Tag Archives: Flash Fiction Friday

#FlashFictionFriday: Dreams and Shadow Truths

Dreams and Shadow Truths

Tales, dreams,

Shadow-truths…

The fabric of the multiverse.

One universe touches upon another, and

The dreamer dreams.

The faerie queen leads her court though the forest and

One more mortal falls in love.

Books are evidence that once upon a time

A mortal slept, and dreamt.

Within the pages of dusty, leather-bound books

Lies proof the philosophers’ stone

Exists in the realm of imagination,

Spinning words of straw into gold,

Bequeathing immortality to those who possess it.

The multiverse is yours for the taking

If  you believe, and

Are unafraid to dream.

Open a book, and

Step into a realm

Unknown.


Credits and Attributions

Dreams and Shadow Truths, © Connie J. Jasperson 2015.

Fantasy Digital Painting, By Boxiness (Painting using tablet PC.) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Filed under #FineArtFriday, #FlashFictionFriday, Poetry

#flashfiction friday: St. Patrick’s Day at the Drunken Sasquatch

There’s something about St. Patrick’s Day that brings out the crazies, even in Seattle. Or, should I say, especially in Seattle. If there is one night of the year when were-dragons should stay home and avoid the tavern, it’s March 17th.

Now in a place like Seattle, folks like me usually go unnoticed because the Emerald City is just that kind of town. The people are relaxed and accepting here. It’s like they don’t even see us.

Oh, sure, a few members of my community aren’t the kind of people most folks  want to know. Being a reporter, I tend to come across them in the course of my work, and let’s just say it’s not all rainbows and unicorn farts for  some of us anymore.

Modern society has ruined the weaker minded. You didn’t hear this from me, but some of the most unusual and largest thefts of metal can be laid at their door. Ever hear of the wholesale disappearance of live electric wires for the length of a city block? How about an entire condominium’s worth of  electric water heaters going missing?

In some cases, that stolen metal isn’t being sold for drug money, as the ordinary folk assume.

That would be normal, and being what we are, we don’t really do normal that well.

No, instead of financing drug habits, it’s worse.

This stolen metal shows up at Renaissance Fairs and Fantasy Cons all over the West Coast in the form of knock-off medieval armor, pseudo-medieval jewelry, and fake regalia, hawked by elves wearing obviously plastic Spock ears and cosplaying as Legolas.

But I digress—we were talking about St. Patrick’s Day and why a were-dragon like me avoids the Drunken Sasquatch on that day. I admit that bar is my second home under ordinary circumstances, but this is not a normal holiday. And while the Drunken Sasquatch is in what is known as the Scandinavian side of town, these normally sober, morally upstanding leprechauns of the Lutheran persuasion seem to come out of the woodwork.

These are people who have no knowledge of how things work in a neighborhood bar. Ignorant of the proper protocols, they will blithely sit on a regular’s favorite barstool with no remorse or fear of reprisal.

Don’t look at me like that. You’re thinking, “Dan Dragonsworthy, don’t be such a curmudgeon. They’re leprechauns–it’s their big holiday. Why shouldn’t they celebrate a little?”

Well, I’m not a curmudgeon. I’m smart.  First of all, these folks never set foot in Ireland. They’ve been here for three generations, like the rest of us.  And once they start pounding down the beers, these leprechauns do something no sane person would consider hanging around for.

Karaoke.

You know you’ve died and gone to Irish Hell when a marauding band of leprechauns, drunk on their entire year’s quota of green beer, takes over your favorite watering hole and turns it into a karaoke bar. There is no agony like that of ten drunken leprechauns, all insisting on singing the same three Sinead O’Connor covers over and over again, all night long.

Bloody Bill doesn’t even try to fight it anymore. He just lets them set up their machine and puts in his earplugs.

Me and all the rest of the regulars—we meet at Alfredo’s house for a little BYOB party, play a little cribbage, and listen to his collection of Pogues CDs all night long. For a vampire, he’s a pretty good host, and provides us with all the little Vienna-sausages and microwaved popcorn we can consume.

So, St. Patrick’s Day is the one night of the year when you will not find me in my usual chair at the Drunken Sasquatch. Instead, I’ll be drinking my orange juice at Alfredo’s and watching Harry Wolfe try to beat Grandma at cribbage.

He won’t of course. He never has and and he never will. No one can beat Grandma at her favorite game. Of all people, Harry should know that, seeing as how she wears his stepdaddy’s hide to church every Sunday.


St Patrick’s Day at the Drunken Sasquatch, © 2017 by Connie J. Jasperson, All Rights Reserved.

Green Beer, b y SpaceAgeSage from USA (Green Beer) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Skunk Fur Coat, By unknown / –Kürschner (talk) 19:02, 3 June 2009 (UTC) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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#FlashFictionFriday: Winter in the Northern Garden

 

ice_crystal_on_barberry

In winter, my Northern garden

Languishes, ragged and shabby,

Unlovely, decaying, and

Uncomfortably aware she’s grown old.

 

The remains of Summer’s glory beckons,

Begging to be told she is still beautiful,

Still young and fascinating,

Still the object of desire.

 

Ever the gallant gentleman,

Winter obliges, and with a kiss

Ice crystals decorate each twig and branch

Gracing her with radiant beauty.

 

Ruby-red barberries set against crystalline diamonds,

Ice catching the light, scattering it.

Jewels decorating decrepit limbs,

Dazzled, we bow to her wondrous splendor.

 

Beneath the litter of leaves dead and brown,

A new Spring waits,

Lurking in the wings, biding her time,

Politely allowing the old dame one last encore.


Winter in the Northern Garden © Connie J. Jasperson 2017

Ice Crystal on Barberry, By Sahehco (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Filed under #FlashFictionFriday, Poetry, writing

#FlashFictionFriday: In February the House is Smaller

white-cat-470px-franz_marc_013

In February the house is smaller,

Shrinking to just my office, nearer the furnace.

The Room of Shame, decorated with

Files and dusty computers, books, and cat fur,

From Yum Yum the Cat, dead these seven years.

She was old, even in cat years, and

This was her domain.

 

Like Jacob Marley and Scrooge’s knocker,

Her ghost inhabits this room,

Lurking behind boxes filled with books

And lit by the glow of the computer’s screen.

Little tufts of white fur hiding in places

The vacuum can’t reach,

A dusty memory keeping me company as I

Write novels that may or may not be read.

 

Four inches of snow fell last night, wet and heavy with water

And then froze, solid.

An iceberg enshrouded my bungalow, overtook my mini-van,

And weighs heavily on the rosemary shrubs.

And I am safe and warm inside this much smaller house

With my books and my computer,

And the ghost of my feline, past.


Attributions:

In February the House is Smaller,  Copyright © 2017 Connie J Jasperson, All rights reserved

Cat on Yellow Pillow, Franz Marc 1912 [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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#FlashFictionFriday: Bond and Free, Robert Frost

Admiring the Galaxy |CCA 4.0 ESO/A. FitzsimmonsBond and Free

Love has earth to which she clings
With hills and circling arms about-
Wall within wall to shut fear out.
But Thought has need of no such things,
For Thought has a pair of dauntless wings.

On snow and sand and turf, I see
Where Love has left a printed trace
With straining in the world’s embrace.
And such is Love and glad to be.
But Thought has shaken his ankles free.

Thought cleaves the interstellar gloom
And sits in Sirius’ disc all night,
Till day makes him retrace his flight,
With smell of burning on every plume,
Back past the sun to an earthly room.

His gains in heaven are what they are.
Yet some say Love by being thrall
And simply staying possesses all
In several beauty that Thought fares far
To find fused in another star.


I have always loved this poem for iLouis_Français-Crépusculets complex serenity–the narrator is at peace within himself and accepts his turbulent nature.

Frost’s poems were a large part of my early life. I grew up in a house in the woods at the edge of a lake. It was quite rural, and the 1/4-mile long driveway leading from our house up to the road was a pleasant place to walk at any time of the year. Winter was especially beautiful, as the woods seemed to be peaceful, resting. When a blanket of snow had covered them they had a magical quality, one Frost had felt and written of so eloquently.

While many of Robert Frost’s poems show the tranquility of being in a quiet place close to nature, this poem, Bond and Free, is an internal poem, examining the soul and heart of a person.

When I walk in the woods or along the beach my mind strays to many places, absorbing both the sights and sounds, but also touching on ideas not previously thought of, small discoveries of “me.” Robert Frost was able to write about this simple yet complicated process, and have it make sense.

Quote from GradeSaver: The narrator describes the difference between Love and Thought. Love clings to the earth in such a way that makes it a denial of freedom and imagination. Thought, on the other hand, has cast aside the shackles of the tangible world and travels throughout the universe with a pair of wings. Yet, for all the freedom that Thought seems to have, the safe environment of Love is far more liberating.


Credits:

Bond and Free by Robert Frost, PD|1916

Images:

Admiring the Galaxy |CCA 4.0 ESO/A. Fitzsimmons

Crépuscule (Dusk) Louis Français, PD|100, By Ji-Elle (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Vincent, Caitlin. Jordan Reid Berkow ed. “Robert Frost: Poems “Bond and Free” (1916) Summary and Analysis”. GradeSaver, 12 May 2009 Web. 6 January 2017.

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#FlashFictionFriday: remembering Mama and the year of the tipsy reindeer #christmas

HolidayTree2012Web Olympia Downtown AssociationI live in a very small town. The residents here go all out decorating their houses and yards for the month of December. It makes for a wonderful drive after dark, just cruising the local neighborhoods admiring the inventive displays.

The city maintenance department decorates the main drag through town and it looks amazing. I wish we could have those awesome lights up all winter long. They make the long, dark nights feel so much kinder.

All up and down our street, homes are decorated for the season, but our home is always quite simple in its holiday decorating–a tree, candles, a cute centerpiece for the table. Outside, my hubby puts up small lighted displays,  but nothing too fancy.

We keep it simple because we have to tear it down and put it all away over New Year’s day, and that rapidly becomes a bore.  It’s work, and I don’t like anything that falls into the category of labor.

In 2008, my mother was terribly ill with lung cancer and was living with us in her final days. She was 82, and had always been an active, hardworking woman, managing a pizza parlor, and wrangling my eccentric, alcoholic father. She had kept an immaculate home with religious zeal, and maintained her garden just as neatly.

It was a sign of just how ill she was that she allowed me to move her into my home so I could care for her.

My hubby had set up the lighted reindeer  display: three sweet reindeer made of wire and white lights. However, the snow was quite deep, and around their little electric feet it would melt from the heat of the lights, but not evenly.

The little one kept falling over, which looked awful as compared to the neighbor’s fancy displays. Every day, Mama checked on that reindeer first thing in the morning, wanting to get out there and fix it herself, but she was too frail.

The disease had taken her health, but it hadn’t taken her sense of humor. The snow provided a form of entertainment for her, and she would laugh and make all sorts of ribald comments as she watched me or my hubby try to stand the rickety Rudolph back up and attempt to anchor it  more securely into the frozen turf.

No matter how we tried, our display that year was the lamest one on the street, with our neighbors pointing and laughing at the prone reindeer as they walked to the grocery store. We would check on it and make sure it was upright before we went to bed, but it never failed–sometime during the night, the wind would blow that one particular reindeer over.

lighted-reindeerOne morning, a few days before Christmas, I was in the kitchen, and Mama was looking out the front window, talking on the phone to my Aunt Lillian. “That littlest reindeer is a terrible influence. Usually he’s the only souse in the lot, but today we have a yard full of drunken reindeer.”

Aunt Lillian said something, and Mama replied, “I’m not joking. The whole herd is passed out in the snow. Either that, or we had a drive-by shooting and the reindeer were the casualties.”

Sure enough, when Greg went out to go to work, all three electric reindeer were laying on their sides.

That was Mama’s last Christmas.

I miss her when the neighborhood is decorated like wonderland and the yard is full of snow. She loved life so much and clung to it fiercely despite the chemo and the vile disease that was killing her.

This year, snow is falling again, and we will put up some sort of display, although the reindeer have long since gone to broken ornament heaven.

Somehow, decorating for Christmas isn’t the same without them.

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#flashfictionfriday: Christmas at the Drunken Sasquatch

Vampires have a sick sense of humor, especially Alfredo, although he pretends to be cultured. Just over a year ago he got me banned from here, by switching my orange juice for an orange soda… that dirty trick was more than embarrassing. Covering the cost of the damages to the scorched floor, replacing the furniture, and buying Sylvia Wannamaker a new coat ate into my hoard quite heavily.

Worst of all, I was banned from participating in November’s pool tournament.

However, I’m a dragon. We like our revenge served up cold and well calculated.

The anniversary of my disgrace has passed, which would have been the obvious day for me to seek retribution. Most people have forgotten the whole incident.

But not me.

I know I look like any other old has-been, going on and on about the glory days. While that observation isn’t real flattering, it’s true. I drink more orange juice than is good for either of my livers, and I hang out here at the Drunken Sasquatch because I have nowhere else to go.

I don’t discuss it for obvious reasons, but during my years in the Middle East, Dan Dragonsworthy was far more than just a flying battle wagon. I spent a lot of time on covert missions, and one thing I learned was how to be patient, and how to spot the chinks in your opponent’s armor.

I’ve been watching Alfredo since New Year’s Eve when Bloody Bill finally lifted my punishment. I don’t intend to harm the old blood-sucker, but I’m going to give him a taste of his own medicine. There are substances vampires shouldn’t ingest, and Alfredo may have forgotten that.

A vampire tripping on chocolate is bad for everyone. I’d never do that, even to Alfredo. Fortunately, they don’t like the flavor of it. However, they do have a passion for maraschino cherries, which can cause problems for the weaker willed vampire since those fruity morsels of goodness are frequently found wrapped in dark chocolate. With one exception, the smart ones don’t succumb to temptation inside the Drunken Sasquatch, because Bloody Bill won’t tolerate that sort of behavior.

Most importantly for my purposes, vampires can’t tolerate coffee. On tiny amounts, they tend to pee themselves copiously, which the rest of us find hilarious. Vampires get quite huffy when their vampiric dignity is besmirched.

As if MY dignity meant nothing to me.

When you want to impress Alfredo, you buy him a jar of the special maraschino cherries from Italy, made with the best cherry liqueur. He can smell maraschino liqueur from anywhere in the room and, being a vampire, he lacks a conscience.

No maraschino is safe from Alfredo.

http://cookdiary.net/chocolate-covered-cherries/

The annual Christmas party and the gift exchange drives him mad. Every witch, wizard, or elf has a recipe for that most wonderful of traditional holiday treats, maraschino chocolate cordials. These kind friends are always generous with their gifts to those of us who lack their magical culinary skills.

It’s more than his old vampire heart can stand, and despite having received his own jars of cherries sans-chocolate, he takes incredible risks.

I’ll give Alfredo credit—he’s good. I’ve watched him sneak up behind Grandma and suck the cherries out of a box of cordials without getting his fangs dirty. She suspected it was him, but could never prove it. Fangs do leave holes, but it could have been any vampire.

It takes a brave (or desperate) vampire to mess with Grandma. I’d tell you to ask the Big Bad Wolf, but you can’t.

She’s wearing him.

So, anyway, last week, Grandma and I had a chat. I got on the internet and ordered the finest ingredients. They were delivered the day before yesterday, and she immediately got busy in the kitchen.

This year, one unattended box of cordials under the tree at the Drunken Sasquatch will have cherries in liqueur with unique centers. This particular batch will be vampire safe—no chance of accidental hallucinations here. Grandma created white chocolate shells filled with Cherry brandy, with a maraschino cherry floating in the middle. Each cherry is filled with a special coffee liqueur center.

It will be a joy to watch Alfredo try to deny his culpability in this year’s draining of the maraschinos as the evidence spreads around his feet.

cherry-suisse-advert-1969I hope vampire pee isn’t too acidic, although I’ve heard the stench is an excellent Zombie repellent, and no matter how you scrub, it’s impossible to get rid of the odor. Sylvia Wannamaker swears by it in a diluted form as a slug repellent in the garden, as using it there will turn your hydrangeas the brightest blue. They don’t make good cut flowers though, as they smell too bad to keep in the house.

I’m sure a pool of vampire urine won’t be as dangerous for the innocent bystanders as when he caused me to inadvertently belch fire in close quarters.

Come the day after this year’s Christmas party at the Drunken Sasquatch (even though his cash outlay won’t come near matching the damages I had to pay when he slipped me the Mickey) at least Alfredo will be out the cost of a new pair of boots. And if he can’t find a good drycleaner, he’ll be out the cost of replacing that gaudy, lace-trimmed, purple velvet suit he thinks is so stylish.

Grandma and I are both looking forward to this year’s party. Christmas could just become my favorite holiday.


Christmas at the Drunken Sasquatch, © 2016 Connie J. Jasperson, All Rights Reserved

No vampires were harmed in the making of this tale.

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#flashfictionfriday: Scrofulous Mudd (reprise)

Scrofulous Mudd was first published here in May of 2016. The story itself was prompted by the first line. Once I had that, the rest of the story followed. 


Scrofulous Mudd was a dirty old man.

By that I mean he was an elderly man who sorted through the leavings in ancient privies and wrote highly boring papers detailing the history of what he uncovered. He kept himself moderately clean, and took baths every Saturday unless an additional effort was required, such as for his mother’s funeral.

I suppose his fascination with filth began with his elegantly disease-ridden name. His was a difficult delivery, and when the elderly volunteer came around asking about the new baby’s name, Maude Mudd was still a little out of it. A scholar of Roman Literature, what she had actually said was “Rogellus.”

The volunteer, a retired nurse of infectious diseases, had misunderstood her mumbled words. Thus, Scrofulous, or Scroffy, as he was known at school, was given a name difficult to live up to.

Young Scroffy never knew his father, nor was any father named on his birth certificate. He assumed his had been a virgin birth, as his mother had never said otherwise and to his knowledge she never had gentlemen callers.

In truth, Maude’s single night of passion with the Professor of Antiquities had occurred after both had consumed far too much sherry at a faculty mixer at the at the beginning of fall semester. Hung-over, embarrassed, and terribly disappointed by sex in general, she immediately accepted the offer of a research position at a University far, far away, in Scotland to be exact.

It wasn’t until several months later that she realized she had a little Mudd in the oven. Things were different in those days, and rather than lose her position at the University for being morally unfit, she padded her chest, making herself appear to be merely stout. She hired a live-in housekeeper and continued with her work until the day of his delivery, which occurred just at the beginning of summer break. When the next term began, a much slimmer Professor Maude Mudd returned to school as if nothing had happened.

via wikimedia commons

Nanny MacDuff cared for young Scroffy as much as she was able, which was not a lot, as she had a pinched heart, but she did do her best by him. Many times Scroffy and his pram were left parked outside the post office, forgotten until Nanny arrived home and suddenly wondered where the washing powder she had tucked in his carriage was.

However, she saw to it he was as clean and well-fed as any other child. Both the infant Scroffy and Maude Mudd’s house were vigorously scrubbed daily, and both shone like polished chrome.

Never having been a maternal woman, Maude felt she had fulfilled her parental obligation, by hiring a nanny. While she did occasionally ask after his health in a general sort of way and whether he was doing well in school, she rarely had any reason to communicate with him.

As a small child, the books in his mother’s library fascinated him, but that room was strictly off limits. Nanny explained that little boys had dirty fingers, and so he should never touch the ancient, irreplaceable tomes. However, he often stood just outside the door, peering in, wondering what mysteries lay concealed within those pages.

Scroffy spent his childhood at boarding school. He did well in primary school and was a good student during his secondary years. It was there he discovered history could be uncovered by digging through the garbage left behind by our ancestors, and it was a science called Archaeology.

Perhaps it was his lifetime of rigorously enforced cleanliness at the hands of Nanny and the various Matrons, or perhaps it was the only rebellion he could think of, but dirt, and what it concealed, attracted him.

He was rarely invited home for holidays, and thus, Maude had nearly forgotten about her son when she was surprised to receive a letter from him thanking her for his education. He also explained he would be taking his newly earned Doctorate in Archaeology to London, and hoped she would understand.

In London, he indulged his passion for filth, digging up medieval midden heaps and privies, sifting the soil, and exclaiming over dubious treasures. Unlike his fellow scientists, he didn’t mind the filthy conditions, and relished a good, big find, feeling as if the night-soil of generations past somehow filled in the blank, far-too-clean slate of his childhood. He also began acquiring his own library of rare books, and manuscripts of historical significance, all of them shining a little light on the dark, dirty realities of medieval life.

It was said by his peers that Scrofulous Mudd knew more about the dark ages than the people who’d actually lived through those times. Had he been told that to his face, he would have agreed.

Forty years passed, during which time Maude Mudd rarely gave any thought to her absent son, although he thought of her at times. At first, he’d hoped for a letter or card, or an invitation to Christmas dinner but eventually gave up believing there was any connection there.

He had a brief, cordial conversation with his mother at Nanny’s funeral. Maude was heartbroken at Nanny’s loss, and terribly concerned she would never find a cleaner with as much respect for the many irreplaceable manuscripts in her library as Nanny had embodied. Scroffy had agreed it would be difficult. On the train back to London, he comforted himself with the thought his old nanny was in floor-polishing heaven.

He was a congenial, if obsessed, guest at faculty dinner parties, and was always willing to talk about his work. The more fastidious guests suspected he was invited as much for shock value as anything else. Conversations would stutter into pained silence when he began describing how the layers of earth and ancient human waste concealed the shards of history, things tossed into the privy or accidentally lost.

The arrival of the main course would inspire the observation that usually he found evidence of what people in various strata of society dined on, in their petrified dung. Then he would casually mention he didn’t watch the telly, as he spent his evenings with his microscope, puzzling over samples.

Time passed, the world changed, and having been born and raised in a life of academia, Scroffy evolved with it. He rose to a high post at his university. He had a team of several young women and men who were as intrigued by the waste and garbage of the past as he was. The BBC made several documentaries on what his work digging up medieval privies had unearthed, and how our ancestors had really lived.

When Scrofulous was sixty-five, he received a letter from Maude’s solicitor informing him of his mother’s passing. He had inherited the house and her library, which, as a child, he was never allowed to touch.

After the funeral, he walked through Maude’s house, looking into rooms that seemed so large when he was a child.

Walking through each room, he saw his mother had found another cleaning person as deeply offended by dust and dirt as Nanny MacDuff. Every room smelled of furniture polish and gleamed in the light shed by windows so clean he had to look twice to see they were there.

The ancient tomes that were his mother’s closest companions seemed as much a mystery to him as she had been.

Old Restored booksA book lay on Maude’s desk, with an envelope sticking out of the top as if marking a place. A pair of clean, white, cotton gloves lay beside it. He opened the book, seeing it was a first edition of a famous treatise on an archaeological dig in Mesopotamia. It was a book which he also had in his collection, albeit his was a later edition. Then he saw the envelope was addressed to him, from his mother.

“I never really knew you, as my work precluded everything else. Nevertheless, I have always been pleased you were successful in your career. But whatever you do, wear gloves when you handle the pages of these books.”

Scroffy reflected that even in death Maude cared more for her books than her son. Yet, the scientist in him realized she must have left something behind for him to dig up about his own history, and he intended to discover it.

He looked down at the book in which he had found the note. The author had been one of his professors, a solitary man obsessed with antiquities, and who only came to life when discussing some of his more obscure finds. He’d learned a great deal from him, finding a kindred spirit when it came to unearthing the past.

He wondered why Maude had chosen that book, when she had been a scholar of Roman literature, and inherently unable to discuss anything else. He sat down suddenly, his knees giving way under the realization she had chosen the only way she knew to tell him something important, something she had withheld from him for all those years.

Nanny’s words came back to him, about little boys having dirty fingers. He was aware of how little had changed, that he was in actuality a dirty old man, due in part to his advanced age, but mostly to his profession. Accordingly, he drew on the white gloves and opened his mother’s desk. He pored through his mother’s papers, physician’s instructions, tax returns, payroll receipts–being who she was, Maude had been unable to dispose of any. She had kept everything, but had filed them as neatly as she had kept her library. He searched and sorted until he came to the year prior to his birth.

The light had begun to fade when he refiled his mothers papers as neatly she had originally, and shut the drawer. For a long while, he sat in his late mother’s study, staring into the gloom, thinking.

Having met both his mother and his father, and found them to be exceptionally solitary people, he concluded that his existence could only be explained as a miracle. And while, as a boy, he’d often wished for a less arduous name to explain to new acquaintances, he was terribly glad his mother hadn’t named him after his father.

If ‘Scrofulous Mudd’ had been the cause of the occasional fist fight at school, he suspected Hamza Pigg Jr. wouldn’t have been any easier.


Scrofulous Mudd © Connie J. Jasperson 2016, All Rights Reserved

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#flashfictionfriday: The Iron Dragon

Because it’s November, and National Novel Writing Month is in full swing, I am reposting a story I posted in April of 2016. This story was actually written during NaNoWriMo 2015. If you’re curious as to my word count, feel free to click on the image to the upper right, the one that says NaNoWriMo Participant. In the meantime, enjoy  The Iron Dragon.

Leaf_Decoration 1_clip_art_small


Earl Aeddan ap Rhydderch turned his gaze from the mist to the strange iron road that emerged from it, and then to where the road entered the cave. “Tell me again what happened.”

The peasant who had guided the earl and his men said, “The mist, the iron road, and the cave appeared yesterday, sir. We saw the beast entering its lair, and a fearful thing it is, too. No one dares approach it, but the monster can be heard in there. It’s a most dreadful dragon — we found the carcass of a large wolf that had been torn to shreds, trampled until it was nigh unrecognizable.”

The man’s companion said, “Everyone knows wolves are Satan’s hounds. It must have angered its hellish master. We found it lying cast to one side of the Devil’s Road.”

Aeddan looked back to the iron road, seeing where it emerged from the mist. He walked to the low-hanging fog bank, seeing that the road vanished just after it entered the mist, leaving no marks upon the soil. He turned and strode back to the peasants. “I agree it’s the work of the Devil, but why does the Lord of Hell require an iron road that leads nowhere?”

A faint grumbling sounded beneath Aeddan’s feet. “A light! Look to the mist!” shouted one of his men.

Turning, Aeddan saw a white glow forming in the fog as if a large lamp approached from a great distance. “That’s no ordinary lantern. Mount up!” Moving quickly, he leaped into his saddle and turned his steed to face the demon. He freed his lance from its holster and settled it in the arret attached to his breastplate under his right arm. His fingers fumbled as he struggled to fasten the grapper, but at last it held firm. The peasants, knowing they were no match for whatever approached, had run for shelter up the hill.

The light deep within the fog grew and strengthened, as did the rumbling noise.  It waxed brilliant, and the earth shuddered as if beneath the pounding of a thousand hooves. Smoke filled the night air, reeking of the sulfurous Abyss, combined with a howling as cacophonous as the shrieks of all the damned in Hell.

Dragon-Linda_BlackWin24_JanssonWhat emerged from the mist was impossible — an Iron Dragon of immense height and girth.

“Courage men! For God and King Gruffydd!” His bowels had turned to water, but Aeddan and his men stood firm in the face of the demon, sure that death would be their reward.

The fiery light emanating from the burning maw lit the night, and the ground shook as the beast roared and raced ever closer. As the beast sped toward him, a burning wind blowing straight out of Hell knocked Aeddan and his horse to the side of the Devils Road and using that opportunity, the Iron Dragon thundered past him, heading into its lair.

Stunned, Aeddan scrambled to his feet, staring as the length of the beast passed him by, the body taller than a house and long, like an unimaginably giant, demonic centipede. The length of the beast was incomprehensible, lit by the fire within and glowing with row upon row of openings. The faces of the damned, souls who’d been consumed by the ravening beast peered out as they flashed by. Sparks flew from its many hooves.

Terrified his men would be crushed by the immense creature he shouted for them to back off, his voice drowned by the din.

Abruptly it was gone, vanished inside its lair. In the sudden, deafening silence, Aeddan wondered how such a thing could possibly have fit into the cave. Yet it had done so, and other than the stench of its passing, there was no sign of it.

He remounted and settled his lance in the holster beside his stirrup, then turned to his men. “Rouse the village. We must seal its lair with stone and mortar. We may not be able to kill it, but at least, we can stop it from marauding and decimating the countryside.”

>>><<<

Mist shrouded the small valley just outside of the village of Pencader. Engine Driver Owen Pendergrass looked at his pocket watch and opened the logbook, noting the time and that they had just departed Pencader Station. He said to the fireman, Colin Jones, “We should be approaching the tunnel, though it’s hard to tell in this mist. We’re making good time despite the fog. We’ll be in Carmarthen on schedule.”

“Sir! Look just ahead! What…?” Colin pointed ahead.

A group of mounted men dressed as medieval knights, complete with lances lowered as if prepared to joust, appeared out of the mist, attempting to block their path. “God in heaven — what next!” Blowing the whistle to scare them off the tracks, Owen pulled the brake cord, but there was no way the train could stop soon enough. In no time at all, the train was upon the knights, scattering them and blowing past. Owen looked out the window, to see if they’d survived, but they were gone as if they’d never been.

“Vanished,” said Colin. “Like the ghosts when we passed through here yesterday.”

Hiding his trembling hands, Owen shook his head. “It was a close call, but no harm was done. We’ll not be mentioning this to the authorities, eh? Not after the way our report was received yesterday. It’s a haunted valley, but it’ll do us no good to mention it to anyone important.”

Colin agreed and turned back to fueling his fire, shoveling coal as if he could work the fear out of his mind.

The connecting door opened and Harrison, the chief steward, entered. Pendergrass told him the same thing, and the old man agreed. “We got in enough trouble at the yard yesterday for mentioning the ghosts. I’ll go soothe the passengers.”

“Tell them it was just the mist and the dark playing tricks on their eyes.” Owen shook his head and glanced out the window, seeing they had emerged from the tunnel into a clear, cold evening and would soon be at the next stop, the village of Llanpumpsaint. “Playing tricks indeed.”


“The Iron Dragon” © 2016 Connie J. Jasperson, All Rights Reserved

(first published Apr. 1, 2016 on Life in the Realm of Fantasy)

Art: Dragon By Linda BlackWin24 Jansson [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Filed under #FlashFictionFriday, Dragons, Fantasy, Literature

#flashfictionfriday: When You are Old, by W. B. Yeats

maude_gonne_by_sarah_purser_1898

Maude Gonne, by Sarah Purser, 1898

WHEN you are old and grey and full of sleep,

And nodding by the fire, take down this book,

And slowly read, and dream of the soft look

Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

 

How many loved your moments of glad grace,

And loved your beauty with love false or true,

But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,

And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

 

And bending down beside the glowing bars,

Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled

And paced upon the mountains overhead

And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.


When You Are Old,  by W.B. Yeats, first appeared in The Rose, a collection of twenty-two poems published by William Butler Yeats in 1893. His works entered the public domain in 2010, 70 years after his death.

Many poems in the collection, The Rose, express Yeats’ unrequited love for Maude Gonne. Though she had resisted his courtship at the time  The Rose was published, it is understood that her rejection of him was not complete, and during those years he did have some small glimmer of hope.

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Filed under Poetry, writing