WRITING Stories from a Turtle

Discussion in 'SHOWCASING' started by Turtle of Doom, May 16, 2015.

  1. So, from time to time I enjoy writing short stories. Mostly as writing exercises and whatnot. I have a few finished stories, and a few that I've been writing in installments and I figured I'd post them here. Feel free to let me know what you think, or if you really want me to add another installment to a story go ahead and let me know that as well.
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  2. We Don't Exist

    Part I
    “They sent me because I don’t exist”
    I am nobody. I do not exist. Not in an official capacity, anyway. I was never born, and as such I will never die. I’ve never held a job, and yet I’m who they sent. I was sent because I don’t exist, and I’m okay with that. I expect it, and accept it as my purpose. Or at least…. I did.

    That call changed everything.

    “Alala,” the nameless voice on the other end of the phone always started with my name. He spoke it as though I was his pet. Something to be controlled; perhaps I was. “The situation has progressed beyond normal means of control.” Again, these words were his standard operating procedure. My handler liked to remind me that I was a last resort option only. It squelched any ideas I might have had about asking for more missives, or so they thought.

    In fact, I dreaded the missions. I never knew if I was going to come back, and capture wasn’t an option. I knew that death would be merciful in comparison.

    Handler didn’t wait for my acknowledgement. He didn’t have to. He knew I was listening. He knew I really had no choice in the matter. “Your assignment is simple. Infiltrate and destroy. This may be something that will take time. The details have been uploaded to your filepad.” The line went dead, and I immediately placed the phone back on the dresser.

    The streets were dark. They’d been this way for all time, as far as I had been taught, though logic told me better. Decrepit wires and posts jutted the landscape. Remnants of a time past. Remnants of a time I had not been told of. The night attempted to be silent, but my ears had been grown for moments like these. Moments where a normal soldier would have been taken by surprise. It was barely audible, but I could hear it. The quick, light footfalls of the scout that had been sent to follow and track my movements.

    It was difficult for me to play along at times like this, but I did so with increasing effort. I wanted to turn and confront the being following me. My instincts and training demanded it, but the mission forbade it. Instead, I pulled the ragged, and filthy blanket closer to my body and cowered against the shadows of the crumbled buildings.

    My ears caught more feet joining the first set, and soon it would have been ridiculous to pretend I couldn’t hear. They had allowed me to walk myself into a dead end, and I curled up in the corner. “I-I can hear you, you know!” To my pleasure my voice trembled as it left my throat. My training never failed me in these situations, but it was a happy moment every time.
    My fear was greeted with a wave of titters and chuckles before a young voice called back at me from somewhere above. “You heard us because we let you.” It was so youthful that I had a hard time differentiating whether it was male or female. “What are you doing here? This is our place. Nobody is allowed!”

    I stood slowly, not knowing if my stalkers were armed or not. “How old are you?” I couldn’t help it. This couldn’t be the group of rebels I was supposed to infiltrate. The file had read as though they were kids, but in a maturity sense not in a chronological sense.

    “None of your business, lady!” The voice box leaped from a shattered window and landed hard on the ground in front of me. His little body crumpled onto the ground. I stood in shock, unsure of myself for the first time in my life. What was I supposed to do with this now broken child. My shock spread as he unfolded his should be paralyzed body and stood straight and firm in front of me. His eyes shimmered like an animals in the darkness, and I could barely make out overly large ears.

    I stumbled back against the wall. This time I wasn’t acting. “What are you?”

    “I’m defective, duh!”

    “Defective? What are you talking about, kid? You are a kid, right? Where are your parents?” My rambling questions were apparently my natural defense mechanism. This was a discovery to me. I’d never been in a situation where my training hadn’t covered all possibilities. What the hell is going on?

    “We ain’t got parents. It’s just us.” As the boy spoke ‘they’ made themselves visible. Sliding out of the shadows into the pale light from the moon. I felt my eyes widen and my jaw drop. A group of forty or more children now had me cornered in an alley. I had heard them, sure, but I had only suspected maybe fifteen.

    “Tie her hands and blindfold her!” The mouthpiece shouted at the horde right before tiny feet began kicking my shins with remarkable strength. I found that despite my incredible pain tolerance, and years of training, I allowed myself to be brought down.

    An round cherub face popped up in front of mine, she was so adorable that I just wanted to squeeze her cheeks and hold her to my chest. What the fuck? Never in my life have I ever felt a maternal or nurturing instinct, but this small child brought it out in me. That is until she growled, revealing rows of pointed, shark-like teeth.
    Those teeth were the last thing I saw before a crusty thick cloth was wrapped around my head, and the world went black.

    Part II
    Old blood, dirt, and only the gods know what else filled my nose and mouth, making me gag as my body was led blindly though the underbelly of society. Inside that crusty piece of fabric, I lost all sense of time, and my generally epic sense of direction became skewed and distorted. I couldn’t tell up from down, save from the fact that my feet were on the ground so that must have been down. I can honestly say, that I never had truly felt fear before this. Funny how the smallest of creatures can be the most terrifying.

    And I can’t tell you what I was expecting when the crust was finally removed from my eyes, but whatever it was it sure wasn’t what I got.

    The light was dim, but once the blindfold was removed, my eyes adjusted quickly. Only a few flickers of artificial light shone in the darkness of what was once a warehouse. An extremely busy warehouse from the looks of the hastily discarded crates, and pallets lying around the floor. The windows that weren’t shattered and replaced with boards were painted, refusing to allow even the smallest glimmer of natural light though, and the room dwarfed everybody in it by stretching at least thirty feet into the air.

    What used to be thick concrete flooring was cracked and broken beneath my feet; another prime example of nature reclaiming what had long been hers. Weeds and roots jutted up through the chasms, making each potential step potentially dangerous. I couldn’t very well move anyway, the teacup humans were closely clustered around me legs, making any movement damned near impossible.

    The tiny humans, if that’s what they could really be called, were everywhere. Hanging from the rafters, piled into the shelving that hung precariously off the wall, and scattered across the floor. There were hundreds of them, easily. Looking around, I noticed that not a single one of them was older than I was, and the youngest were still babes being toted around by the others. I opened my mouth to speak, and the words didn’t want to come. The got stuck in my throat for a long time before I was finally able to push them out. “What is this place?”

    The little one I had dubbed ‘Mouthpiece’ reappeared, stepping onto a chair right in front of me so that we were face to face. His ears were adorable, like the floppy ears of a young puppy, and I found I suddenly had the urge to reach out and scratch them. He must have seen the thought move across my because he growled and his fists clenched at his side. It was hard not to smile. I was out numbered, bound, and thoroughly surrounded, but being threatened by a child of no more than seven or eight gave me a case of the giggles.

    I tried my very best to stifle my laughter, but a few choked chortles escaped anyway, and Mouthpiece reached out and bopped me on the head. “Shut up! It’s not funny!” His little voice cracked in anger, and the laughter just burst from me in waves.– I might add that up until this point, I have never found anything particularly funny in my entire life. I have no idea what happened, or how my humor switch was suddenly flipped, but even at this point, I suppose I felt an inherent kinship with the beings around me.

    “Shut up!” All of a sudden, Mouthpiece’s face was pressed against mine. The grainy feel of the dirt smeared across his skin was enough to get my attention, but if that wasn’t enough his breath was raunchy enough to make my eyes water. “You can’t laugh at us! You’re all tied up, and we could kill you, you know. We’ve had to kill the soldiers. You’re different, but we could kill you if we had to…”

    His voice sounded desperate, but he didn’t waver from his stance; pressed against my face, every muscle in his tiny body rigid and ready to strike. I cleared my throat once more, and he gave me a little bit of room. When the words came once again, they were deliberate, and slow. No more giggles pitching me into a frenzy. “What. Is. This. Place.”

    “This is home.”

    The voice didn’t belong to the boy. It came from behind him, older and definitely more feminine. I stood on my tiptoes trying to see who it belonged to and demand more of an explanation, but with the group of children huddled around my feet the movement set my balance off, and I began to tilt.

    The crowd gasped and scattered, though much to my dismay my hands were still bound behind my back, and there was nothing to catch me beyond the jagged and marred concrete as I fell off to the side. My shoulder popped loudly, and I felt it dislocate. Groaning in pain, I rolled off my side and onto my back, my eyes shut and brows furrowed in pain. Truth be told, it wasn’t the most comfortable of positions; laying on my back with my arms tied behind me and a dislocated shoulder, but it could have been worse.

    A fluorescent face appeared above mine, hovering about a foot away as she crouched over me. Her eyes had the same eerie glow that her skin did, though they were a bright, aquamarine, whereas her skin was shining white. Her cupid bow lips pursed together and she shook her head, solemnity and distrust filling her glittering eyes. “Why did you bring this one back, Bethel? She’s just another lost one.”

    My ears picked up the faint sound of Mouthpiece descending from his pedestal and coming close, I could tell the faint light was beginning to reflect of my teal eyes, and I was starting to get that strange feeling of fear again. Every hair on my body stood on end, and goosebumps pimpled my flesh. The boy came even close and grasped the hem of my shirts pulling them up over my face. “I can smell the difference,” Mouthpiece and Bethel were apparently one and the same, and I knew that there was no point in trying to hide what they were all now gaping at.

    “Oh my God,” the glow stick whispered, her words heavy with surprise. “She’s one of us?”
    #2 Turtle of Doom, May 16, 2015
    Last edited: May 16, 2015
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  3. Antiquing

    Part I
    The morning sun had risen well into the sky by the time Shelby had managed to drag Jason out of bed and into the car to hunt for lost treasures that the neighbors had decided to sell to the strangers that had meandered to the front of their homes. The first three yard sales had proven to be a waste of time, which was Jason’s argument for heading home and having an early brunch.

    Shelby frowned as she conceded defeat and turned the car around. She pouted silently as they drove through the winding twists and turns of their neighborhood. Jason’s guilt flared as he watched his beautiful fiancé twist her mouth in sullen defeat.

    “Perhaps we can hit one more sale before we get all the way home.” He showed her his most charming smile, and gestured out the front window. “There’s a sign there how convenient.”
    Shelby brushed his hand away as Jason feigned grabbing for the steering wheel and she happily turned the car to follow the arrow, down a small side road that was hardly the size of an alley. Shelby tittered excitedly as they headed deeper into the countryside, talking about how exquisite the houses out this way were, and trying her best to convince Jason that this was the one. She rambled on and on about all of the treasures they were sure to find at this place. Jason smiled amiably at her as he listened in silence, keeping his feelings of uncertainty and discontent to himself.

    The pavement gave way to gravel, and then to hard packed dirt before the next directional arrow pointed them into a long driveway framed with towering pine trees. Shelby’s prattling turned to hushed mumbles before ceasing all together in her awe. The trees shaded the drive, the sun fought through the boughs in glittering rays as the car drove smoothly along the graceful curve up to the front of the house.

    The building was the idyllic southern manse. A long porch, wrapped around the house, with a flourish of lush green vines covered in breathtaking orange flowers hid the walls. Shelby gently eased the car to a stop and hopped out of the vehicle. Her face was awash with delight and curiosity as she all but skipped up the steps. Jason shuffled his feet as he followed his lover, catching up with her where she had halted at the entrance to the porch.

    A myriad of antiquities were placed in careful rows along the ground to either side, with carefully made footpaths leading through and around. Jason eased himself down the narrow pathway towards the corner of the porch. A few pieces of intricately carved, and aging furniture were placed along the outside of the porch next to the creeping foliage. At the edge of the house he peered down the connecting wall and saw much and more of the same. These were the treasures that Shelby had been hoping for on this little adventure of hers, but there was no way they could afford any of these things.

    “Darling, these things are surely outside our price range.” Jason summoned the most remorseful look he could manage.

    Shelby wasn’t convinced. “Surely there is some little bauble that we could find. We haven’t been here but for just a few minutes, and we haven’t even spoken to the owner.”

    She gave him a defiant look as she crossed the porch to the front door and pushed her finger to the doorbell. Bong, bong, BING, BONG. The doorbell resonated through the house and Shelby tiptoed to peer through the window at the top of the door.

    “Someone’s coming!” Her eyes were bright with excitement and her voice had almost squeaked with giddiness.

    Jason smirked to himself as he watched the woman try to contain herself as she waiting for the door to open. Once it did though, part of her excitement morphed into fear as the withered old man’s face came into focus in the dimly lit threshold.

    Part II
    His cheeks were sunk in, and in the faint light of the doorway his eyes were close to invisible, as they had fallen deep inside his skull. His skin was grey and every wrinkle gave the impression that his face may actually fall off at any moment.

    Noticing Shelby’s surprise Jason stepped briskly to her side and wrapped a comforting arm around her shoulder before turning his attention to the man standing in front of them. “Good morning, sir. We saw the signs saying you were having a yard sale. I hope we’re not disturbing you.”

    “Of course not, young man.” The man’s voice was barely steady, and each word seemed as if it completely drained his air supply. “Feel free to look around. I will be sitting in the corner if you need assistance.”

    Jason inclined his head in a polite nod as he thanked the man and led his speechless fiance around to the side. “We will start back here and work our way back towards the car.”

    Shelby managed a quick nod as Jason led her out of the old man’s direct view. “I thought he was dead when he answered the door.” She whispered quietly as they rounded the corner. “Then when he spoke I was sure that if he wasn’t dead, he would be as soon as he finished speaking….” Her voice trailed off as her shock wore off and a shiny knickknack caught her gaze.

    Jason grinned as his beloved started babbling again. Showing him this thing or that thing, asking his opinion. He feigned interest in the the antiques she seemed the most pleased with, smiling wider and nodding his head as she pointed out the oddities and quirks of each piece.

    Shelby had handed Jason an armful of her favorite treasures as they rounded the corner and started to make their way across the porch. “WOW! Look at this, hon!” She was suddenly crouching in front of a large, exquisitely painted vase.

    Jason leaned over her shoulder to get a better look and was taken aback by the immense amount of detail that would have gone into hand painting such a large vase. The vase itself was made from some sort of ceramic, and was coated with a smooth gloss. At first glance Jason thought just the one panel was fully detailed, it showed a battle of sorts in great detail. The individuals were all very plainly depicted, save for the one be gouged by a spear. As Shelby turned the masterpiece in her hands he realized that there were more panels completely surrounding the outside of the vase. Each panel displayed a different part of a man’s life. From the pictures he had not been the best of men. As she finished her inspection Jason realized that the vase told the story of one person’s life and their death. Two of the panels even depicted a funeral procession.

    “Bring it, babe. I want that one.” Shelby turned her head to look at him and he laughed at her look of skepticism. “Come on, let’s let the man go back inside. Grab my wallet out of my back pocket, will ya?”

    Shelby maneuvered his billfold out of his jeans before grabbing up the urn and following Jason to the old man. They both grinned at the old man as they negotiated what both parties deemed were fair prices for each of the treasures they had found. After loading up they gave the old man a friendly wave and headed home.

    Part III
    Shelby busied herself arranging all of her new treasures on the mantle once they got home, Jason just sat on the couch with the urn between his feel, propping it up at an advantageous angle, spinning it and closely inspecting each panel several times over. Each panel was painted with fine black lines. The humanoid figures were all identical, save for one. In every panel there was a solitary figure that was depicted in a burnt orange. Jason assumed the color had been a deep red originally, but he couldn’t be for sure.

    After spending close to an hour spinning the ceramic in front of him the shock caused by Shelby’s voice nearly caused him to throw the vase. “You’re gonna have to find a spot for that, ya know. It’s pretty and all, but it’s not going to live in the center of the living room.”

    “Yeah, yeah. Any ideas? I want it in sight.”

    Shelby gave him a questioning look, and took the vase out of his grasp. She set it near the door. The top came up above her knees. “How’s this? I was hoping we could find some practical use for it. Maybe plant something in it? Or use it for umbrellas?”

    Jason grimaced at her suggestion. “It looks good there. No umbrellas though.”

    She laughed and ushered him into the kitchen for an early dinner. Shelby chattered nonstop about this thing or that thing as they ate. Jason just nodded occasionally, trying to pay attention, but his mind would not stop thinking about the man on the vase. Were the panels just a way of storytelling? Were they a warning? Maybe the red man was somebody of great importance and the vase acted like an ancient history book for children to learn from.

    “Jay? Jason! Are you listening to me at all?” Jason’s head snapped up and he realized that he must have been lost in his own head for several minutes.
    He blushed and apologized. “Yard sales must’ve worn me out. Sorry, love.”

    Her lips pursed and her face morphed into what he normally referred to as “Grumpy Face”. Sensing she was too upset for him to joke with he instead stood up and gathered the plates. He bent and kissed the top of her head on his way to the sink.

    Shelby refused to speak to him the rest of the evening. He cleaned up the dinner dishes, and they watched some television before heading to bed.
    “Goodnight, love.” Jason whispered into Shelby’s ear as they settled beneath their blankets. “Sleep sweet.”

    After several moment of silence, Shelby rolled over and gave him a soft kiss. “Goodnight, handsome.”

    Jason slipped into a fitful sleep. His dreams wracked with nasty images of brutalized bodies, and burning houses. It was so real he could smell the decayed flesh, and feel the flames licking his cheeks and singing his eyelashes. He could see and smell everything, but could not control his own body, no matter how hard he fought. The night seemed to last an eternity. He lived an entire sordid lifetime in his sleep that night.


    Jason scrambled to reach the alarm. “Dammit!” He had cut his hand. The sudden pain shook the remaining sleep from his mind and he gaped at the chunks of glass that riddled the bedroom from the nightstand all the way to the door.

    “What happened?!” Shelby’s voice was still tinged with sleep.

    “No clue… be super careful though, darling. There’s glass everywhere.” Jason finally managed to silence the alarm.

    His gaze swept meticulously across the room and noticed that the full length mirror covering the inside of their bedroom door was empty of all the glass it had contained the night before. It looked as if the glass had imploded and rained down on the room, stopping directly at the bed. Jason warily noted that there was not a single shard present on the bed.

    “Oh my gosh!” Shelby had finally woken enough for the full effect of the scene in their bedroom to hit her.

    “I’m gonna use the blanket to cover the floor closest to the bed so we can at least stand and clear a pathway.” Jason tried to assure her with his voice, but to his dismay it kept catching in his throat.

    It took them close to an hour to push their way through to the door, Jason leading the way and Shelby following in his exact footsteps as he had instructed her to do. Once in the hallway Jason breathed a sigh of relief as the rest of the house appeared to be in the exact same order it had when they retired the night before. He shook the dark feeling off and mentally assured himself that the glass had been a fluke. A mere happenstance. The mirror must have been faulty and they were simply extremely lucky.

    He walked into the living room and stopped dead in his tracks. The vase was sitting dead center on the short round coffee table. He cast a quick look over his shoulder at Shelby, who had yet to notice before rushing across the living room and scooping it into his arms. He manage to make it all the way to the door by the time Shelby stumbled into the living room.

    “Well, I suppose, I’m gonna call in to–” She stopped when she saw him holding the urn in his arms. “I understand you like that thing, but hugging it for not being broken is a little bit excessive, don’t ya think?”
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  4. So, this one is a little different. It was a writing prompt, and it's a finished exercise. It was something quick and fun... So here it is.

    She Wanted Me to Break It
    She wanted me to break it. I stared at the doll in my hands, fighting an epic and internal battle. I wanted to do what she asked. I wanted to make her happy. I had long ago outgrown the doll, but it was the only thing that had ever been mine.

    “I can’t…” I said, avoiding her eyes. I did not need to see her face to know that she was angry with me.

    She scoffed at me and grabbed for the porcelain arm that I had not managed to wrap in my protective embrace. Jerking back out of arm’s reach I gave her a look that could have killed.

    “It’s mine. It’s mine to break or not! If you break it it won’t be the same!”

    “Yeah, yeah. You’re gonna have to get rid of it. It’s freaky anyway.”

    Jessica’s voice made me cringe. I had started to wish I never had met her, but deep down I knew she was right. She was bossy, and rude at times, but she was right. If I wanted to get rid of the past, I would have to get rid of the things from the past. I could not run away with the past with me. I took a deep breath and glanced down once again at the doll’s faded face. Her eyes were almost gone from the years I carried her with me everywhere, her blonde hair was matted and grey in the spots it had not fallen out. This doll was the only thing I had of the family that had not wanted me. The only thing that was constant from foster home to foster home, then with me to the group home when nobody else wanted me anymore.

    “Did you have something to break, Jess?”

    “Nah, nobody ever cared enough to give me shit.” Her brown eyes were dull underneath a scowling brow. “I guess that made it easier for me, ya know. Maybe those assholes all did me a favor by not giving me anything I would have to get rid of. So, you gonna do this or what? I mean, I can’t wait for you all day.”

    I just nodded and walked to the tree line, just to get away from her. I knew that I needed to make this decision alone. I knew that I needed to be alone if I was going to do this. I would need a moment to talk myself into following through, then probably several moments after to grieve the loss of my oldest friend.

    My breath was shaky as I exhaled. Drawing up all the resolve I possessed, I drew my arm back, doll in hand. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. On my next exhale I hurdled the doll as hard as I could manage. She smashed into a nearby tree. Shards of porcelain rained to the ground and the cloth parts of the body hit the ground with a soft thump.

    I guess I had collapsed and started screaming, because the next thing I know Jessica was dragging me to my feet trying to get me to hush. After cradling me in her arms for what seemed like forever Jessica wiped my tears and smiled at me.

    “We have to go now. We have to get out of here!” She sounded so happy that I tried to smile at her, but I failed, so instead I just nodded.
    I let her lead me into the woods towards our stashed supplies. We had never had families before, but now, we could escape the past. Now we both had nothing but each other. We could get away from the homes and the rejection once and for all now. We would be each others family from now until the end of forever.

    We left that day, and never looked back.
  5. 1904

    An agonized scream ripped through the otherwise peaceful night, penetrating the silence of the New Moon and tearing through the countryside in varying echoes.

    “You hafta stop that, girl. I know it hurts, but I need you to focus.” The midwife’s voice was calm, but her patience was starting to wane.

    “It’s much too early,” came the tearful response.

    “I know it is, but we can save your babe. Just focus on pushing, girl. Once she’s out we will do all we can, but right now we cannot help her.” She shook her head for emphasis before continuing. “Not at all. You’re the only one who can save her right now.”

    The midwife pushed the sweaty blonde hair off the mother’s forehead and gave her an encouraging smile that seemed to say “You can do this”.

    Another ear splitting scream erupted throughout the room as the young mother’s whole body tensed up. Her overly large stomach pressing against her knees. Her body was pushing whether or not she was ready.

    “Get the strap please, sister.” Deidra looked to the woman assisting her and gave her a knowing look before shifting her gaze back to the young woman lying spread-eagle on the bed in front of her writhing in agony. “Laura is going to give you a piece of leather to bite down on. As soon as you feel that pain, girl you better bite down. Close your mouth and think about this babe now. Don’t you scream no more, you hear me?”

    Before she had a chance to respond, the leather was in her mouth, effectively gagging her. The young mother had no choice but to bite down.

    After another hour of grueling pushing she was exhausted, and had pressed her body to the point of physical collapse. She had nothing left in her, or so it felt when Deidra's dark face paled and she looked up from between the girl’s knees.

    “You neeta push now. I’m going to reach in and grab the babe, but you gotta push.” Her eyes went wide as she reached into the other woman. “There’s another baby in here; that’s why you is delivering early, girl. Push. Now.”

    With a grunt, the young mother gave everything she had to deliver her babies into the world, but as it turned out everything she had was too much for her body to bear. With one last shuddering sigh her body went limp, and blood spread across the bed.

    Deidra knew it was too late for her, and called for help to save the babes. With some quick thinking she was able to save not one, not two, but three babies. Two very sickly little girls and a strong and healthy male.

    Deidra tsk’d and shook her head, swaddling the girls and handing them off to some of her sisters to care forl, and the turning her eyes toward the boy. A pang of guilt pierced her heart. It always did when they were infants, but to give the girls a fighting chance, and to stay true to their sisterhood she knew what needed to be done.
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  6. 1917

    Madge sighed and pushed the few strands of hair that had managed to escape her plait out of her face. It had been a long day and it was not over yet. She was hot, and sweaty, and the cough she’d developed seemed to have gotten worse over the last week. The factory air had a way of wreaking havoc on her lungs that no amount of treatment could make it better. At least tomorrow was Sunday, she would enjoy the day off.

    The walk home was quiet, and she took the time to enjoy it; her sisters would be all over her like ink on a newspaper as soon as she was home, and her mother would be grateful for the distraction.

    Sure enough as soon as she walked through the door Luella was next to her talking way too fast about Jimmy Turner and the other neighborhood children, but mostly about Jimmy and how much she despised him. The twelve year old had a penchant for speaking and given the opportunity she would rarely stop long enough to breathe.

    “Then he pulled my braid! Can you simply believe it? I know I cannot, and I told him just like that. How could a boy of his size possibly think it okay to be pulling on a girl’s hair like that? He is lucky he didn’t pull me over, that’s the truth. And I told him, Madgey, I told him that if he wanted to do it again he better think twice because I’d kick him right in the shin.”

    Madge hung up her jacket and feigned a smile for her youngest sister’s benefit before interrupting the still continuing speech with a kiss to the forehead and ruffling her dark hair. “Take a breath, I’ll be here all night. Where’s mama?”

    “She’s in the kitchen, but Madge I’m not done. So much happened today that you simply will not believe.”

    “I believe it,” she replied with a wry smile before twirling the girl around and heading into the kitchen to wash up and help Mama with dinner.

    “How was work at the factory?” Mama, a stout woman in her forties with greying hair and smiling blue eyes called out over her shoulder.

    “Tonight went well. They say they may have to increase our hours because of the demand, but I’m not sure I can work much more. I don’t know what they’re expecting from us.”

    “They’re expecting you to do your duty for your country. We need the young girls like you to take up the jobs the young men can no longer hold because they’re off fighting in the war. You know better than to question your duty, girl. Now, come help me with these potatoes.” Mama’s accent grew thicker whenever she talked about the patriotic duty of being an American, the irony of which only made Madge grin.

    Nonetheless, it wasn’t worth quarreling over, and after scrubbing her hands in the sink, she picked up a knife and got to peeling.

    Grace was already helping. At sixteen she had taken over most of Madge’s household duties once she’d started work at the factory, but she was still very young and most of her work was accompanied by silent attitude and cold looks shot across the room. She was a pretty thing though. Her brunette hair hung clear to her waist, and shone like firelight in the distance when the light caught her just right. She was delicate and bright, and everything her name said she would be. Madge had always been slightly jealous of Grace’s femininity, but that was neither here nor there. She loved her sister dearly, and wished desperately that her attitude would turn around.

    “How was school today, Grace?” she prompted, hoping to ease the tension in the room.

    Mama scoffed and wiped her hands on her apron. “Don’t you get her started again. That Miss Pritchett down at the schoolhouse has been filling our Gracie’s head here with ideas and thoughts of leaving us to go to a normal school. She thinks she wants to shirk her duties to this family and this country to become a school teacher.”

    “Mama, if you would please just listen…”

    “Grace Jennings, I have heard enough. Watch the pot now it’s about boiling over.”

    “Mama, I don’t think you’re being fair,” Madge was careful to keep her personal feelings out of her tone. She was used to, by now, being a mediator of sorts between the younger girls and their mama. “If she was to be a teacher who is to say that she won’t come back. We sure could use the extra income, and if it keeps her out of the factory…”

    “I said I’d heard enough. When your Da gets home we can talk about it as a family, but no more of this foolishness now. Come on, now. We need to get dinner on the table. The younger two should be about done with their home lessons now.”

    “I’m finished, Mama.” Winifred peeked around the corner with a sheepish grin on her face. She was a sneak, that one. Had been listening to the whole conversation and everybody knew it.

    Mama turned her around and scooted her toward the sink. “Get yourself washed up, girl. It’s about supper time, and you can set the table.”
    “Yes, ma’am.” She stuck her hands in the water and got the front of her dress thoroughly wet in the process, but she didn’t seem to pay it no mind. “I wouldn’t mind going to a normal school and then coming back to teach. But really, I want to travel. See the world. Learn to paint.”

    “Bah,” was Mama’s only response.

    Madge laughed. “Keep dreaming, Winnie. Don’t you let anyone stop you.”

    Winnie had the unfortunate design of having red hair, that looked like it might eventually turn auburn, but at the moment she was all legs and freckles and bright red hair and it had her the laughing stock of every event. The children loved to point out her faults, especially when comparing her to Gracie, but she had a spirit that just could not be pushed down. She was loud, and nosey, and Madge loved her the most out of all three of her sisters--she’d never admit to such a thing out loud though.

    “Oh, I will not! One day, I don’t know when, but I will travel and I will see everything there is to see.”

    The click of Da’s cane on the floor announced his arrival into the kitchen. They’d all been so distracted by Winnie’s speech that they hadn’t heard him come in the house. “Is that so now? Tell me girl, who will be financin’ your travels?”

    “Oh, I haven’t figured that part out yet, Da. But maybe my husband, or my art will develop so well that I can make money painting portraits for well-to-do folk and pay for my own travels.”

    “You’ll be the death of me, girlie, I tell ya that.”

    It was then that Mama filled the plates on the table and called them for supper.
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