Google+ The Bluestocking Firefly: October 2010
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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloweeeeeeen

It's Halloween! And Chris is frightened by a tree of spooky eyes...

Story inspired by this lovely image by Alison Mutton; the original may be viewed here, on her blog.


Tree of Owls

At first, everything was fine, and Chris started to remember why he liked Halloween. Mrs. Birch was still giving out bars of soap, but then Mr. Franklin made up for it with his whole bags of treats, so that was all right in the end. Chris had almost forgotten he hadn't wanted to come out trick-or-treating when Matt started to turn into Alpert Court. Chris froze.

"What's your problem?" Matt demanded, turning around. "Come
on."

"I don't wanna. Mr. Jackson's house is scary."

Matt rolled his eyes. "You're not still scared from last year, are you? You know Mr. Jackson always has the best candy, so come on." He started up the street, and for a moment Chris couldn't decide if he was more afraid of Mr. Jackson's house or being left alone. The rattle of the dried leaves in the tree over his head decided him, and he bolted after his brother.

Most of the porch lights on Alpert Court were out. The only reason anyone bothered to trick-or-treat here at all was for Mr. Jackson's candy, and only a very few - the well-informed - braved his house. Chris had been scared so badly last year that he had promised himself he wasn't going to go anywhere near Mr. Jackson's house this year, and now he found himself standing at the end of the walk again, distracted from the ghosts swooping around the porch by something in the tree in the front yard. He tugged nervously on Matt's sword.

"Matt, there's eyes in the tree.
Matt!"

Matt flipped up his eye patch and squinted upward. "So?"

Chris swallowed. The tree, dimly lit by the flickering lights in the house, was occupied by a dozen glowing eyes scattered throughout the branches. The eyes seemed to hang in midair, peering down at the two boys in the yard as though waiting for them to pass beneath.

"I'm not going up there," Chris said.

"You're being stupid," Matt said. "Don't be such a baby." Giving Chris a push that nearly knocked him over, he ran up the path to the porch. He knocked on the front door and waved at his brother while he waited for Mr. Jackson to answer the door. Chris hunched his shoulders and listened to the wind knock the branches together, trying not to look at the multitude of eyes gleaming against the dark above him.

Matt bounded down the steps and ran back towards him. "That was great," he said, rummaging through his candy bag. "He's got loads of stuff because practically no one's come by." He stuffed a Snickers in his mouth and said, around the chocolate, "So you're too much a scaredy-cat to go ring the doorbell?"

"I'm not scared!" Chris clutched the handle of his bag tightly. "I'm not."

"Sure you're not," Matt said affably. "But you still won't go ring the doorbell, so I get to tell everybody you're a big scaredy." He grinned and leaned forward, a smear of chocolate at the corner of his mouth. "They'll all say you're a biiiiiig baby." He mimed sucking a pacifier and dodged Chris's punch, laughing. "Get up there, you."

Chris faced the porch. One step, two... He snuck another glance at the tree and closed his eyes.

"Move it, stupid!" Matt called, and Chris felt a pebble hit his cape. The impact startled him and he scrambled for the porch, ducking under one of the ghosts and running face first into a spider web. Panicking, he pounded on the door. After a moment, he heard shuffling footsteps inside, and then the door creaked open.

"Why, Christopher, Happy Halloween," said Mr. Jackson, holding a large tray. "Caramel apple?" He peered more closely at the boy in front of him. "Is something the matter, my boy? You look as though you'd seen a ghost." He chuckled at the joke and held out an apple; Chris took it with shaking hands. "What is it, Christopher?"

Chris took a deep breath. "Your - your tree," he said. "It's - it's got eyes in it!"

Mr. Jackson gave him a perplexed smile. "Why, so it does." He set down the tray of apples and picked up a bowl of candy. "I spent all of yesterday carving those pumpkins to look like owl eyes, you know, and got one of my neighbors to put them all up in the tree for me and light them too." He leaned out the door and studied the tree of eyes. "I think it looks pretty good, myself, don't you?"

"You mean they're just
pumpkins?"

"Oh, my dear boy, don't tell me they've frightened you?"

"No," Chris said hastily. "'Course not. I wasn't scared at all. I think it's really cool. Thanks for the apple, Mr. Jackson, and the candy. I can't wait to tell my brother!"

He trotted down the steps and stopped halfway across the yard to look up at the tree. This time, it didn't look nearly so scary. They just looked like cleverly carved eyes, lit up from within by candles. Much more cheerful now, Chris took a bite from his apple and ran to catch up with Matt, deciding that maybe he did like Halloween, after all.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Foxgloves

Sometime last week (or was it the week before?) my friend Alison Mutton and I decided, in the spirit of encouraging each other to blog more often, that we would try trading off: one week she would draw something and I would write a piece off of it, and the following week I would write something and she would draw something based on it.

The following, therefore, is based on her sketch 'Foxgloves', the original of which may be found here, on Alison's blog. Alison has kindly allowed me to re-post the sketch upon which I have based my story, so it may also be found below.


Foxgloves


Isabella clambered up into the wagon, gathering her skirts into one paw to climb over the side. Thomas saw their mother settled and then hoisted himself into the seat, propping a boot against the buckboard and letting the reins dangle from his paws. As Isabella braced herself against the back of the seat, her brother clucked to the doe and the wagon jolted forward down the track.

The town meeting hall was already full by the time they arrived. Isabella dropped to the ground and pulled on her gloves, and then checked her hat to make certain it hadn't slid to the side before going to greet her friend Mary.

"Good evenin', Mary," Isabella said. "Punch?"

Mary looked up and smiled. Isabella held up the glass of punch; Mary took it and wrapped her paws around it tightly.

"You look awful anxious," Isabella said, leaning against the edge of the table and sipping at her own cup.

"Oh, it ain't nothin'," Mary said. "I mean, I'm sure if it was you, you wouldn't be anxious at all."

"Afraid my brother ain't goin' to ask you to dance?" Mary ducked her head in embarrassment. "I don't mind, you know. You ain't the only one who's sweet on him."

"He sure is handsome, ain't he?" Mary breathed. She saw Isabella's expression and laughed. "What else are these dances for but for lookin' at boys? Ain't you sweet on anyone, Isabella?"

Isabella shook her head vehemently. "No."

Surprised, Mary wheedled, "There ain't no one you think's just a
little handsome?"

Isabella's eyes drifted without thinking to the son of the saloon owner, and then snapped back to Mary. "No one," she said sharply. "And that ain't a bad thing, either, for what's the use of fixin' my cap at a handsome fella just to get my heart broke?" She shook her head. "Ain't no use, Mary. I talk too much. Anyone'll tell you that right off. I like to do what
I like to do. What fox wants a vixen like that?"

As Mary opened her mouth to respond, Thomas walked up to them and took off his hat. "Miss Mary?"

"Why, good evenin', Mr. Perry."

"If I ain't mistaken," Thomas said, "this here's the Moonlight Reel, which I do believe is your favorite." He held out his paw. "Will you dance it with me?"

Smiling shyly, Mary took Thomas's paw and followed him out onto the dance floor. Isabella retreated into Mary's corner and leaned against the wall, watching the dancers.

"What's the matter, Miss Perry? Cain't you dance?"

Isabella stared straight ahead as Thomas danced forward and bowed before moving back into his place in line. "Don't you know that's an awful impolite question to ask a lady?"

"I don't see no lady."

"I see workin' in your daddy's saloon ain't taught you no manners, Jack."

He slouched against the wall beside her. "Maybe it would've taught you some, Izzie."

"You suggestin' I should take up whorin'?"

"Doin' no such thing," Jack replied, watching her profile. "Only sayin' you could use someone to teach you manners."

She finally looked up at him. "Well, you sure ain't volunteerin'."

"Ain't I?"

Her breath caught in her throat. "Surely not," she said lightly. "You ain't that generous."

"The gloves don't suit you," he murmured. His paw brushed against her cheek and she jerked away.

"Jack Tracy, just what do you think you're doin'?"

"You got a bit of feather," he said. "You want me to get it, or what?" When she didn't respond, he leaned forward and plucked the feather from her fur, and then gently ran the back of his paw along the length of her cheekbone.

"Isabella!"

Jack's paw dropped to his side and he stepped away from the wall. "Evenin', Mrs. Perry," he said, tipping his hat.

"Why, Jack, I almost didn't recognize you," Mrs. Perry said. "You look so grown up in them clothes."

"Thank you, ma'am. If you'll excuse me. Miss Perry. Ma'am." He nodded to them both and slipped away through the crowd; Isabella's eyes followed him until her mother spoke.

"What were you and Jack talkin' about?"

"Nothin'," Isabella said, worrying one of her gloves. "Nothin' at all."