Tag Archive | randomness

Short Story – Clean Trousers

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is male and a historian. A pair of trousers plays a significant part in the story. The story is set at a crossroads  in the medieval age. The story is about movement.

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It happened every time! Just as he jumped down from the wagon, someone went by and splashed filth that soaked his trousers and shoes. The smell was particularly odious today or maybe it was just the fact that fresh horse dung now covered him from his toes to mid-thighs. It would have been less of an issue at the end of the day, but his day was just beginning and he was supposed to meet the Abbott this morning. He could hardly go calling at the monastery in his current state. Although Heaven knows the Abbott must have encountered worse things in his work it was hardly the impression Karl wanted to give.

So he stood there with the fecal matter slowly sliding down his legs debating how to handle the situation. And was nearly run over by the next wagon going through the crossroads. He was splashed with more filth, this time reaching his tunic, shoulder bag and even a small dab on his cheek. Startled, he finally had the sense to step back from the intersection. Seeing a tree on one corner, he headed there to consider his predicament.

He pulled his satchel open and dug to see if he had anything with which to wipe himself. Finding nothing useful, he sat down under the tree disheartened. How could he face the Abbott? If he didn’t appear as promised, the Abbott might not grant him an audience. If he didn’t get an audience with the Abbott, Karl would not get access to the monastery library, which held manuscripts going back to the founding of the monastery and older. Karl had looked forward to this day since he was a young lad. He had learned from the priest in his local village that the monastery library held documents older than the priest, older than the oldest person in the village and he had been filled with wonder. What would such documents look like? What languages were they written in? The priest had taught him Greek and Latin, so he hoped that he would be able to read at least some of them. What secrets would they reveal? He had prayed fervently for the day he would be old enough and learned enough that the priest would give him a letter of recommendation. That day had finally arrived and he was covered in horse manure. He was cursed!

As he sat there “bemoaning his outcast state” he failed to notice the appearance of a young woman at his side until she spoke.

“You appear to be in dire need of a new set of trousers,” she remarked.

“You are correct and unless you happen to have one, I would appreciate being left to my misery,” he replied.

“Well, then today Providence appears to have smiled on you.”

At that comment, Karl raised his head to appraise his companion.

A beautiful young woman smiled and held a pair of clean trousers toward him. Astonished he rose to his feet and tentatively reached toward her offering. She did not flinch and relinquished the cloth when he had grasped it firmly. She nodded toward a wagon parked behind the tree. “You can change back there. Then we will see what we can do to clean the rest of your person.”

Still taken aback by her offer, he paused walking toward the wagon, “What can I offer in exchange? I do not have much money, although you are welcome to what I have.”

She smiled again. “I am not asking for your money, although coins are always useful.”

“Then what can I give you?”

“You are going to the monastery, are you not?”

“That is correct… how did you…”

“You will visit the library, will you not?”

“That is my fervent hope, although I haven’t met…”

She interrupted him again, “Then you will bring me knowledge.”

“But I…”

“The library holds many documents. Some are very old. You will ask to view these documents. One of them is the Scroll of Diana. You will not be able to read it. So you will copy the symbols you find. On each visit, you will copy another set of symbols and bring them to me. Be certain to copy them exactly as they appear and in the same order.”

“But how…”

“It is not necessary for you to understand everything. As a woman, you know I am not allowed in the monastery. Yet, that document was written by a woman and intended for women. The information the scroll contains is of no value to you nor to the monks who added it to their collection, except as a trophy of ancient writing.”

“Goddess knows I would give much more than this pair of trousers to see the scroll with my own eyes. Since that is unlikely in the present circumstance, your eyes will have to serve mine.”

“Now move quickly, or you will not catch the Abbott when he is in his best temper.”

She pushed him toward the wagon with the trousers. He obeyed and exchanged his filthy pair for the clean ones she had given him. He tied his belt and headed back toward her. She had a damp rag in her hand with which she wiped his face, his tunic, his bag and finally his shoes.

“There! You are once again presentable. Now hurry! You must catch him while he is holding audience.”

Karl headed down the road toward the monastery and then looked back. “How will I find you?”

“In the same manner which we met today.”

“Will you at least tell me your name?”

“Sylvine,” she smiled. “Now go!”

Karl reached the monastery within the hour and was pleased to find the Abbott still receiving petitions. He presented the letter and voiced his request to be allowed access to the library. The Abbott was in a pleasant mood and seeing a potential candidate, granted Karl’s request. Then, putting his arm out in a gesture of welcome, he announced, “I will escort you there myself.”

Surprised by his offer, Karl almost refused, and then thinking better, accepted the Abbott’s invitation. Karl followed him down a long hallway to a large armored wooden door with heavy locks. In front of the door, the Abbott whispered to a friar perched at a small desk. The friar looked at Karl and nodded to the Abbott, then gestured for Karl to approach.

“Brother Hermann has taken a vow of silence as part of his penance,” the Abbott noted for Karl’s benefit.

The monk slid off his stool and pulled a large keyring from his robes. Starting at the top of the door, he systematically began unlocking all of the locks. When he had finished he stepped aside and pulled the door open. The Abbott bowed slightly and ushered Karl into the most beautiful place he had ever seen. The air was dry and smelled of leather and must. The light was subtle and Karl noted that none of the shelves were in direct sunlight. It reflected into the room from the clerestory windows.

“So, my child, what were you hoping to see here?”

“Father Abbott, if I might beg your indulgence. I would like to see some of the oldest  manuscripts.”

“Ah! My child, you know that they are written in ancient languages. Something recent would be more accessible… “

Karl stopped him with a gesture, “Father Abbott, I have been studying Latin and Greek. And I had hoped that even if I didn’t understand everything, that perhaps I might glean something of value by seeing the old things.”

The Abbott was in a good mood, and assented. “Very well my son. We will go to the section with the  oldest scrolls. You must be careful with them for they are quite delicate and will tear easily.”

“Yes, Father Abbott. I understand.”

When they reached the bins holding the scrolls, Karl could not hide his amazement. “They are indeed old, Father Abbott. Thank you kindly for your generosity.  But I should not keep you from your duties.”

“It is my pleasure, my child. I can remain to assist you.”

“Certainly, you must be very busy and Brother Hermann can assist me.”

“It gives an old man comfort to see one such as yourself expressing an interest in our library. Very well. I am working on a translation and will be just over there,” as he pointed to an alcove with a high desk and stool. “When you want to look at a scroll, carry it carefully to a table before attempting to unroll it.”

“Yes, Father Abbott. Thank you, Father Abbott.”

There were so many scrolls, and Karl was excited to touch them all. Then he remembered the young woman’s request and began to search among the scrolls. He carried one after another to the table, unrolled them slightly and then carefully rerolled them and returned them when he realized they were not what he was seeking.

The Abbott noted his diligence and frequent trips back and forth, so paused in his task. “My child, what is it you seek? You do not seem to be satisfied with any of them.”

Startled, Karl hesitated. Should he ask the Abbott for the Scroll of Diana?

“I was looking for some ancient Roman text to see how well my Latin might fare.”

“Then the Marcellinus you pulled and put back should have been an adequate test.”

“Of course, Father Abbott. My apologies for disturbing you.”

The Abbott returned to his work. Karl continued his search more quietly, spending slightly longer with each scroll so that he did not attract the Abbott’s attention. He had reviewed two dozen when he saw it. Smaller than the others it had fallen to the bottom of the bin. It appeared to be more ornate with gilt handles and neatly trimmed edges. He reached for it gently and cradled it to the table. As he began to unroll it he noted it was more beautiful than anything he had seen. There were delicate engravings in the margins. This must be the scroll Sylvine was describing. He searched through his satchel for his copybook and a  quill. As she had requested, he started to copy the symbols he found, and then realized he did not know whether one would read them across or down, left to right or right to left? So he decided he would copy the symbols as if they were in a table. That way, Sylvine would be able to rearrange them or read them in whichever order was necessary.

Karl became absorbed in his efforts and did not hear the Abbott’s stool scrape on the stone floor. He started when the Abbott’s hand landed on his shoulder.

“I beg your pardon, Father Abbott.”

“My child, you are quite good as an amanuensis. Brother Hermann will be jealous. You have really captured the text well.”

“Thank you, Father Abbott.”

“Would you like to return another day to continue? Perhaps you can copy some things for me.”

Karl did not disguise his pleasure at the invitation. “Oh yes, Father Abbott! I would gladly return and even more gladly provide my services to you.”

“Very well! Please return tomorrow morning and report to Brother Hermann directly.”

“Thank you very kindly for your generosity, Father Abbott.”

Karl left the monastery walking on air and made his way back to the crossroads to share the good news with Sylvine.

*******

With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

A Charmed Life

It’s easy to forget to be grateful. Although I try not to, it just happens sometimes. I start ranting and raving and then the reason becomes clear and I stop.  And say thank you. So recently I was reminded again that I lead a charmed life. And I am grateful.

I travel for work. I stay in hotels. Often, the hotel rooms have residual energies. Those energies seem to be attracted to me, especially while I am sleeping or attempting to sleep. I tend to talk to them and tell them exactly what I think of having my sleep interrupted.

In December, I was in San Antonio at one of the newer hotels. I gave up the Emily Morgan after the elevator trapped me for half an hour when I talked back to it. And anyone can feel the ghosts in the Crockett and Menger without even entering them. So I wasn’t expecting any encounters. Monday and Tuesday passed without incident. On Wednesday night I returned to my room about 11pm. I  noticed the note from the housekeeper thanking me for leaving a tip and realized I needed to get change. So I thought about getting a drink in the hotel lobby. When I was unable to convince anyone to join me, I turned on the television. Noting that one of my favorite programs,  NCIS, was just starting, I decided to run down to the lobby and get change and come back and enjoy some guilt-free tv watching. So I got the change, came back, changed into my nightgown and propped myself on the pillows to enjoy the show. At midnight, House came on, so I stayed up to watch. At 1am another episode of House came on and I watched most of it. When I started drifting off shortly before 2am, I turned off the tv and the lights and turned over.

At 2am I was pulled awake by the sound of something sliding down the louvers on the inside of first one closet door and popping it open and then the other door – brrrrrrpppp POP

I started ranting out loud. “All I want is to get some sleep and you can’t leave me alone long enough…” and got up out of bed, walked around the corner and checked the mirror over the sink to make sure there wasn’t anyone in the closet before going over and closing them again. Still ranting aloud, I went back to bed and laid down. And then I smelled it. The aroma of flatulence. And my rant went on “I can’t believe you farted in my room. How could you?!”

Seemingly inspired, I decided I needed to go to the bathroom and went in to use the facilities. I did not bother closing the door, since I had the room to myself. And while I was peeing, I heard it. Someone let a fart rip from the bedroom.

OK, I am NOT alone. Did I freak out? Not in the manner you would expect. I yelled “Really?! Ok that does it now I’m mad” and I flushed the toilet, washed my hands, went over and turned on all the lights and stomped over to the desk chair and sat down arms crossed.

“What was the plan? I don’t think it was a very good one. I’m guessing you think I am rich and you would be right but not in a money way. I have friends and family who love me, a job I love, a warm home and a devoted husband…” I went on in this vein for a few minutes as I mulled my options. I was not about to look under the bed – that’s the last thing you do in the horror movies for a good reason. If I called the front desk, I could panic him and I did not know if he had a weapon. He had to be fairly small to fit under my bed and I was guessing he was young, male and probably Hispanic.

At some point, I heard a rustle from that side of the bed as if he was considering coming out, and I made my decision. I grabbed my wallet and my phone and still talking I headed to the closet and pulled on my jeans, my shoes and a jacket.

“You know what. We’re all human and humans make mistakes. I think you’ve made a mistake. I am going to take a walk and when I get back, you better be gone… for both our sakes.

I unlocked the door and stepped into the hallway. Noting the close quarters at this end of the floor, I headed toward the elevator still debating what to do.  In front of the elevator bank I hesitated until I heard the service elevator activate, so I pushed the button and headed for the lobby. Once in the lobby there were people around. Staff at the front desk. Other guests. I plopped in a chair and put my feet up to think.

As I sat there pondering my next move, a gentleman in a suit came over. “Ma’am? Are you all right ma’am?”

I didn’t respond trying to pull my thoughts together.

“Ma’am? Ma’am? Are you all right?”

Finally, I said, “I’m trying to wrap my head around what just happened to me.”

He sat down in the chair next to me and waited. “What happened?”

I started… “I’m used to having visitors who aren’t human disrupt my sleep. I stopped staying at the Emily Morgan because they wouldn’t let me sleep.”

He replied, “Oh yeah! We get about 15 people a year who come over from the Menger in the middle of the night saying ‘I can’t spend another night there’.”

So I told the story about the closet doors and then smelling the flatulence, because they can manifest smells. But, they can’t fart. They don’t have bodies. They don’t need to fart.

He offered to send someone up to check the room. I accepted.  He gave the instruction and continued to sit and talk with me. He told me a story of a quilt on a plantation in Louisiana that kept pulling up when he pushed it down. He finally kicked it off the bed only to find it neatly folded over a chair the next morning. I knew he understood there are some things that can’t be explained by what we know of physics.

We continued to talk. He offered to have the lock checked for key access. I agreed knowing they wouldn’t find any one other than housekeeping and me. We continued to talk. Finally, he offered to give me a new room for the third time telling me if I didn’t move now it would take 45 minutes because the books were closing. So I took him up on the offer and he went with me to the room with a bellhop’s cart and stepped out while I threw everything on it. Then moved me up to the 37th floor on another tower. By the time I slipped between the sheets again I was stone cold sober and still too keyed to sleep at 4am.

And I was grateful. Gratitude for the spirit guides that protect me and who woke me from a sound sleep to keep me safe. Grateful for the seemingly one-sided conversations I have with those guardian angels that probably unnerved a would-be thief enough to deter him from his task. Grateful to the night manager who talked me through my thought process and moved me to a new room.

I lead a charmed life.

Time

Time does not exist. It is an illusion. We are all eternal beings having a temporal experience. Time catches us and folds us in, deluding us into thinking that we will never accomplish all we set out to do. Quantum physics is better at explaining it. And occasionally I have those moments where I am in two bodies, two places and I understand.

She is nothing like me, so when I step into her body, into her life for a moment, I am surprised at how it feels. I wonder where she goes when I am there. Does she know I am there? Does she blank out and later wonder what happened? Does she swap with me somehow and borrow my moments? It is disconcerting to realize the body I inhabit in those moments is not the one to which I am accustomed. She is darker, slim and glamorous, and high maintenance. And yet, we both shop for groceries and travel through airports. I wonder if we have ever encountered each other in person. Did we both step through the same airport in the same moment? Or would that violate some portion of the physics? So I go on, through the illusion of moments thinking about the next point in the space-time continuum where the lines cross and I will step into her again.

Caffeine fueled encounters

I love my writing friends and the inspiration they offer.  That being said, when I ask for the word for reading someone else’s mind, the answer is not “transvestite.” And while I’ll admit that Max, my data retrieval system (see “Random Access Memory” on this blog), had already convinced me the word started with “trans,” he still did not come back with “transvestite” as an option.

Since my ability to read my own mind (ie, my memory files) was obviously not working efficiently, it took a little bit to come up with “telepathy.”  Which opened the gate for “transvestite” and shared tales of past encounters.

Then I made the mistake of asking for a synonym for “experience” and the options offered by http://www.dictionary.com included “combat” “savoir-faire” and “perspicacity.”  So we discussed labeling that section of a résumé – “Previous Combat” or just “Combat.”  Somehow it didn’t translate directly, and again I was offered “transvestite.”  Since I have no idea which writing project my friend was working on, I will have to guess that it involved cross-dressing…

As an homage (and in dubious gratitude for the “inspiration”), please see:
http://danthonybrown.me/2012/03/09/hair-accessories-mind-reading-and-transvestites/

And please offer suggestions for tags by commenting below – what random thoughts occurred to you?