THE HOCK SISTERS

July 16, 2018

Holly, Mary, and Celeste Hock faced another glorious day. Mary and Celeste were content to bathe in sunlight and dream of one day operating construction equipment. Holly, however, constantly jabbered. Half the time she paid no attention to herself. The rest of the time she thrilled to the music of her voice and ignored the content of her blather.

“Oh, bee! Welcome, welcome, and take all the pollen you can carry. Or more than the greatest love the world has known. I wish I had a telephone. I’d send all my lovin’ to you. We come from a very fine stalk. Not one better will you see on your walk. Or flight. Do you have individual rooms in the hive? Or is it bunkmates galore? Whee! I like today. It’s almost as good as tomorrow. Oh, good-bye. Fly away. Fly away home. On the range. Roaming buffalo are a sight, I can guess. I want chocolate pie. Isn’t that a kick? The Romans used to …”

Holly droned on. Mary and Celeste remained content, for both of them were deaf.

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THE GREEN IMP’S TREASURE

June 9, 2018

The green imp, hidden away in a cave behind the crash of waterfall plunging over the highest cliff on Jagged Mountain, sat gazing at his treasure, a magic pool of broken blue green jade. The imp’s bushy eyebrows, snow white, quivered with pleasure. Otherwise, for the time being, he posed motionless.

Down the mountain through impenetrable forests and across rich farmlands, dawn found the castle and all but one of its inhabitants sleeping soundly. In the castle’s kitchen, the scullery maid sang to herself as she hurried about readying all items needed for the cook to prepare and serve to the cruel king his breakfast of meat slabs and cheese between two torn hunks of bread. The scullery maid had no name, but secretly she called herself Anne Marie.

The green imp nodded his head in company with a thought. Yes, it shall be so. Anne Marie shall rule. The imp reached a green hand out over the pool of broken blue green jade. The pool rippled a sigh.

Down the mountain through impenetrable forests and across rich farmlands, the cook descended to the dungeon and shoved a platter of rind scrapings through the bars at the cruel king. In the Great Hall above, Queen Anne Marie hosted the villagers and proclaimed universal happiness for all save one, the cruel king.

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MILLIE

May 23, 2018

“I’m bored,” said Millie.

“Why don’t you take the elephant for a walk, or feed the cobras, or practice your potions, or cast spells? You like to cast spells. Go into the garden and cast spells,” suggested Millie’s mother, Brunna, hunched over the cauldron, busily stirring.

“What garden? We don’t even have a garden,” said Millie.

“Exactly,” said Brunna, winking and showing her tooth with a crooked smile.

“Oh,” said Millie, and she went outside to peer at the mud, the rocks, and the bent dead trees strangled with vines.

Three hours, eight spells, and fourteen potions later, a lovely garden surrounded the witchly hut home. Millie drooped back inside, casting her wand aside with a shrug and a sigh.

“I’m still bored,” she said. “Nothing ever happens.”

Brunna, without looking, tossed spangles from her cloak pocket at Millie. Millie was a rickety stick creature with soft yellow feelers.

“This is more like it!” thought Millie, and she wobbled stiffly and happily all around the garden.

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THE TREE OF FIVE OWLS

May 7, 2018

Calinda took great pride in her status, for she was the finest seamstress in the land. Summoned to work on the Royal finery for all celebrations, grand to intimate, she moved with slow dignity with a half smile playing at her lips while Queens, princesses, ladies-in-waiting chattered hopes for fabulous gowns into her ears. So, for years and years, she sewed the swiftest, the straightest, the most artfully hidden wonders of cloth joining glory. When she grew old, her fingers became gnarled and no longer  nimble. She was unable to perform her duties. Sadly, the grateful Royalty banished her to a loft above the stable, saving themselves from having to inadvertently catch sight of the twisted fingers on the shaking hands.

“Why do you weep?” asked a rat when it noticed the sobbing mound of Calinda in the loft.

“I can no longer sew. I am useless,” said Calinda, reaching out to show her misshapen hands to the rat.

“Ah, rheumatism. Bad luck,” said the rat. “The Tree of 5 Owls can help you. Of course, you would have to find it first.”

Calinda had never heard of the Tree of 5 Owls. She struggled to her knees and listened.

“It’s in the middle of a labyrinth in Thick Wood. Anyone who finds it gets one wish,” continued the rat.

“Where is Thick Wood?” asked Calinda.

“Across the sea in Harpland. I just arrived yesterday on a ship from there. It will sail back after it loads. I could get you on board. I know some important rats.”

No sooner said than done, the rat led Calinda to the harbor and distracted the watch so that Calinda could sneak on board. Two important rats stowed her away. The ship sailed back to Harpland, and the important rats deftly delivered Calinda safely to the wharf.

Kind townspeople gave Calinda scraps of moldy bread and set her on the path to Thick Wood. Three nights she took her rest in ditches. Three days she walked until she came face to face with the densest tangle of forest she had ever seen.

“I will close my eyes and struggle through in any old way I can,” vowed Calinda.

Crawling, burrowing, climbing over, squeezing through, Calinda struggled in search of the Tree of 5 Owls. She carried in her mouth her favorite thimble, pottery made, glazed white and painted with a single pink rose. She counted to five hundred in her head and paused. She did this time and time again. How many times she counted to 500 she couldn’t tell, but after several hours leaked away, there came a last time. She knew it was the last time. She opened her eyes.

“Who?” “Who?” “Who?” “Who?” “Who?” said the five owls from the five hollows in the tree.

“I am Calinda, the finest seamstress in the land. I wish my hands were as they were,” said Calinda.

Her hands tingled. She fell into a sleep. She awoke.

“Calinda! The gowns! Calinda! There’s work to be done!” shouted the Queen.

Calinda, dazed, stared at her beautiful hands and her long talented straight strong fingers. Her rose thimble sat on the coverlet.

“A dream?” she mumbled, looking around her gorgeous palace chamber.

 

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THE VANISHING

May 1, 2018

As villages go, the village was small and sleepy. The villagers never ran. Indeed, they strolled from place to place, pausing often to converse with neighbors or to observe the bounty of nature. Benches in the fabulous rose garden were seldom unoccupied. As the village’s pride and joy, the rose garden thrived under the care of the Fenwick clan to way back in history for longer than even the village librarian could remember.

“Oh, long have they been in charge. Longer than long,” she said whenever queried by passing strangers as to the Fenwickian origin of the rose garden attendants.

One glorious morning in May, Beppo Piedmont, thatched roof maintenance engineer’s apprentice, while on his way to gather thatch, encountered Mavis Fenwick on the garden’s outskirts. She sat in the path, sobbing.

“Whatever is the trouble, Mavis?” inquired Beppo.

“Oh, it’s over. It’s over, over, over,” moaned Mavis, wringing her hands in twisty despair.

“What’s over?” said Beppo.

“It’s the last day,” wailed Mavis, and she turned her face to the sky.

And before Beppo, curiosity piqued, could pursue the matter further, the village, its occupants, and the rose garden vanished.

Mavis knew whereof she spoke.

 

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THE WEAK KING

April 21, 2018

The King of the flat land west of the hills was small and weak. He spoke so softly that the royal lip reader was more important than the prime minister or the Queen. Owing to the facts that neither the prime minister nor the Queen possessed patience enough to learn lip reading and they both hated the arrogant lip reader with a passion, the pair of them conspired often about what to do about the King’s lack of backbone and audibility.

“We’ve tried everything. Everything does not work, and so we will have to try something else,” said the Queen.

“Well said, Your Majesty,” replied the prime minister. “What do you suggest?”

“I suggest that you hie into the ravine of gloom, find a witch, bribe her, and return with whatever it is that you return with,” said the Queen.

The prime minister obeyed. When he returned, smiling weakly and clothes in tatters, he offered a small ruby to the Queen, saying, “This is a deep ruby blush. It activates when you place it on the King’s left eyelid when he is asleep.”

After the prime minister was carried off to recover somewhere else, the Queen hurried to the bedchamber where the King most often napped between naps. She placed the ruby on his left eyelid and stood back. The room was of a sudden drenched in gorgeous ruby gloom. The King awoke.

HELLO, SWEETHEART! GREAT WEATHER WE ARE HAVING, WHAT?” said the King, and he leaped from bed, punched the wall, and, laughing a high cackle, danced from the room.

And that is how the weak King became strong and loud, and how the Queen undertook a permanent solo world tour, and how the prime minister went to live quietly alone in a mud hut.

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CHARM

March 21, 2018

Pymascia, a young witch in search of a certain charm, looked down from her broom at the forest of garven trees. “Magenta root,” she muttered. Swerving left, she dove to darkness under the pale yellow garven canopy. Lightly landing, she stepped to the impressive trunk of the nearest garven tree. Wrinkled in swirls of magenta and black, the bark of the tree purred silent satisfaction.

“Yes,” said the witch. “I find ye as it was foretold.”

She fell to her knees and began to dig. Crumble dirt, easy to move, she tossed aside in clumps. She paused when she unearthed the root, the magenta root, the glowing magenta root.

“Yes,” said the witch.

She tore under the root with her talons in a frenzy. She leaped to her feet, thrusting her right fist toward the sky.

“I have it!” she cried.

Laughing a high shriek, away on her broom she soared. Forever after, all she had to do following a wild coven party was to raise the charm overhead and turn one full circle, thereby making her cottage spotlessly clean and neatly organized.

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APRIL, MAY, AND JUNE

March 3, 2018

Three sisters went to the moon.

Their names were April, May, and June.

They found no air or curtains there.

‘We won’t return any time soon,’

said April and May and especially June.

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PORCUPINES

February 20, 2018

Having no tarps to mend, four tarpmenders sat around a table playing cards. The door flashed open.

Little Alice stuck her head inside and said, “The porcupines are wearing pants. They invited me to join their dance.” She pulled her head back and slammed the door.

The tarpmenders looked at one another, shrugged, and returned to their game. Time passed. The door flashed open again.

“The porcupines are telling lies. They say the world is ruled by flies,” announced Little Alice. She pulled her head back and slammed the door.

The tarpmenders exchanged glances. One of them, Little Alice’s father, coughed an embarrassed sort of cough. They returned to their game. Time passed. The door flashed open.

“The porcupines have built a house big enough to house a mouse,” said Little Alice. The door slammed.

Little Alice’s father stood up and said, “My friends, I have to leave now. When the porcupines build the mouse house, that means they have given final fair warning.” He exited.

Little Alice and her father, hand in hand, led the porcupines home. Thanks to them, they would not be late for supper.

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KRA

February 9, 2018

Kra is a raven.

She lives in a cave.

Her dream is to rule the world.

Sometimes a notion

to find a potion

dances around in her head.

Maybe tomorrow

or the day after

she will gather the power

to make her dream true

and rule over you

in her underground tower.

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