Thursday January 19th, 2017

The exercise:

We're going back to the List Prompt today. So use each of the following words in your writing: sleepy, discard, animosity, squeamish.

For those that are curious, I used a random number generator to find pages in my dictionary, then read through the words on the chosen page until I found one I wanted to use. Kinda annoyed I got two so (relatively) close together, but that's randomness for you.

The weather has returned to normal here. We're above zero for at least the next few days, and the snow has begun to melt.

In *very much* related news, my hands feel much better.


Gardenvale has often been referred to as a sleepy little hamlet and now that I'm standing here, in what passes for the town square, I can see why. It's two in the afternoon and the only people I see look like they've either just woken or are on their way to bed.

I'm also pretty sure I can hear a lullaby playing somewhere nearby. Probably the only song the local radio station allows on its airwaves.

My stomach growls - not for the first time - and I decide to find somewhere to pacify it. I try the first cafe I come to and find the door locked. Big surprise. The owner's probably taking a nap in the back. The same is true of the second and the third.

I can feel panic battling with hunger in my belly.

On a hunch I step into the alley between a coffee shop and a deli. It's dark and the stink is bad enough to make me feel squeamish. But maybe I can find an unlocked back door, convince someone to take my money for whatever they want to serve me.

I knew I should have packed a lunch before leaving the house. This is ridiculous.

Shoving aside my growing feelings of animosity toward this town and its residents, I knock on the deli's back door. No answer. I turn and try the coffee shop.

"Who is it?" a voice shouts from within.

"A hungry customer," I call back, annoyed to have this conversation through a door. "Can I pay you for some food? Please?"

I hate myself for that please.

"We're closed!"

"Come on, man! Don't you have anything? Hell, I'll take somebody's leftovers - I'm not picky!"

"That's gross, man."

"Better than eating scraps out of your dumpster!" I counter, trying to remain calm.

"We're closed," he repeats. "Why don't you go back to wherever you came from?"

Stalking back to the main thoroughfare, I decide that this is no sleepy hamlet. This is an obnoxious hole in the ground to be avoided at all costs. Just before returning to the sullenly empty sidewalk, I step on a discarded banana peel and take a tumble into a puddle of I-don't-want-to-know-what.

It's like this place just wanted to kick me in the ass on the way out the door.


Greg said...

I like how you chosen your words at random, and you're right, randomness means that we often feel things weren't random. Humans just aren't very good at unstructuredness :) I'm pleased your hands feel better, I'm saddened for the snowmen and frostfolk that their sojourn in your part of Canada might be coming to an end. I'm sure they like Osoyoos.
Excellent work with the words in your piece: even though I was looking out for them I missed animosity the first time round and had to re-read it to find it, so you clearly worked them in perfectly naturally! And I find Gardenvale an intriguing little town -- one where you might tell some more stories? Perhaps in return for a tale or two of the Heinlein? :) I particularly like how no-one is willing to sell a stranger any food, and wonder what exactly has happened here in the past!

[Sorry, I wish blogger would allow fractionally longer posts!]

Greg said...

Discard sleepy animosity, squeamish
Madame Sosotris rubbed her nose, a cold wet trail deposited on her finger. Her ever-present cold, a reminder of the eternal dampness of the Unreal City, meant she was always sniffing and her nose was as red as a drunkard's. She sniffed, habitually, and then coughed as wet phlegm dripped down the back of her throat. She fumbled in the neckline of her dress for a tissue, while the man sat opposite her tried to hide his disgust. She blew her nose with a noise like the honking of wild geese, and her customer looked as though he was longing to throw himself throught the window and migrate anywhere away from her.
"The butcher, inverted," she said, pointing at a tarot card in her layout with a yellowed fingerail. "Not a card for the squeamish: the butcher denotes the severing of connections with a past life, a brutal ending, a bloodbath of sorts. Inverted, he is inconsiderate because he is dizzy with blood running to his head while he swings his cleaver. Good cuts of meat -- those things of worth in your life -- he keeps, and the scrag-ends, the bits gone gangrenous, the inedible offal he discards. There is a time of change ahead for you, and it will be dramatic and there will be blood."
"There's always blood when you read my fortune," said the man sounding petulant.
"You can't get away from blood," said Madame Sosotris. "It's part of life."
"Yes, but you seem to enjoy it," said the man. He sighed. "What's this card here?"
"The doomed sailor," said Madame Sosotris. She fingered it, curious herself as to what it was doing in the spread. "Phlebitis, servant of Belladonna, our Lady of the Rocks."
"And what's he a metaphor for?"
"He isn't." Madame Sosotris looked her customer in the eyes and he wished she hadn't: her pupils were dilated and the whites of her eyes were bloodshot. Her teeth were the yellow of a nicotine addict's and her breath was like the opening of the doors to a charnel-house. "He's himself, he's due in port in a week or so, depending on the weather. He's..." she pushed a card or two around in the spread, "bad news. For you. It looks like he's bringing the butcher with him."
Her customer, holding his breath, looked at her with animosity. "That's a bit convenient," he said. "I'm supposed to pay for this?"
Madame Sosotris sighed, and turned over the top of the remaining deck of cards -- a deck she'd bought from a half-dead sailor who'd made them from wood and canvas taken from a sunken-ship reputed to be haunted. She looked momentarily at the card, the Nine of Masts, and then at her customer.
"You think your wife is cheating on you with Sleepy Johnson, the man who serves behind the bar in the Crown and Anchor," she said. "You hired a private detective two days ago, and yesterday his hands arrived in your morning post. You're too scared to decide what to do next. Your wife isn't cheating on you, but she will be after the butcher arrives. You won't care though, because... of the blood."
The customer blanched.

Marc said...

Greg - the snowmen and frostfolk can go find somewhere else nice to spend their spring summer and fall. They have overstayed their welcome here :P

Hmm, that seems like a reasonable deal. I shall put Gardenvale on my list of things to return to.

Ah, Madam Sosotris, as pleasant as ever. I like how this scene progresses, with the tension ramping up so naturally. And... I don't think I'd ever want her to read my fortune. Even if blood is just a part of life, as she says.