The Clearing: Part 5
Hello! Hope you all had a lovely Halloween yesterday. It made for a lot of excitement at our house, that's for sure. (And resulted in a lot of candy lol)
Let's see... what's been going on...? My current short story, The Clearing, wraps up this week, which means the free downloads are posted and waiting for you! With this one ending on November 1, I'll be starting a new short story next week. :)
And how is it already November?? Can we have an extra October in 2019 so there's a chance to catch up on where I needed to be this year? And an extra week or two in November would be great – especially for all the NaNoWriMo2019 writers! I won't be officially participating, but I'm planning to keep track of my word count and see where I finish by the end of the month. I will also be cheering for and encouraging all the participants I run across in Twitter-landia.
No idea what that weird 'NaNoWriMo' abbreviation is for? No problem! Check out this link:
My muse is unpredictable and, unfortunately for me, setting goals in anything has proven to feed my anxiety and block my productivity. It's weird, but if I want to achieve something, I get there faster without establishing plans and assigning deadlines. This is something I used to want to change about myself, which added to the anxiety mess inside my head, but now I realize it's part of how I operate: clear ideas of what I'd like to have, fuzzy methods of achieving it, and massive amounts of contingency planning with completely open exits for switching pursuits when and as needed or wanted.
Inside my head is messy.
However, with all the extra people... um... 'characters' in here, being chaotically organized lets me keep track of my and their realities simultaneously. That helps a lot when writing. I like to think this personality trait of mine is creatively useful. (Which is a much better spin on it than being constantly scatter-brained while still knowing what most of the loose ends of thought are attached to.) Hope you have a great weekend!
5. Debts and Promises
Felix woke up to dogs barking. He scrubbed the disorientation out of his eyes and sat up. Had he been out here all night? Distant voices yelling his name, the sun being up, and more barking answered the question. The events of yesterday, why he’d slept outside all night, slammed into his conscious mind. A squeak peeped out of his armpit as his body tensed with remembering Luis hitting his mom and then chasing him out of the house. His call to nine-one-one must’ve been answered because he remembered the sirens when he’d been running away, but… why was he out here with some old unicorn toy that had been forgotten outside by some kid probably ten years ago wedged under his arm?
His shoe thunked against something hard and he looked down to see the music box he remembered dreaming about. He set the scruffy unicorn aside and picked up the box, winding it once and hearing enough to know that it played The Teddy Bears Picnic. The lid closed with the snap of the stopper inside interrupting the spring-driven spinning of the little gears. He finished winding until it clicked because, well, why not? Then he set it down and looked around. There were five toys close to him, six if he counted the unicorn he’d been sleeping with, but these five were pretty beat up; they were mud encrusted from their chins down and had small sticks, thorns and dead grass poking out all over them.
He remembered cleaning up the unicorn before… he’d played picnic with it and then fell asleep to dream about dancing with him… it? Felix realized that he must’ve had a breakdown episode after everything with his step dad last night. He absently reached over to the five toys and picked branches out of frayed stitching and thorns out of plastic fur as he attempted piecing together the likely reality from the breakdown memories and dreams. The dogs and yelling people coming to find him were too far away and too loud to hear him if he answered, and the toys looked better once they were cleaned up. Tidying them and then setting them around a broken tea set like they were having a picnic presented as a cute idea while he was waiting to be found.
Once the tea party was set up, he propped the unicorn against the music box so it looked like it was about to turn the peg. In his dream, the music box had been protectively hidden inside a soggy shoe box, but he didn’t see that anywhere. He smiled at the toys having their party and, with nothing else to do, decided walking toward the people searching for him meant getting found and going home sooner. His stomach was already growling.
He started going the way most trampled, which was obviously the way he’d come from because that’s where most of the yelling was originating right now, but a growl in his memory was louder than the growling from his stomach. A stained scrap of fabric fluttered in the weak, morning sunlight from where it was caught in some thorny weeds, the pattern on it the same as one of Luis’s shirts. Going that way was a bad idea. In one of his dreams last night, Luis had found him here with the toys. He was right now standing where he’d dreamed Luis stopping. Felix backed two steps away from the direction most trampled. During the dream, moving toys had freaked out Luis enough that he’d run away.
The music box plinked and Felix spun around. All the toys he’d left facing each other were looking up at him. The music box he’d left closed was open. The little toy unicorn hefted the lid and snapped the music box shut, its head lifting slowly until its scratched eyes full of glitter were staring at him. Felix collapsed to his knees. It hadn’t been a dream! The toys really could move.
“You guys took care of me last night, didn’t you?” he asked, smiling at the realization. They all nodded once in unison. “But now I owe you,” he said. His smile faded as quickly as his stomach dropped when they all nodded again. “What, um… what do you…?”
Only the heads of the five toys at the tea party twisted to look at the unicorn. It glumly poked a hind hoof at the remains of the old shoe box Felix had squished while sleeping and then been sitting on when he’d looked around for it. He smiled at how sad they all posed for the ruined box.
“How about I get you something better than cardboard?” he offered. One by one, they stood and tumbled toward him on floppy limbs and loose stitches. It was easy to ignore the clawed gouges of their footprints mismatching the wobbling steps he could see. He hugged them gently as they snuggled against his waist, each one fluffy and soft around what his eyes told him were sticky sap stains. The little unicorn came last, dragging the music box. He picked up the cube, lifting the unicorn with it, and hugged both to his chest. “I’ll get something to keep this safe for a long time. I promise.” Their heads twisted in unison to look up at him. “Will that pay you back for keeping me safe?” As one, they all nodded and then hugged him one more time.
He set down the unicorn gently as the other toys ambled back to their tea party. The unicorn stood with a sequined hoof on his leg, watching with him as the other five sat in their places and then flumped into stillness.
“I promise I’ll get something to protect this and then I’ll bring it back,” Felix said to the unicorn.
The unicorn hugged his hip tight enough to make its squeaker peep. Felix stroked its back and cradled the music box safely into the crook of his elbow. The unicorn limped away, flumping into stillness before reaching the tea party and – for all intentions – appearing to have been dropped by a child too excited to remember they were holding a toy after seeing the rest having tea.
He stood up and brushed off the dry leaves sticking to his pajama pants. The most trampled way out of the clearing was behind him. There were also dogs barking and people yelling kind of in front of him and off to his left, though, so he decided that way was a much better direction. He jogged at first, wanting distance between himself and the clearing so the search dogs wouldn’t get into the toys, and then starting yelling replies to the people calling his name once he knew he was far enough away.
A warm jacket was wrapped over his shoulders and he’d already talked to his mom on someone’s phone when the screaming started. It was originating from the direction of the searchers who had been approaching toward the way most trampled. His grip tightened on the music box he wouldn’t let anyone else touch. Chatter over the search team’s radios confirmed they’d found Luis. What was left of Luis.
Animals had gotten to Luis. There were coyotes out here, after all. The search and rescue teams all agreed it was a miracle that Felix wasn’t hurt.
Felix looked over the arm that was hugging him, consoling him over the loss of his step father. The arm belonged to a woman who smelled like melon perfume. Two eyes that were too perfectly round were staring at him from the dark shadow inside the rotten end of a fallen tree behind her. The button eyes belonged to a little penguin with a flipper arm that was falling off. Felix’s vision flickered and the penguin changed, but quickly went back to looking right when he blinked. Felix hummed a couple of bars from The Teddy Bears Picnic and, smiling, decided he would bring thread and needles when he brought the music box back.
Leave a Reply.
A weekly blog updating on Fridays with quick personal blurbs about me, as in what's going on during my life as an Author and mom, and that doles out my short stories and novellas in bite-sized parts for everyone to read for free!