Mobile Tales 8: in which Christabel becomes aware of an unusual weather system

By Vita Forest

One fine, balmy morning (was there really any other kind?) Christabel La Mouse peered out from The Good Ship Possession, through the far distant headlands of The Doorway and into The Kitchen.  There was strange metallic box therein to which she was often alerted by the rumbling and humming it made.  She believed it was called The Refrigerator.

The Refrigerator was a cheerful thing that kept up a steady stream of conversation.  Unfortunately, the language was quite unknown to Christabel, so she had to make do with sending a cheery wave its way and the occasional call of “Yoo Hoo!”  It was unclear whether The Refrigerator was aware of such communications, but it seemed happy enough as it gurgled and hummed and droned and whirred.

And happy it should be, for it seemed to be the home of much of the food in The Kitchen, and in particular, The Cheese.  Many was the time that Christabel would be distracted from her lookout post by the flash of light that signalled the opening of The Refrigerator and the accompanying waft of cheddar or parmesan.

But on this particular fine and balmy morning, Christabel was aware of a cloud of white that was buzzing over the pewter grey surface of The Refrigerator.  It shimmered as if alive.  Whatever could it be?


Her curiosity was piqued, necessitating this myopic mouse to withdraw her spyglass from its case and place it up to her right eye.  She twisted its segmented body this way and that, until the shimmering cloud sharpened into focus and to her astonishment turned into a cloud of words!  A cloud of words!  Whoever had heard of such a thing!  (It was true that her own vessel was formed from the pages of a novel but a cloud of words?  Was there really weather systems created by language?  Storms of similes?  Gentle patterings of adjectives?  A sudden flash of metaphor??)

As she watched, one of The Humans stood in front of The Refrigerator and peeled small rectangles from inside the cloud and arranged them in lines floating above it.

Was it a message?  She waited patiently until a number of words were thus arranged (and also for the large head to move out of the way so she could see).

What did it say?  Christabel swung the spyglass from right to left and read:

shadow ship soar over a smooth lazy lake

How lovely!  Then

watch above though

stop the spray heave & rip & blow

Wise advice indeed.  Then

live sweet summer honey music

It only needed an exclamation mark…

And there it ended.


Christabel felt like clapping, The Refrigerator gurgled and from the depths of The Kitchen, the kettle boiled.

How wonderful it was to discover new delights to monitor from her ship on the ceiling!   The world was certainly full of wonder.

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Mobile Tales Despatch 5 – Christabel and the Huntsman

By Vita Forest

In which our heroine has an encounter with a being from another land.

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Sometimes strange, unidentifable beings appeared in the night sky.

On one such occasion, Christabel was alerted to the presence of the creature by the sudden agitation and interest of the whales.  They were both looking up from the ocean floor, their eyes wide and ravenous, as if, by willpower alone, they would erupt from the water and leap into the very sky itself.  They were swimming back and forth, their bodies rippling through the water, their eyes never leaving their prey in the sky.

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(At first Christabel was quite overcome – were they looking at her?  Were they formulating a plan to seduce her down below the waves and in between their jaws?)  She blinked to disrupt the green dazzle of their stare and then noticed that the force of their eyes was not fixed on her, but on something beyond.  She swung the eyeglass through a half revolution and pointed it up to the sky rather than down to the ocean.

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And there it was, the four green eyes of the whales replaced by the eight black gleaming eyes of an alien in the sky.  Christabel quivered with fright and almost dropped the eyeglass.

“Do not be afraid,” came a high silvery voice most befitting a creature from the celestial realm, “I mean you no harm.”

The voice was comforting in a strange sort of way and Christabel placed a green-gloved paw to her chest to slow the clattering drum of her heart.

“What manner of creature are you?” she whispered back, pulling the eyeglass away from her face and taking in the new heavenly body in its entirety.

It was dark against the sky, a star emitting delicate rays from its centre.  Only this star seemed to be made of darkness not light.  If Christabel squinted, she could see that the rays flickered and danced because they were, in fact, legs.

Christabel rummaged through her memories of rainy day reading, flicking through the heavy pages inside her head until she alighted on an image.

“Are you in fact… a crab?”

She knew crabs had many legs as this creature did and the same disc-like body.  But were crabs creatures of the air or of the element of water?

“Oh no!” came the reply, “I am a spider.  I took a wrong turn I fear, sliding through a crack towards the light and now I find myself here, hunted by those beasts below.”

At this, the rays of its legs shivered slightly, as if every one of its eyes were meeting every one of the whales’ below.  Christabel shivered herself.

“They cannot swim to the surface,” she called, “You are safe if you stay in the sky.”

“I see a ledge over yonder,” said the spider swiveling to starboard, “Is it a safe haven?”

Christabel turned to see what the spider was referring to.

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“Oh no!” she exclaimed in realization, “For that is the moon.  It is cold and benign now but at any moment it can explode into a light so bright it could burn and consume you whole!  You cannot shelter there.”

“Where do you suggest I go?”

Christabel thought.  What the spider needed was another crack.  Not a crack in but a crack out.

“The Wall, ” she called, “There!” and she pointed beyond the icy moon to the place where The Ceiling met The Wall, where a rectangle peppered with clouds sat nestled in a hollow surrounded by cracks.  “Could you squeeze through there?”

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The spider contemplated the option for a moment, blinking all eight eyes.

“I believe so,” it answered, its voice tremulous with hope.  “I think I have the strength to make it.  Goodbye and thank you fair sailor”

“Farewell!” answered Christabel, “Safe journeying!”

And she waved her lacy handkerchief as the spider, slowly and precisely, inched its way across the heavens on its velvet tiptoes, a slow comet carefully arcing across the sky toward a new universe.

Mobile Tales Despatch 4 – a fishing expedition

By Vita Forest

In which Christabel is alerted to a passing school of Parmesan cheese.

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Christabel opened her eyes, suddenly alert. If she was not so suddenly distracted, she may have pondered that it was indeed strange that it was her eyes that reacted to the stimulus, when it was her sense of smell that had been awakened.  Her nostrils prickled.  Yes, there could be no doubt.  The People Below were eating cheese.  The sharp, tangy aroma drifted up to the galleon on the eddies from the deep, spiralling up past the domain of the whales, leaping up from the very surface of the water and through the open window of Christabel’s cabin.

She leapt from her slumber (an afternoon siesta – these late spring days could be so draining) and spun around in order to locate her Cheese Hunting Equipment. An operation of this sort demanded nerves of steel, the right tools (kept near at hand and in good working order) and a skill honed over years.

Luckily Christabel possessed all three. For though she verged on the jittery, there was nothing like the promise of Parmesan to sharpen her resolve.  As luck would have it, Christabel had, that very morning, found a delicate length of black cotton floating by the good ship Possession.  She had fished it out of the water with her butterfly net, attached it with a sturdy knot to her existing fishing line, and added a sharp hook made from a silver pin to its end.  All this before the heat and humidity sent her scurrying below deck with a wet hankerchief draped over her face.

Now she tiptoed up the stairs carrying her periscope and fishing line. She peered down into the depths of The Tabletop.  They were still eating, The Three.  When there was three, there was more chance of mess, more chance of pebbles of Parmesan to fly from the pasta, from a travelling fork, from a moist morsel of bolognaise sauce.  The conditions were perfect, she just had to bide her time and hope that the table was not cleared too quickly (or too thoroughly).

The meal progressed slowly, with the garbled sounds of speech rising upward, causing the ship to rock slightly and spin on its anchor in the ceiling. Christabel was forced to move from the port to the starboard side, but she quickly set up her watch again.  She was not flustered, she would remain calm and patient.  It would not do to fish too early or too late.  Timing was everything.

As the minutes passed, she tuned her ears to the slightest flick!the slightest pat! which signalled a wayward crumb of cheese on The Tablecloth. She located three.  Would there be time to get them all?  Was it better to concentrate on one?  Different scenarios and options scurried about her mind – but patience, patience! she reminded herself.

At last the opportunity came, one of the people left for The Kitchen carrying her plate, one left for The Bathroom and the other one left to answer a phone. There were two plates left abandoned, simply wallowing in cheese!  Christabel swung the fishing line over the edge of the ship and watched the line unravel, watched the silver hook, spin lower and lower, until…

It hit the plate with a tiny Ping!

She stopped.  Would the whales be alerted?  She had to work quickly.  She worked the hook around and around, drawing circles over and over again and catching up a bounty of cheese as she did so.

There were footsteps – she must hurry!

With all her might, Christabel heaved and heaved her catch up off the plate, up off the ocean floor, up through The Deep, through the currents, through the shallows, until it burst out into the air and over the side of the ship.

She sat on the deck of the boat for a moment to catch her breath.

Success!

There would be feasting tonight…

Mobile Tales Despatch 3 – in which we learn of Christabel’s clandestine pleasure

By Vita Forest

In which we learn of Christabel’s clandestine pleasure.

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Do not imagine that the fact that the Good Ship Possession is firmly anchored to the ceiling, limits in any way the interest that Christabel La Mouse finds in her surrounds.  Not at all.  For the sea is full of life.  A great percentage of all living things live there, so Christabel has read somewhere or other (and if something is written down, it is generally true).

There are of course, the comforting creatures of The Deep who reside on the Tablecloth, the school of flying fish who live near the Distant Doorway and The People who swim about freely as far as the spyglass can see.  But most intriguing of all (as well as most terrifying), are the elegant, the graceful, the beautiful, the monstrous – those leviathans of the deep; the whales.

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The whales fill Christabel’s heart with fear.  Their size!  Their strength!  Their razor-sharp teeth!  The hooked talons of their claws!  But as well as making her tremble, the whales fill her with fascination.  (How often is it thus?)  And so Christabel is careful to maintain control, to not lean too far over the edge of the ship, to avoid succumbing to the siren call of the whales, to the hypnotic glamour they exude.

She knows all about these creatures, of course.  You can find a plethora of information about them in any handbook on ocean voyaging, in countless tales told to children (to entertain, but also to warn youngsters about surrendering to the temptation of diving down and curling up in soft white scales, or along an ink-black tail).  Christabel must constantly remind herself that if she lets go, if she gives in, these creatures would indeed EAT her, would not see her as a kindred spirit (as she feels she is), but as a tasty and unexpected supplement to their diet.

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There is The Elegant White One who chirps and hums – perhaps as a means of detecting distance, or maybe she is composing a tune (it is so hard to tell), or it could be she is calling to those other pods of whales that must migrate past their little corner of the world at some point.  (Floating on the warm currents of the Tabletop or perhaps breaching the surface of the sea with a young calf.  Just imagine!  And yet, she really mustn’t…)

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And there is The Masked One who chews pieces of cardboard and paper to keep her teeth in good working order (and perhaps to terrify any quaking prey who witness such violent crunching of her jaws).  This one likes to curl up in the depths of the Tabletop, perhaps atop a sewing basket, or any whale-sized white rectangle left about.

Christabel knows the danger, and yet, these dragons of the water with their white whiskers and their sinuous bodies, curling up in spirals among the rocky floor of the Cushions, are nothing short of mesmerizing.  It is shameful to admit, and she would never report it in any official despatch, but a good part of her day is spent observing the goings-on of these enthralling creatures.

 

This week

By Vita Forest


This week I have been

READING Possession by A. S. Byatt 

WRITING  Suburban Pool Tales

SPARTYING (that is enjoying Diana’s spa with its disco lights).

CATCHING UP with some lovely old high school friends (check out the view from the appartment!)

HOUSE and CAT-SITTING for Diana “up north” (half an hour from home).

CLEANING up a lot of dust after my apartment floor was jack-hammered and repaired…

CHOREOGRAPHING a dance extravaganza for Year 2 to perform to “Surfin USA” (with the assistance of Lucy).

WATCHING most of the Harry Potter movies with the kids… (We like number 3 and number 8 best).

This week

 

By Vita Forest

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This week I have been

WRITING

READING Possession by A. S. Byatt

HOUSESITTING at my lovely friends’ homes as the repairs on the apartment continue… (Thanks Vastra and Diana).

CHOOSING new carpet to replace the sodden mess that has been removed.

SENDING home school reports.

DISCUSSING said reports with some of the parents (Sound is good!)

CELEBRATING the 4th July with some American colleagues.

When should you stop reading?

By Vita Forest

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So, for a few weeks now I have been reading The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton.

The Luminaries… winner of the 2013 Booker Prize,

The Luminaries… set in the goldfields of New Zealand in the 1860s,

The Luminaries… over seven hundred pages long,

The Luminaries… which I am now about halfway through and which I am going to stop reading.

When do you give up on a book?  I used to struggle through, grinding my teeth if I found it excruciating.  Reading on til the bitter end.  Sometimes I still do.  If the book is two hundred pages long.  But this is a brick of a book.  I think if it hasn’t grabbed me yet, it is not going to.  And I’ve given it a goodly chance.  I’ve given it a few weeks of my life, as a pile of books I want to read sit unread on my shelf…

It’s not the length.  (Although that is not helping).  I relish spending as long as possible in certain books.  And sometimes do it again and again (Possession by A.S. Byatt, or WolfHall by Hilary Mantel, The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta).  But the story and the characters have not grabbed me beyond a very limp handshake.  I can let go without feeling loss.  I don’t really care what happens…

I am supposed to be reading it for a bookish meeting you see.  This is the good and bad thing about book clubs.  The good thing – you read books you wouldn’t normally read and discover wonderful authors you may not have come across before – Wallace Stegner, Diane Setterfield, Hilary Mantel.  The bad thing is – you read books you wouldn’t normally read and discover authors you never want to read again (not naming names, but

  • there was a certain book about a certain time travelling stone that involved a lot of very badly written caveman sex…  Yes, there is such a thing.  The girl who suggested it left the country soon after, we like to think it was due to the shame of having picked such a book.
  • And the very bad vampire romance with the main characters with the hilarious names with very bad spelling.  (Actually some of the club loved this one and went on to read the series, peopled with more vampires with mothers who couldn’t spell).

So I guess I will be one of those people who go to a book club without reading the book.  Someone who can add something to the conversation about the book, just not a whole lot.

Not that having read the book always matters.  We had a very spirited and funny book club meeting last night (another book club – you can never belong to too many), where a good portion of the attendees hadn’t read the book (All the Light we cannot see by Anthony Doerr – now make sure you read that one!)

How long do you give a book?

I’m letting this one go.