only a bit sore. She wiggled her tail—that moved normally.

Then, reluctantly, Rainbow looked at her feet. The one she’d smacked on the branch was swelling already, mostly in the instep. Well, that was better than the palm of the foot, wasn’t it? The opposeable toe worked just fine; she began to hope she could get herself out of this bush and back up into the air. After all, the other foot was fine, right? She flexed it. It wasn’t happy, the branches she’d grabbed with it were pretty spiky, but it wasn’t bad enough to stop her walking or running or climbing.

Carefully, she put that foot on the ground, more or less inside the bushes, and moved to a vertical position. There really wasn’t enough room here to leap into the air, the trees were dense only a couple of feet above her head. And standing, the knee on her good side felt wobbly. She doubted she could leap into the air one-footed with that knee.

Well, first get out of the bush. If she could get to a clear enough area, and if her shoulders weren’t too stiff, she could just go from sitting to hovering. Gingerly she put the other foot down, and fell back into the bush, gasping in pain. She rocked there for a while, trying to think how to move without setting her foot down.

Then a head popped down through the pine needles. “Rainbow? Are you all right?”

“Do I look all right?”

Lirli climbed down the tree face first. “Um, no. You look dreadful. You’re all scratched up and that foot is all swollen. Can you even stand on it?”

“No.”

“Oh, dear. This is my fault, isn’t it?”

“I’m the one who flew into a branch!”

“Well, let’s see if we can get you out of that bush.” Lirli walked over and helped Rainbow to stand on her one good foot again. They tried several things, but Lirli was much taller than Rainbow, and the efforts just served to get them both scratched.

Finally, Lirli wiped tears from Rainbow’s face with the back of her hand. She looked apologetic. “There’s nothing for it but I lift you.”

Rainbow nodded. There was a time she’d been embarrassed that the younger, taller girl could lift her, but right now, she didn’t care. She gripped Lirli’s shoulders carefully, and Lirli gripped her waist, and lifted her, cradling her much as mothers cradled their children.

Whatever they had argued about was forgotten. Lirli carried Rainbow to a nice, broad tree and helped her climb into the branches. Then, after resting they traveled home.

And they couldn’t disagree with Rainbow’s mother, when she pointed out that doing chores might have been more fun.