Flash: Love on the Line

A gay couple dancing at the Chelsea Arts New Year’s Eve Bal

A gay couple dancing at the Chelsea Arts New Year’s Eve Ball. Photograph by Tony Linck. London, January 1947

Fran dragged Leslie onto the dance floor for the Chelsea Ball. It worked despite Leslie being taller, stronger and having a military background for two reasons. One, Leslie was overwhelmed by being in the middle of all the money, fame and demented people that showed up every year for the artist gentleman’s club New Year’s Eve Party, and, secondly, Leslie was not letting go of his hand. He was on shore for the holidays and did not want to miss a second with Fran.

Fran curled into his lover’s arms, ignoring the stares. Enough of the artists had brought their lovers to the party that one more gay couple did not matter. The stares were for Leslie being a sailor. Some artists were anti-military, but the majority of London still remembered the sirens. Only a year had passed since the war ended. Most were staring because they were trying to figure out a way to approach Leslie to thank him for serving.

Unconsciously Fran clenched Leslie’s hand tighter. They had met during training, but Fran’s family money had gotten him an officer position on shore and a quick muster out after serving his time. Leslie’s more plebeian descent had him on the front for over five years. Fran did not want to remember how often he nearly lost the love of his life. Ships were safer than ground pounding, but it also meant everyone died on the same bullet instead of an individual.

One more tour and they could be together forever.

Fran hoped that Leslie’s flamboyant style will allow him to overcome the status differences. Fran cared less about his personal wealth, but sometimes, like tonight, Leslie was clearly intimidated. The duke, whose title allowed him to disregard certain social requirements such as introductions, did express his gratitude to Leslie and had left his lover speechless.

The artist part of Fran’s mind started thinking about how to capture both an ostentatious and terrified attitude in one painting. On first pass, they do not seem to go together, but anyone who has been on the front could tell you both the sheer terror and the pure courage needed to be there.

***

Leslie guided Fran off the dance floor towards the bar when the song ended. He recognized the look that had seized Fran’s face. They would need to get home soon to Fran’s paints.

Leslie squashed the green monster from long habit when jealousy tried to sneak in. He only had two more days before pulling out and he had nearly ten days of Fran’s undivided attention. When he got back next time, he would need to decide if he could live as the second love of Fran’s life.

(words 449 – I believe the copyright on the photo is expired. If anyone knows that the copyright is different than public domain, please inform me – first published 12/30/2012; republished new blog format 12/11/2016)

Flash: Head Bowed

Young Male Stock Photo

Image Courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Icy sweat dripped down Vincente’s spine as he waited, head bowed before Ubel. He prayed the overlord would extend his left hand so Vincente could kiss the ruby thumb ring.

In public, everyone said Ubel was strict but fair. In places where whispers will not be repeated, Vincente had been told Ubel destroyed all who crossed or disappointed him.

The stone floor stole away heat from Vincente’s knee, where it braced him before the steps leading to the throne. He kept his eyes trained on the hem of Ubel’s black fur mantle. The supplicant could feel Ubel’s eyes bore into his back. The bastard’s fingertips no doubt were steepled as he considered Vincente’s report. How often had he seen others in this exact position and laughed internally at their foolishness, seeking mercy from someone with none?

He never mocked them, like some of the court did. Ubel tolerated no other assuming his power. Only he granted life or death, kindness or abuse.

At long last, the cloth in front of him shifted. He felt Ubel’s hand rest gently on his head. Vincente started to raise his head and hands so he could grasp his salvation, when his head was shove so hard it continued until it met the stone steps.

Before he could recover, Vincente felt a nailed boot pressing down between his shoulders. Standing facing his audience, grinding the cleats deep into Vincente’s back, Ubel asked, “What shall I do with this dog?”

(words 244- first published 4/14/2013; republished new blog format 7/10/2016)

Flash: The Girl at the Window

Painting: A woman at the Window by Henri de Troulouse-Lautrec

Painting entitled: Woman at the Window

 

“I would like to go outside.”

Eleonora startled but managed to control her movement to complete stowing the dried dinner china on the shelves. After taking a moment to control herself so she would not overreact to the miracle of words, she turned around to face her emancipated daughter. Years of sitting by the window watching other children play had taken their toll.

“Are you sure Merritt?” Eleonora hated to discourage the first sign of life her daughter displayed in years. “It’s dark out.”

A beatific smile molded the young woman’s normally blank expression into something exalted, melting Eleonora’s heart with terrifying hope while her daughter responded. “The world is smaller at night.”

A shudder at the unnatural way the child interpreted everything was quickly suppressed. Grasping at straws to untangle the broken paths of her daughter’s mind, Eleonora searched the painted silk wallpaper just above the child’s blonde head rather than meet her expressionless blue eyes. “And being smaller is important?”

“Of course, mama.”

Sagging against the stays in corset, Eleonora surrendered another battle in a war she lost when her daughter was four. Fifteen words would have to be miracle enough for the day. “Very well. Please keep to the backyard and don’t go beyond the creek.”

Her youngest child blinked once; her face reformed into the nothing mask. Carefully placing each foot directly in front of the other, heel to toe, Merritt walked to the door, stopped, looked down considering the knob, lifted a hand slowly, grasped the doorknob firmly, and tried turning. The doors between her bed room and the piano room and the bath room were always left open. After failing to rotate the knob far enough one-handed, she raised her left hand and added it to the twist, releasing the door slightly. Stepping back, pulling the door with her, she opened it enough to take three heel-toe sideways steps to go outside, meticulously closing the door behind her.

Eleonora released her breath. Merritt hadn’t been outside since their one attempt to attend primary school. After a day of screaming and crying ending with a rocking fit lasting until the next morning, the teachers accused her of coddling the youngster with unnatural and unhealthy affection and demanded she leave the child in their care for the rest of the week. Merritt didn’t even respond to her name when Eleonora fetched the child over Clement’s and the school objections. Bruises from canings and small burns covered her body.

She didn’t play the piano or any other musical instrument for another year because she wouldn’t leave her bedroom. Instead she sat by the front window, wrapped in a blanket day and night…watching.

A cough took Eleonora, choking her throat. Shoulders and legs shaking, she sunk to the wooden floor, skirt floating around her, tears coating her face instantly. Sobs heavy enough to sink a steamship erupted. Exhaustion ceased the outburst long before the emotions had ran their course. Standing up by grasping the counter, Eleonora made her way to the sink. She leveraged the pump, priming it, until water flowed and washed her face before taking the stairs to the master bedroom where Clement was already asleep, careful not to wake her husband.

(words 536 – first published 5/22/2016)

Flash: Crossing Over Through the Dog’s Eyes

Weimaraner Stock Photo

Image courtesy of Gualberto107 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Whining confusion, the dog looked up where her head lay in the old man’s lap. She first looked up at her favorite human through one eye then another, then lifted her head to stare across the swollen mud-choked stream where the rest of the pack just crossed with their herds and looked back in question. Her human just raised his hand and patted her matted, wet fur between her ears, settling her jaw onto his leg as she continued to stare at him.

A sneeze took her, finally clearing the mud from her nostrils allowing her to smell the spring flowers surrounding them. The churned soil from the passing of their many beasts and peoples provided a pleasant underscent to the floral smells, nearly overpowering the wet odor of ice snow melt and rain runoff from half-frozen ground carried by the waterway.

She was sick of the water. The sky fell in broken drops nearly every day since the family had started walking from the flat den to the mountain den. Everywhere streams, trickles, rivers, and creeks carved new passages, stealing the joy of running and herding into an arduous task with sucking-slipping paws. She wasn’t sure why her human had decided to leave the others.

He had gone down to the water with everyone else, her pups and their mates and their pups and humans. Even gone into the twisting waters with the others. But the water was deeper than the others they had crossed on the walk since the snows started melting. She barely paddled across and collapsed on the far shore panting. When she realized he hadn’t followed, she had to swim back and nearly didn’t make it. Swimming wasn’t like running; it tired her. Maybe that was it. He was tired and needed to rest before swimming.

Her nose nudged into his palm, and he lifted it to pet her again. Down the neck and across the back, soothing the soreness in her joints and spine. She had lived a long time with this human, and her body creaked nearly as much as his did.

Finally, he said something in that strange soft speech of theirs ending with “Come on.” She started for the creek again before realizing his scent was getting more distant and looked over her shoulder. Blinking once to clear her failing eyesight, she verified he was walking AWAY from the pack scent trail. A whine escaped between her teeth. But he was her human, so she ran to catch up with him.

(words 420 – first published 4/24/2016)

Flash: Crossing Over

Painting: A Laborer At Celeyran by Henri de Troulouse-Lautrec
Image courtesy of the Henri de Troulouse-Lautrec Foundation
Painting entitled: A Laborer At Celeyran
Shared under the Creative Commons attribution

Wearily, the old man sat down on the rock. Spring flowers surrounded him, blooms created by the spring rains. Before him the rains combined with melting snow from the distant mountains had swelled the creek to a full swirling torrent of mud, sticks and foam. His nomadic family barely made it across with their herds. Everyone except for him.

He had made the journey more times than he could count. The miles embedding agony into his legs .. knees … ankles … hips, screaming all his years at him, whimpering the distance from the winter lowlands to the summer mountain pastures.

Three creeks they had already crossed in their long journey to green grass. Sweetwater, Yellow River, Narrow Ford. Four more waterways lay ahead. This creek his family named Abandon.

When they had to leave his mother behind, unable to carry her across all those years ago, he had watched her go to a bare rock. Maybe even this one. There she sat. He had looked over his shoulder a dozen times until too many hills were between them. She never moved.

His father, left behind a handful of years later **screamed** at them and kept trying to splash across, until the waters swept him away. As the strongest male, he had been too busy trying to keep youngest, humans and herd, from drowning.

He vaguely remembered when his grandparents no longer could make the journey.

At least he hadn’t needed to leave Jacomina behind. She died from the cough many winters ago, her bones in the mound.

The dog worried him. Most of the dogs stayed with the family, but BlackFoot stayed behind. The dog wore a track between the waters where everyone crossed and where the old man was sitting. Eventually it sat beside him on the rock and put its head into his lap, whining. He petted its head.

No one looked back as they walked over the hills. Not that he could see. Nodding once the last of the animals crested the hill, the old man stood and began to look for shelter. He knew he wouldn’t last until the winter return, but the dog needed caring. A den of some sort. More rains were coming.

(words 370 – first published 4/17/2016)