Sophie played with fire, torched a blackberry patch to smoke out the vile Rat who hid there by day after haunting her nights in the Booby Hatch. Booby Hatch—that’s what she called the town of gray, hidden in thorny brambles that snatched and scratched, laying at the heart of her dreamtimes’ forays. The residents there were as mad as March hares; she had to kill Rat, or forever live there. When the cold sun rode high, and the Rat laid low, Sophie came prepared with matches and sharp knife. Her bare feet left tracks in the white, crusted snow, from the house of Father and his second wife— not her mother, the jealous, usurper Zo. A witch, the girl knew, whose resentment ran rife. Heavy with child, the witch wanted Sophie gone, so it would be Zo, baby, and father, John. When the bare, spiney briars had burned to the ground, no smoldering city, no black, smoking forms, no charred bones, nor single tooth was to be found— just puddles of water, like after a storm. The witch had tricked her, had moved the gray town, but Sophie’s sharp eyes discerned cuneiforms in the few, singed sticks that had escaped the fire, derived their intendment, knew what was required. Back to the fine house where once she’d been happy, before Mother had died and Zo took her place. Zo turned Father into a slack-jawed zombie who only saw Zo’s wicked, beautiful face. No longer was Sophie his cherished sweetie; his love for her Zo banished, leaving no trace. Nightly, Sophie heard his licentious plea: “Please come to bed, Wife, so I can play with thee.” She opened the kitchen door, the witch stood there; But Sophie saw past pretty Zo’s conjured spell— saw Rat stirring the pot, she said a quick prayer. Rat turned, and her shocked, perfidious face fell. Today was the day to set everything square, dispatch Zo and her spawn to the fires of hell. With a frenzied grin that lit up her green eyes, she slashed Zo’s fat stomach—watched witch and babe die. ©2022July Day Ottava Rima
A little tale for Halloween….😱😉
“There’s something in Mrs. Treadway’s root cellar,” I said to Mama’s back. “Something gruntin’ and groanin’ like an old hog.”
The paring knife stopped circling the tater in Mama’s hand. She turned around and stared at me, frown lines gouging furrows between her eyes. “April May Lollis, didn’t I tell you to stay away from there and not be bothering that poor woman?” She waved the shiny blade in my direction. “She’s got enough on her shoulders without you snooping around, asking silly questions. What with her husband up and dying and Jesse joining the Army right after, I don’t know how she runs that place by herself. Course, truth be told, Jesse wasn’t much help to begin with.”
“I ain’t said nothing to her.” I bit into the pear I’d picked from the scrawny tree out behind Mrs. Treadway’s outhouse. Juice ran down my chin, and I wiped it off with the back of my hand. “She didn’t even see me.”
Mama pointed the knife at the half-eaten pear in my hand. “Where’d you get that then?”
I sighed great big. “Off her tree, but she didn’t see me. I didn’t go nowhere near her house. But you know that old root cellar way out behind her garden…something’s in there. I heard it. And there’s a new lock on the door and—”
“April May, how many times have I got to tell you to quit making stuff up?”
“I ain’t making it up, Mama.”
“Or imagining it or telling stories, whatever you want to call it.”
I didn’t know why Mama just didn’t say I was lying—though I wasn’t, not this time. But she put stuff nicer than Daddy; he always said plain out that I was lying. And most of the time I guess I was ‘cause the things I thought, well, they wasn’t always so.
“Go play outside and let me finish supper,” Mama said. “And don’t you go telling your brother and sisters this foolishness when they get off the school bus.” She turned around to the sink. Another go-round of the knife on the tater. “And for heaven’s sake, don’t say anything to your daddy either.”
“Mama, there really was…I mean…”
I stomped across the green-and-blue speckled linoleum and pushed open the back-door screen, letting it bang shut behind me.
Sometimes I got so mad. Why wouldn’t she believe me? Jeeze…
I tromped around in the back yard, every once in a while kicking amongst the big piles of leaves Zack had raked up the evening before, scattering them all back out again. He’d be mad at me when he got home from school, but I didn’t care ‘cause I was mad too. Mama didn’t believe me, and this time I knew I’d heard something. And it didn’t matter if I told Daddy and Zack and Evie and Nora, none of them would go look in that root cellar and see I wasn’t telling no story.
What was in there? It had sounded kind of like a pig, but maybe it was a dog, and maybe it was starving. Maybe that was why it had sounded so funny. Yeah, it was a dog, alright. I just knew it was.Continue reading “Come Out, Come Out”
from my window I look down, look down at the iniquitous world spread out below me I look down, look down I see foul, curst creatures, but they don’t see me from my room I look down, look down into the caliginous night steeped in midnight tea I look down, look down I see ravenous malignancy, but it doesn’t see me from my prison I look down, look down at a haunting of ghosts, ghouls, and monstrous afreets I look down, look down I see all things vile and evil…and pray they don’t see me. ©2018/2022 July Day free verse
Image from iStock
gases twine seek amorphous fit black kisses gorged with light flings sparks through the universe celestial coupling ©2022 July Day shadorma
Thanks to Cognac Project for introducing me to the shadorma.
“Go on with ye, now,” Willow said, poking Dobie in the back with her spear point. “Yer pack’s ready. No use ye dawdling…day’s wasting.”
Dobie thought to kiss his wife goodbye, but she backed away, glared and raised her spear higher. She be giving no quarter, he thought. Eyes as mean and cold as ary grubber snake. He took in her rounded belly, barely noticeable beneath the thick, brown fur of her shift, wondered if he’d be back before the babe was borned—if he came back at all. “Well…I’ll be seeing ye when the yellow flowers come, then.”
She gave a jerk of her head toward the door.
Dobie pulled aside the door flap and stepped out into the cold, overcast day, joining the line of silent, stoop-shouldered men shuffling along the well-worn path between the huts.
Snow, soft and light, began drifting from the pearly sky, confirming what Old Turtle Woman had foreseen the day before, and by the time all the men had reached the gate, it was coming down hard, quickly covering the ground and their fur hats and capes. The north wind gusted, flinging the fat snowflakes into their bearded faces.
Lark and Mallow stood to either side of the open gate, hard eyes staring straight ahead. Neither woman met the mens’ gazes; until the cold time passed, they were faceless, useless, a burden to the village. They were now “The Turned Out,” and as such would be on their own in the Never-ending Forest until the snow retreated and warmth returned to the land. No home. No hearth. No wives.
Dobie glanced back when the creaking gate closed, heard the heavy log drop into its braces. And knew he nor the other men would be allowed back inside the walls for any reason—not for three or more moons.
But that was the way of it: at first snowfall, growed men became The Turned Out, leaving the safety of the village to live with Father Winter, while the women and young ones stayed inside behind the high walls, well provisioned.
Late in the day, three wolves took down Merdu, who had fallen behind, hindered by a crippled foot that hadn’t mended right after being broken five or six moons ago. Dobie and the other men chased off the attackers, though none of their spears found a target. Sly devils that they were, no wolf was injured or killed. Merdu wasn’t so lucky; both his throat and belly had been torn open.
Standing over the dead man, Kreek, the eldest of the men, said, “Be full dark soon. This be as good a place as any to make camp. Heath, take two with ye and gather wood for a fire. Fincher, ye set up the watch. Dobie, ye and Alreth tend to Merdu.”
Dobie and Alreth squatted to either side of Merdu, began stripping him of his furs and clothing, which would be divided up later. Then, with practiced ease, begin filleting meat from bone.
Alreath said, “We be eting good tonight.”
“That we will,” Dobie said. But what about the other frigid days and nights that stood between them and the return of the yellow flowers? How many more would go the way of Merdu? Would he go the way of Merdu, or worse, end up in a white bear’s belly?
Only the One Above knew.
©️2022 July Day
Inspiration for this story came from my brother-in-law–a beekeeper. In a recent conversation, he told me how drones (which are males) are driven out of the hive each autumn to preserve resources. This bit of information tumbled around in my mind and came out as a story.
simple and serene
nature speaks in blue and green
calms naked spirit
©️2022 July Day
Image my own watercolor painting.
crow comes at night
one with the darkness
slips in the window
while she sleeps
burrows its sharp beak
into her seasoned flesh
and tears at
the most tender morsels...
savors the sour flavors
of being hurt
of being fooled
of being played
she learns not to sleep
stays ever vigilant
in the morning light
sometimes she wonders
if crow is real
is a force without
a black cancer
of bone and blood…
cawing chaos, while
beating sharp wings
within each breath
through fragile capillaries
frantic to escape
©️2019 July Day
galaxy swirls round
lollipop colors enthrall
©2022 July Day
autumn tiptoes in on damp silent feet
kisses summer goodbye with soft, cool lips
sighs through treetops, so gentle and sweet
autumn tiptoes in on damp, silent feet
parched, spent summer makes a languid retreat
red, gold, and orange laugh, tumble, and skip
autumn tiptoes in on damp, silent feet
kisses summer goodbye with soft, cool lips
© 2022 July Day