Monday, March 26, 2012

Snow White's Dilemma Part 2

Snow White went to bed a happy girl. The little house was tidy, and she had discovered that a clean house was peaceful. Even Grumpy wasn't as grumpy as usual, sitting by the fire and enjoying his pipe. Her little room had been fairly good, as she had no possessions of her own, other than a spare gown Happy and Doc had surprised her with the month before. She slept deeply and peacefully.

In the morning she stood in the door of the cottage and waved as the cheerful crew of Dwarves marched off to the mines. When she went back in to take care of the messy leftovers of breakfast time, she too was humming their little tune. She scrubbed the dishes clean and made them disappear, amusing herself for a time with arranging flowers on the tables in vases she didn't know the dwarves had had.

She was discovering that when she called for something she only had to think about where she wanted it. Then it would show up there. Sometimes it was dirty, or upside-down, and she guessed that was the way it had been when Mrs. Beauchamp vanished it. She made the house look clean, smell good, and filled with pretties, then she went outdoors to play.

For all that she looked grown-up, Snow White was very much a child at heart. She hadn't had a proper childhood, in the palace. She'd often looked out the tall, mullioned windows in envy at the peasant children playing games in the dirt below. Here in the forest there were no children to play with, but the woodland creatures responded to her gentle heart and played silly games like hide and seek with her.

When her stomach rumbled she decided it was about time to not only get herself a little lunch, but to begin dinner preparations for the dwarves. She was still learning to cook, and although Sneezy had been giving her lessons, she really was only comfortable making bread and roasts. Tonight she was going to try making a pie with the leftover meat and potatoes from the night before.

Back in the house she held out her hand. “Sneezy's cookbook, please.”

A book fell into her hand and she stared at it in confusion. It wasn't his cookbook, in fact, she had never seen it before. She set it aside and said firmly “Sneezy's cookbook!”

Six books later, Snow White sat on the floor with her head in her hands. Something had gone wrong. She was getting books, just not the one she wanted. She didn't know what to do. She sniffled, wiped her nose, and stood up, resolute. Her father had always told her magic came with a price, and now she was beginning to understand what he meant. She carried the books to the empty bookshelf and put them on it. She held out her hand and called for another one.
She didn't know how much time had passed when she finally got the book she needed, but she was tired, hot, and dusty. She took it into the kitchen and started making the pies.

Dinner was late that night, and she put the dishes in the cupboards when they were washed, instead of disappearing them. The dwarves went to bed, but Snow White sat on her bed and thought hard. In the morning, she pulled Doc and Happy aside after breakfast. They heard her out and nodded. Happy hugged her and she smiled. Sometimes that was all it took to make her feel better about herself.

While they were gone that day she stayed inside all day, pulling things out of midair and putting them away carefully after cleaning them. She knew she didn't have everything, but that would have to wait for the dwarves help, as they knew what they had. That evening at the table she explained what she was doing, and that she was going to need their help.

“We need more room, or less things.” she told them. “I asked Doc and Happy about building an addition on the house, and they say it can be done. But I don't even know if I have everything back yet. Can you help me?”

The dwarves, who had been collecting odds and ends for more years than most humans had to live, and who expected to live at least that many more years, looked at each other thoughtfully. She had a point. It was nice to live in a house where you weren't tripping over things whenever you moved. Having books neatly on shelves meant they could find one when they wanted it, instead of being surprised when they discovered a title in a stack they wanted to read.

Grumpy slowly said “I'd like my pipe, so I can think about it. Too much change is risky...”

Snow White held out her hand and summoned it. A blob or sticky red stuff appeared. “Oh, dear. Strawberry jam?”

She tried again and got it, to her immense relief. She went to wash the jam off her hand. This was getting bad, she really had to get everything out of storage as soon as possible. They all stayed up late, reminding her of what they owned and making plans for an addition.

In the morning, Snow White waved as they went to work, then rubbed her tired eyes. The house was piled again, but it was temporary and much more organized, at least. She looked at herself in the mirror, seeing dark shadows under her eyes. She jumped as Mrs. Beauchamp materialized at her shoulder.

“Hello.” She managed. “I had to take it all back out of wherever you put it.”

“I see that. What happened?”

“Well, it wasn't coming when I called, or the wrong things came.” The girl explained plaintively.

“Oh, dear. You have a very disorganized mind.” The old lady tsked and flew over to the shelves and ran a finger along them.

“I was trying to keep track. And I've cleaned....” Snow White pointed out as the sprite rubbed her fingers together.

“I see that, at least.” The senior sprite reached out and made a circle with her hands, then slowly pulled it bigger, spreading her arms apart. Snow White could see a faint glow coming through it. “Hold onto my foot, my dear. I may never come back out if I get lost in there.”
The girl obligingly took the bony ankle of the old woman and held tight as she dove into the hole. She pulled Snow's arm in with her, and the girl felt her arm tingle as it passed through the glowing circle. The sprite's voice echoed back hollowly.

“Ah, here's the problem. Don't let go, dear.”

Snow White wasn't sure what she was doing in there, but she seemed to be flying in every direction. The girl held on determinedly, but her arm was being jerked about rapidly.

“Do, please come out, Mrs. Beauchamp. I don't need it, really. I'm going to take care of it myself.” She finally called, holding onto a chair with her free hand to keep herself from being pulled bodily through the hole.

“Almost done, dear. Really, this is the secret to properly done housework!”

Then with a violent twitch that twisted her arm painfully, the little old woman twisted out of Snow White's grasp. There was a burst of violet light and a sprinkle of glitter, or perhaps stars, and the girl was thrown backwards as the hole closed with a sound like a clap of thunder.

Snow White sat on the floor with her ears ringing and rubbing her arm for a few moments, waiting to see if the sprite would reappear. There was a profound silence in the house. Tenatively, she held up her good hand and called “Mrs. Beauchamp?”

Nothing at all happened. She tried again, and then asked for something else. She might as well have been speaking to empty air. The portal to whatever it was had closed off entirely, it seemed.

Snow White stood up, rubbing herself where she had landed hard enough to bruise, and went outside to call the old woman's name. After a while she gave it up and simply stood in the sunshine, feeling tears roll down her cheeks. Evidently, housework done correctly could kill you.  

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Snow White's Dilemma

In a little house, deep in the great dark woods, there lived a lovely girl and seven dwarves. The story of how the girl came to live with these dwarves is a well-known one. The part of the story most often skipped over is the middle, where she learned to live as a housekeeper. It wasn't easy, she had spent most of her life in privileged luxury. It came to pass, that her deepest, darkest, secret was that she was a slob. The dwarves, also slobs, really didn't care.

By now you will have guessed that Snow White was her name. One day as she sat staring at the dirty dishes on the table, she made a resolution to learn how properly clean house. This was a bit of a challenge, as the dwarves would be no help at all, having never learned themselves. There were no other people in the woods, and the woodland animals neither kept house nor seemed to mind her dirty house.

Rummaging through the little library in the little house she found a book on housekeeping. Rather old, she had to handle it carefully lest it fall apart her. And the dubious stains on the cover made her wrinkle her nose, as she gingerly opened it and laid it flat on the table. The very first page declared it to be “The Compleat Housekeeper's Guide to Immaculate Living" by Mrs. Beauchamp. Snow White cautiously turned over the next page in the book, and stared down at the first words on it.

The book was instructing her to be certain that there were not too many objects in each room, in other words, to reduce the clutter before she attempted to keep a clean house. Snow White lifted her head and looked around her in despair at the piles of books, clothing, dishes, and other detritus on every single flat surface in the room. There was simply no place to put all of that, she had been moving those piles around, since the very first day she came here. Snow White put her head in her hands and sniffled a little bit.

Suddenly she was aware that she was not alone in the room. She lifted her head, and looked around. To her surprise, she saw a tiny, wizened old woman hovering in midair at her shoulder. Iridescent fairy wings sprouted from the old woman's shoulders enabling her to hover at Snow White's head level.

"Who are you?" Snow White gasped.

The little woman, who could not have been more more than 8 inches tall, smiled and spoke softly. "I am Mrs. Beauchamp. My spirit dwells in this book, and when called upon, I help those who are in need."

"But I didn't call you." Snow White said plaintively.

"You are in need though, dear." The little pixie woman looked around and flew about the room for a moment, poking with her wand that she pulled out of her waist belt at various piles.

Snow White felt shame that this obviously very efficient and organized woman was seeing the condition of her home. She did need help, she realized. And she wasn't going to look a gift horse… Err, fairy, in the mouth. She still didn't know where they were going to put all the stuff.

"What can I do though, with all these things? There simply isn't any place to put it all."

"Well I suppose, that we could open an interdimensional portal."

Snow White stared at the little pixie. "I'll have what?"

"Nevermind dear, it's too much trouble to explain anyway."

Mrs. Beauchamp poked one particularly tall tower with her wand, and as it slowly cascaded to one side, she fluttered quickly out of the way. Snow White heard herself whimper a little. The whole thing was hopeless.

"Well my dear, how long do we have?"

"What do you mean?” Space Snow White asked, lifting her head. "How long to clean the house?"

“Yes, until the menfolk arrive.” Mrs. Beauchamp flew straight up to the ceiling and looked around in every direction. Snow White knew what she was seeing, piles everywhere and no place to put everything. With a flick of her wand, the little pixie made everything vanish.

Snowflake leapt to her feet. ""What have you done? Where did it all go? The dwarves will be angry, and I will be in so much trouble."

"Not at all, child. Whenever you want something, merely, not its name and reach out your hand, and it will appear where you want it."

"Oh, Mrs. Beauchamp! However can I thank you,? It looks so much better already, now all I have to do is scrub and sweep." Snow White danced around the room a little, enjoying all the space she had to move in. The wizened old woman swooped in and kissed her cheek.

“Now, my dear, I am leaving for a much-needed holiday. I will check in with you when I return.”

Snow White spent the rest of her afternoon happily cleaning. She scrubbed, swept, mopped, and finally, the house was sparkling. When the dwarves arrived home that evening, she had the table set and dinner cooking. They crowded in looking around and murmuring and wonder.

"What have you done with all of our things?" Sleepy murmured finally.

Snow White smiled. "What would you like?"

"How about my blanket?"

"Of course, sleepy." Snow White held out her hand in midair, and simply asked "Sleepy's blanket, please."

Sleepy's well-worn, light blue fuzzy blanket appeared in her hand immediately. She held it out to him, and all the other dwarfs laughed and applauded.

"That's a neat trick." Grumpy remarked. "But can you do it again?"

"And what is it that you want, Grumpy?"

"I want my pipe." He growled.

"Grumpy's pipe." Snow White chirped, holding out her hand again.

The grubby object in question appeared in her palm, and she handed it to Grumpy. "Here you are. Is everyone ready for dinner?"

They all were and once she had them seated at the table, she served out the roast and bread fresh bread that she had made that day. After dinner, she asked two of the dwarves to help her with the dishes. She explained to the rest that this would be an nightly ritual from now on. As the dishes were washed and dried, she held out her hand for it each one, and said put it away as she took them. They vanished from sight and Snow White smiled, knowing that when she needed them they would be ready for her. There were definite advantages, she decided, to living in a world with magic. Imagine if there were no magic, what a mess this would be, she would still be sitting there trying to decide what to do with it all.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Diane challenged me with "Pick your favorite fairy tale or well-known children's story and rewrite it with the hero/lead character having a not-so-good secret." and I challenged Kirsten Doyle with "She sips the cloudy colloid. "

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Greener Office

Ariena stood in the doorway, indecisive. Her hand hovered at the lightswitch. She still had work to do... god knew, it was never done, but she was too tired to think straight. Getting home safely wasn't an issue for her, but she'd sent Joe home over an hour earlier, telling him to go while he was still coherent.

She switched off the lights and listened to the room sigh. It always did that and she enjoyed hearing it. Her office, shared with two others, was a sprawling industrial space and in an attempt to spare her sanity at living and working in the big city, she had filled it with growing things. There were even fish and frogs in the discreetly netted pool located at the center of the room.

She stepped back inside, on a whim, and closed the door, shutting out the world. One of the frogs started to croak softly. She closed her eyes, breathed deeply, smelling damp earth, and recalling her childhood. Evenings on the farm had often been like this, warm, breathless, and dark. The only thing missing were the blink of fireflies.

Ari opened her eyes and gasped in suprise. There, over the pool, was a little green flash. She rubbed her eyes, thinking the lack of sleep had finally gotten to her. Now there were two. She sat down in the nearest chair and watched them dance in mid-air, glowing songs to one another in a high-rise office. She had no idea how they had found this place. She didn't really care, she was thrilled they were here.

Finally, she yawned and yawned again. "Good night, fireflies." She whispered as she slipped out the door. "I'll be back soon."

In the morning she was late to the office, owner's perogative, although she rarely used it. Joe looked up from his desk as she walked in. "Maeve went to grab the mail. You look rested."

"I had a good night." Was all she said as she went directly to the pool to feed the koi. They swirled about her fingers, as eager as puppies for their kibble. Bright bodies shone and flashed, and she saw one of the shy leaf frogs swim under a rock. She heard them, more than saw them.

"You know, Ari, this office is why I work for you." Joe commented, coming up beside her and holding out his hand for some of the food pellets. She gave him some and watched his delighted smile as the fish nibbled his fingers. Exquisite in suit and tie, it was an incongrous image of the driven executive he was. She knew he was being honest. He could make much more than she could afford to pay him, but this place was something special. She knew it, and so did their clients. He pulled out a handkercheif and dried his hands.

"I saw fireflies in here last night." She told him softly. Now, in the light streaming in from the floor to ceiling windows, it seemed unlikely, but she was fairly sure she hadn't been hallucinating.

"I'm not surprised, somehow." He tucked the square of fine white cotton away. "Ready for the dog and pony show?"

"Oh, yes." She patted the attache case she had been carrying. "It's a month's work, and I'm so ready for it to be over!"

"Shall we?" He crooked his elbow and she took his arm, laughing at his formal attitude.

Their clients had wanted to meet in their own office. Ari and Joe were met by one of the managers at the door and ushered into a plush conference room. The windows were shaded and the light was one. Ari immediately set her case on the table and went to the blinds while Joe made his way through introductions with the gaggle of suited men and the lone woman who were waiting for them. She found the controls and stood silently by them, ignoring the curious glances coming her way from their potential clients. One of the man came to stand by her side.

"Miss Ariena." He greeted her.

"Mr. Waltham. I recall we met at the Barclays presentation. How is Colleen?" She inquired after his assistant, a long suffering woman who had hit it off with her after their initial presentation. She now came to Ari's office.

He beamed. "She is well, thank you. I wanted to come in and see the look on Sach's face when you pull this one out of your hat."

She chuckled. Joe had just given her the high sign, it was time to put on the show. He poured the contents of the case onto the table, eliciting outraged gasps from the assembled executives. "Ladies and gentlemen, the raw material." He announced. Ari swept open the curtains.

Before their eyes, the crumbly looking dirt on the table began to writhe, then green tendrils erupted from it. They shot out, twining around themselves and forming a sturdy central trunk, then spreading out into branches over their heads, leaves springing out and turning toward the sunlight now streaming into the office.

"Behold, the new greener office. The tree we have just grown is capable of putting out enough bio-electricity to power at least one laptop. Imagine a room full of them. With the ability to harness the energy of the sun in a way the solar panel never had, the greener office is a less expensive proposition and a healthier one too."

Overhead, the tree began to bloom, and the assembled people looked at it in silent awe. Ari just smiled. They had made another sale, she could tell.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Major Bedhead challenged me with "You are the last one in the office, about to leave for the night, when the lights go out. What happens next? " and I challenged Michael with "Your protagonist is suffering from extreme sleep deprivation. "

Thursday, March 08, 2012

The Family Portrait

The bored young thing with the drink in her hand drifted to a stop in front of the massive fireplace. She stared up at the painting above it. The young man who had been lounging on a sofa, equally bored despite the party going on about both of them, rose and joined her in looking at it.

“What do you think of it?” He leaned on the mantle of the useless monstrosity of a fireplace. It made no sense to have it in this house, in this climate. He’d spent his life there, looking at the picture, but he’d never actually seen a fire in it. The girl was pretty, though.

“It’s fascinating. A slice of life, so plebian... not the sort of thing you see done in oils.”

“True. But Grampa commissioned it to always remind the family where we’d come from. Where we could go back to if we weren’t wise in business.”

“I think it’s charming in a post-modern way. What is it called?”

“Tuck Lisenbee scratches off a lottery ticket inside the Save & Sak convenience store in Billy Goat Hill, Alabama.”

She turned and looked at him, her brilliant blue eyes sparkling. “Enough about the origins, what do you do?”

He smiled down at her. “Shall we go lounge by the pool and I’l tell you if you’ll tell me?”

She took his arm, laughing, and they left the portrait of the poor redneck trying his luck... and winning.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Lance challenged me with "Tuck Lisenbee scratches off a lottery ticket inside the Save & Sak convenience store in Billy Goat Hill, Alabama." and I challenged jahedgepath with "Write a horror piece with rainbow balloons and a monkey in it. "