Thank you to this group! I very much enjoy being nudged out of my normal routine, and getting my creative writing juices flowing. I love the idea of being inspired by music.
Here are the prompts that Erika gave me:
1.) Heavy Metal/Hard Rock- Diary of a Madman by Ozzy Osbourne
2.) Pop/Hip-Hop- Summertime Sadness by Lana Del Rey
3.) Country/Singer-Song Writer- A Horse With No Name by America
4.) Instrumental/Soundtrack- The Rainbow Connection from The Muppet Movie (1979)
5.) Wild Card- Sleeping Beauty Waltz Part 2/5 by Tchaikovsky
Diary of a Madman was new to me, so that was great. America’s A Horse With No Name is a song that I’ve heard thousands of times, and can’t help sing along with. It conjured up plenty of images that were fighting for attention. However, I chose The Rainbow Connection because I’d had a Leprechaun story floating around for awhile, and my son’s birthday is St. Patrick’s day. So the following is dedicated to him. I hope you enjoy it.
With a tiny pop, Marilee appeared
This first moment was always the most dangerous. She might have popped in right in front of the nose of a human, or worse a cat on the prowl. In a split second she found a hiding place in the leaves, paused to catch her breath and scanned the area. Everything she saw was green, wet, and buzzing with life. A few small birds flitted above her, a wide trail of ants marched under the tree branch behind her, and two fat bunnies chewed contentedly on a patch of vegetation nearby. With a deep release of breath Marilee recognized that there was no danger. Lucky.
Focusing on her true purpose, she allowed herself to drift down closer to the base of the tree. She knew he was here somewhere. The queen wouldn’t have sent her astray. But where? These darned Leprechauns are so difficult! Marilee thought as she closely inspected the trunk and roots. She knew they liked to tuck themselves in and pretend to be just another root, or rock or both. Out of the corner of her eye she detected movement. She looked, and waited for it. There! She watched again, slowly getting closer, holding her breath.
From somewhere above came a single water drop every twenty seconds or so. When the drop hit the bark at the tree’s base, the spot gave the tiniest little twitch. As she got closer, her eyes and mind recognized the parts of a gnarled nose and brow ridge. Drop. Twitch.
Marilee quickly covered her mouth to suppress her giggle, then screamed as the eye receiving the water drop few open, and glared at her as if she were the source of the torture. Startled, Marilee flew backward and slammed hard into the trunk of the tree. With a grunt, all air was knocked out of her lungs and she fell with a tiny plop onto the ground near a root. On her way down, she didn’t fail to notice the satisfied look that came into the eye, and another little twitch below the hook nose that must be the mouth of this hidden little man.
By the time Marilee regained her breath and courage, the eye closed again. Now finding the man in his disguise was a little easier. She saw the other eye, wrinkled and shaded under his nose. Drip. Twitch. Grunt. She looked closer, and could tell that he was using his hat as a pillow of sorts, and that his coat was covered in living moss and grass. His knees were tucked up and disguised as a low dirt mound and long rock. She couldn’t find his feet. Drip. Twitch. Growl.
Emboldened, she crept a bit closer, still attempting to discern his full use of camouflage. This time when the eye popped open, she wasn’t so startled. “So, yer awake then? Our queen thought today might be right. I been sent to fetch ye’.”
Drip. The latest drip caught him with his eye open. With a growl, he slammed it shut. “Ye’ damned pixie! The least ye’ could do is get up there and move the torturous leaf! ‘Tis kill’n me one horrid drop after another!” His voice was rough from disuse, but clear and firm in its demand.
With another giggle Marilee did as he bid, zooming up to the leaf and tucking it behind a small twig. “Better?” she waited, but he didn’t answer. “Now don’ ye’ go back to sleep, Bixby! I tol’ ye’ the queen’s a callin’ ye’ home.”
“There be nothin’ worse than bein awakn’d from a long sleep by a dammed random drip in de eye. A steady drip…. I had that woeful experience abou’ twenty years past. At least then I knew when ‘twas comin’ and could brace meself. But this… ah, ye’ only know another is comin’, and ‘tis always a terrible shock. Worst. WORST way to wake up I tell ye’ true.”
“Gosh, Bixby, why didn’t ye’ just get out o’ the way?” She held her trim little belly, sore from laughing all through his sorry complaint. He glared at her again which only caused her to laugh harder.
“Bah, ye’ don’ know nothin’. I would’ve moved had I the power. When a Lep is in deep cover, ye’ transition slow like, so as not to let anything know yer whereabouts. First, the brain an’ the ears. If all sounds right, the heart and lungs get permission to start slow and steady; pumpin’ warmth out into the extremities. Next come me eyes, but I mostly keep ‘em closed and let me nose wake up a bit. Smellin’ danger is a good skill to develop. Ye’ should think on tha’.”
Marilee got serious for a moment, and took a minute sample of the air. “I don’ smell nothing.” She noticed his eyes still on her, so she tried again. This time she noticed a bit more. “I smell earth, and somethin’ musty. Probably yerself after yer long sleep. Do ye’ bathe?”
“Truly? That’s all yer pip of a nose can find?” She shrugged. “How you Pixies survive is beyond me.” With blurring speed, his hand came out of hiding and with a flick of his finger he sent a small lizard flying.
The motion caused Marilee to topple over backward. She didn’t realize that she had been sitting on Bixby’s arm the whole time. She caught her fall and zoomed up into the leaves.
“Ye’ can come back now.” Bixby chuckled. “Ye’ll be no lizard’s breakfast today.”
Marilee watched Bixby from her hiding place. How embarrassing! There was no way she was going back down there, at least not until her burning cheeks calmed down.
Bixby stretched and pulled more and more of his hidden body into view. “So, as I was explainin’ to ye’. It’s important to train yer nose to find danger before ye’ reveal yerself. Once yer nose says tis clear, then the muscles start to come back, and yer bones demand to be straightened.” Bixby stood and stretched his compact body. With a deep groan he grew to his full height of about eighteen inches. Marilee heard his tiny bones snap back into alignment.
She watched as he dusted the dirt and moss from his reddish brown coat and pants with his soft hat, and then carefully reformed it and fit it to his head. “Have ye’ no feet?” she called down to him.
He looked up sharply at her, and then down at his legs, which ended with ankles still deep in camouflage. “Ye’ may think me a fool, young Pix, but I’m no goin’ to reveal me most prized possession until I know fer sure da area is clear of thieves. Fer all I know, ye’ aren’t here for the queen, but for yer own greedy purposes.”
“Ha! What would I do with some ol’ set o’ leprechaun feet! An’ the name be Marilee.”
“Ye’ are a dense one, Marilee. It’s no’ me feet that I’m hidin’. It’s me fine shoes!” With a jump, Bixby pulled his feet above ground and displayed a soft rich pair of gold buckled, leather shoes.
“Ohhh, weel, they are nice, but they’ll no’ fit me anyway.” Marilee looked down at her bare feet and wiggled her toes at Bixby.
“Do ye’ not own yer own shoes, Marilee? Or did ye’ dance them away at the last Ceili?” He did a little jig and smiled up at her. She wasn’t smiling back. “What’s the matter? I could make ye’ some fine slippers ye’ know.”
“Oh, ‘tis nothin’ . I have shoes. I don’ seem to be very good at dancin’ though. Not many be askin’ for a twirl. I’ve never worn out any slippers.” She tucked her chin and looked away from him.
“Bahhh! Fools! I’d dance with ye’. I’m no’ afraid o’ a little thing with wings.” Arms akimbo, Bixby called her down to him. “Let me have a closer look at ye’.”
“Na. Ye’ve seen me close.” She peaked at him over her shoulder.
“I’m not movin’ til ye’ get yerself down here. Ye’d better move, girl, or the queen’ll have yer head for not fetchin’ me back.” He crossed his arms over his stout chest and waited.
With a glare, Marilee lit from the branch and floated down in front of him. “Well?” They stared at each other, and she could feel the blood rushing up to her cheeks. Never in her life had she let anyone inspect her like this.
Bixby smiled, and let softness come into his eyes as he appreciated her fine form. Before her eyes, his skin lost the look of tree bark, and the moss in his short beard disappeared. A deep blush filled his cheeks when he noticed how closely Marilee was inspecting him. “Well, yerself!” He coughed and looked away, suddenly interested in the tree bark, and moss before him. “Awww, young Marilee, ye’must fergive this haggard old Lep. I been alone longer than ye’ve been alive.” He could see that she was appeased. “So, why does the queen want me now, after all these years guardin’ our gold, and and makin’ o’ the best shoes she’s ever seen.” His eyes perked wide. “Is that it? Does the queen need new slippers?”
“Do ye’ really think the queen needs another pair o’ shoes? All I know is that I’m to fetch ye’, and that we’re to take the Rainbow Connection back. I’ve no’ enou’ dust to carry us both.” She hoped he didn’t catch her lies.
“Oh, well, if tis no’ fer me shoes, ‘tis another reason then?” He glanced again at her to find the strangest look come over Marilee’s face. She screamed, disappeared, and for a confused Bixby, the recognition of danger came seconds too late.
In seeming slow motion his body recognized the absence of bird song. He turned and saw the backs of the fleeting rabbits before everything went black. His feet were yanked from beneath him and he tumbled not knowing up from down. Slowly his eyes made out the light coming in through rough seams, and he stopped struggling. He was caught, and caught good.
First time in one hundred and thirty-two years he allowed himself to be distracted. With a sigh, he realized there’d be hell to pay. The bag shook, and he heard a muffled voice. “I’ve been waiting fer a long time, and finally I’ve got what I been lookin’ for. You!” Bixby closed his eyes and wished that he’d stayed asleep today.
Marilee watched a huge thin man sweep Bixby into a dark sack, shake it a few times, and with a satisfied smirk walk away into the woods. From a safe distance, she followed them. Unbidden tears trailed down her cheeks as she realized that it was because of her that he had put down his guard and been captured.
“Open ye’ eyes! You can’t fool me, Little Man! I know yer in there plottin’ how to escape. Let me tell ye’ now I been thinkin’ on this, and I won’ let ye’ escape or fool me into lettin ye’ go. I’ll have my three wishes this day!” With a nasty cackle, the tall man exposed his brown teeth, and rancid whisky breath. He reached in and grabbed Bixby by the leg and drew him roughly out of the bag.
“Oh aye, sir! Don’ mind me. Twas a peaceful trip, rockin’ along in that warm, dark bag. Felt like I was in me mother’s arms and fell right to sleep.” Bixby yawned, stretched, then made like he’d forgotten his manners. “Excuse me, sir. Oh, wise and tricky human. As that is what you surely must be, since you were able to catch me today.” He snapped to attention, and with a fancy flourish removed his cap and bowed before his captor. “How may I be o’ service to ye’, sirrrr?”
“Now tha’s better, showin’ the proper respect. But don’ go gettin’ tricky. I know not to take me eyes off ye’, and I know no’ to let ye’ distract me from my wishes. So… I know exactly what I want, and ye’ will listen silently to me three wishes, grant me dose wishes, and only then ye’ll be free. Do I make meself understood?”
With a twitch to his mouth, and a twinkle in his eye, Bixby silently bowed, then straightened, ready to do his bidding. “Right. Now as I was sayin, I don’ wanna hear a peep out o’ you. Here are me wishes: Me first wish is to never have to chop wood again. You will magically provide me with a full log pile so every time I need to refuel me fire, I will see that me log pile is no’ diminished for me whole life!” The man glared at Bixby, and Bixby nodded and smiled back. “Me second wish is to have a magical horse that nev’r needs t’ be fed, stall nev’r needs t’ be mucked, and his strength must no diminish!” Feeling quite pleased with himself, and with Bixby who remained perfectly silent so far, the tall man continued. “Finally, I wish that ye’, Mr. Leprechaun, provide me with a pot of solid gold that will nev’r be emptied. I will have that pot remain full, no matter how much I take out!”
The tall man proudly puffed out his chest. He hadn’t taken his eyes off Bixby, but the wildness of anticipation was making it difficult. “Well? Do it then!”
“As you wish, sir, and have a fine and wonderful life enjoying the amazin’ and wonderful benefits of yer wise and well thought out wishes.” With that Bixby jumped up twirled, snapped his fingers three times, and turned his back on the man and began to walk away.
Startled and expectant, the man turned to view the granting of his three wishes. He saw it all in an instant. The wood pile, the horse, and the pot of gold were all there. Falling to his knees the man wailed into his hands. “Nooooo!”
Marilee saw all this and zoomed in to float next to his shoulder. “Are ye’ alright, Bixby? I’m so sorry I made you get caught!”
“Naaa! Me little pixie, that was quite diverting. What a fool!” Bixby allowed himself to laugh, but didn’t turn around to view the scene behind him. “Bixby, why is he so unhappy? Did you not give him what he wished for?”
“Well, he wished fer a magical wood pile that provides him a lifetime supply. ‘Tis probably not all stacked as yet, but that may take some time.” Marilee looked over her shoulder, and noticed that behind the cabin was a growing pile of chopped wood. In fact what a few moments ago looked like a well stocked bunch of logs was beginning to look like a growing lumber yard, that gave no signs of stopping. It had already taken over the garden and was expanding out into the woods.
She giggled and turned back to Bixby. “Oh, I see. But what abou’ the horse? Could he no’ use it t’ haul the wood an’ sell it?”
“Geez, Marilee, have I no’ taught ye’ a thing? Use yer nose, girl!” She gave a good sniff, and instantly regretted it. A horrible stench filled her nose and she felt like she would retch. “Oh, aye. That was a good wish don’ ye’ think? The only horse that never needs feed’n or muck’n is a dead one! An de only strength dat won’ be diminished would be the smell of its rottin’ flesh! Ewww!” Bixby clutched his belly, laughing heartily and began to walk faster away from the scene still unfolding behind them.
“That was a disgusting trick, Bixby, but that ugly man deserved it. Maybe he will figure a way to solve his problems with his pot o’ gold.” Marilee looked over at Bixby who had fallen down now and was rolling in gales of laughter on the ground. “Bixby! You old trickster! What did you do now?”
Catching his breath, “A pot…o’ gold…solid!” Laughing and choking, eyes watering, Bixby couldn’t continue. Confused but starting to laugh herself, Marilee tried to make sense of his words. “Never empty!…Ever!” Bixby rolled over onto his stomach and laughed into the soft grass.
“What is it, Bixby!” Marilee demanded. “I don’ understand. Isn’t that exactly what he wanted?”
She waited some moments for his shoulders to stop shaking as he gained control over his mirth, rolled over, and looked up at her floating above his chest. “He got what he wished for young Marilee. A pot o’ solid gold that can nev’r be emptied! Get it?”
Slowly understanding washed over her. “Ohhh, so he can no get the gold out o’ the pot? Is that yer trick Bixby?”
“Aye, and that pot is abou’ that size of a Pixie’s purse!” He collapsed again into laughter, proud of his tricks on the stupid human. “He made it so easy!”
“Come along, Bixby. ‘Tis time to catch yer rainbow back to the queen.” She tugged on his coat sleeve.
“Is it possible, Marilee, that she sent ye’ because she has plans fer us?” He looked at her. A solemn, worried look crossed his brow.
“Oh aye, she has her plans.” Marilee blushed, but continued to hold his sleeve. “Well, the Rainbow Connection is very special, young Marilee. Only a select few can use it.” He smiled as he realized that he wasn’t the only one who had quickly fallen in love. “Who?” “Lovers, Dreamers, and now We.” He took her gently into his hand as a rainbow appeared next to them. He smiled into her eyes, and walked them into the light.
Thank you so much for the opportunity to come out and play! Here are the prompts I had to choose from:
Amy- A large urn with a funny smell
Cameron- The workplace dynamics of a vacuum cleaner manufacturing plant.
Erika- A crushing blow
Jen- Opening Line: After my husband died, I found a phone number in his wallet. It was for Sandy.
Wendy- If ___________ ran for President.
After giggling with the idea of my 16 year old daughter running for President, I sobered up and took Jen’s challenge….
Denial and Isolation:
After my husband died, I found a phone number in his wallet. It was for Sandy. The number was written in an unknown hand, and tucked between his picture of me and the torn movie ticket from our first date.
It took me two months before I touched any of Adam’s things on our dresser. I loved the look and the false feeling that he was in the house somewhere, or on his way home from work. I couldn’t bring myself to change the pillowcase on his side of the bed since it still smelled like him, and it gave me something to cuddle on those long lonely nights since that last squeeze of his fingers in the hospital. I just wasn’t ready. There was no one named Sandy at his memorial service.
Ours was an easy relationship; mellow and without drama. We were tender, affectionate and playful. We cuddled on the couch, and danced in the kitchen. During our daily walks, we relived good and bad times with the kids, shared news of our friends, events at work, and debated the state of the world. He spent great times with his friends who loved him, and he never begrudged my time with the girls. I’d never heard of a friend or friend’s wife named Sandy.
We talked all the time, but there were things that he kept from me until he had a load of liquid courage. It took him 6 months, 8 beers and a gin to tell me that he’d been to the doctor and that he would need surgery in a few weeks. He was embarrassed, and hadn’t wanted to worry me. I was pissed – to put it mildly. Heart sore and terrified. How could I help him if he didn’t let me? Sandy could have been one of his doctors.
I’m not used to the feeling of jealous insecurity, so when it’s hot poker ripped through my chest, I had to force myself to breathe, and when it imbedded itself with a grappling hook between my shoulder blades I didn’t know what to do. Adam wasn’t here to massage the pain away. Who the fuck was Sandy?
My first reaction was irrational. I knew it was, but that didn’t diminish the effects. I forced myself to set the number down and walk away. I didn’t get far. I sank onto our bed, buried my face in my pillow and cried myself out. Looking back, that cry was a mix of pent up emotions with self-pity being the ultimate source. I didn’t want to feel lost and alone. I didn’t want to find something else he had hidden from me. I wanted my best friend back. I wanted the certainty that he was faithful. Why Sandy?
Over the next few days that tiny slip of paper haunted me. I ruminated, rationalized, fumed, and forgave, but ended up with random reasons to walk by the dresser. My eyes were glued to that little slip of paper that had been tucked into his wallet for who knows how long. Sometimes I paused and stared down at it. Sometimes I dared to touch it. Twice I picked it up and reached for the phone. Would Sandy answer?
I knew myself. I had to make the call. I would never rest or forgive myself for not dialing. Worst-case scenario, I’d be devastated, but I could get over it, and really, what were the chances? I loved this man. He loved me. I trusted this man. He trusted me. There was NEVER any hint that he was seeing another woman. I’m not that oblivious. I hoped.
I forced myself to breathe, dialed: Sandy 510-349-0582… and hung up. Disgusted, I tossed the number down on the dresser. It didn’t make it, and fluttered to the floor instead. Only then did I realize that there was writing on the back:
I don’t want you to be alone.
Call Sandy, he’s a good guy.
In love with you always,
Relief washed over me, easing the knot from my back. Adam hadn’t been cheating, he had been thinking of me; trying to set me up with a new companion so I wouldn’t be tempted to hide at home with my grief. I put the note down, sank to the floor and cried for Adam all over again.
I’m writing this today because something amazing happened yesterday. After my support group meeting, one of the other members approached me. We’d talked a few times in the 6 months that I’d been attending, but nothing more. He asked if he could give me his phone number, so that I could call if I ever wanted to talk, or grab a cup of coffee. I liked that he wanted to give me his number and didn’t ask for mine. He wrote down the number and handed it to me. It was a number I knew.
“John, what’s your last name?”
“Sanderson. Clarissa, what is it?” He must have noticed the look on my face.
“Are you ‘Sandy’?” I asked in disbelief.
“Only my wife called me Sandy,” he stepped back in confusion.
“Look.” I reached into my purse, grabbed my wallet and found the little slip of paper that had haunted me so long ago. I handed it to him.
“This is my wife’s handwriting. Oh my God!” He reached into his wallet, shaking his head the whole time. As he pulled a little slip of paper from behind his wife’s picture he asked, “Are you Clare?”
“Yes!” I laughed. Tears finding their way down my cheeks. John reached out and we held each other, remembering the loves of our lives, wondering at the twists and turns that take people away, and bring us together.
“Would you like to get some coffee?” he asked. “I don’t know about you, but I really want to try to figure out why we have each other’s phone numbers in our wallets.”
“Yea, of course,” I replied and as we turned to go and I realized I was still holding onto him. I thought about letting go, but I didn’t want to, so I slid my hand down his arm and found his hand ready for mine.
John, and I talked until the waitresses started giving us dirty looks. It turns out that John’s wife Amanda and my Adam had the same Oncologist. They must have met several times in the waiting rooms or recovery rooms, maybe even supported each other during treatments. John and I aren’t sure, but they must have loved us both very much to try to set us up.
No one knows with the future holds, but I’m going to be okay. Thank you Adam. Thank you Amanda. Thank you John/Sandy.