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.

 

Justify

By Vita Forest

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I am right and they are wrong.  Yes her, and them, and those others too.  Wrong.  With the letters after their names.  Wrong.  With their heaving bank accounts.  Wrong. Just plain wrong.

I ignore.  I obstruct.  I cast red herrings into the air like confetti.  If I do it long enough, they will bury and obscure.  Eating up time.

I let her lead it.  The investigations.  The options.  I am at best lukewarm, at worst, indignant.

I bring out my arsenal.  The alternative so ridiculous, so offensive, it will be rejected.

I wait.

I am good at this.  I learned this as a child.  Do something so badly, so wastefully that others throw up their hands and give up on me.  They finish the irritating chores that should have been mine to complete.  I smile smugly as they exhaust themselves.  If I leave it long enough, someone else will step in, someone else will pick up the pieces, someone else will pay.

Works for me.

Bad workmanship brings its own rewards.

I’m worth it.  I deserve it.  I have my own rules.  I am important. I need more.  That is just how it is.

She needs so little.  She has got used to not having much.  It would not hurt.  It would hurt me.  I am worth it.  I deserve it.

I will use the language of a debate and the structure of an argument.  I will get my way. There are reasons and I will list them in righteous indignation.  I will puff myself up until I am red in the face, blood juddering through my temples.  I will thrust my finger back and forth.  Dotting the “i”s, punctuating my points, underlining the main ideas with a thick black texta.  I am right, that is all there is to it.  If I shout loud enough, you can’t hear anyone else.

The reasons are these…

After careful consideration…

I am being fair and reasonable…

It would be petty to suggest otherwise…

I didn’t have it and it never did me any harm.

Look at me!  How well I turned out!

I will catastrophize.  I will weave a story of my own making from out of the air.  One that serves my purpose.  I am completely within my rights…  She is completely unreasonable.  I will pontificate with my friends, discuss it over a beer or three.  Spittle flying from my mouth as my finger swings through the air.  Stabbing.  Righteous.

I am right and that is all there is to it.  It is unreasonable to expect more.  It would not be convenient for me.

If it’s so important, someone else will step in.

What could it possibly cost me?

 

Z is for… Zone

By Vita Forest

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The shoes!  The shoes!  What was she thinking? How did people stand up in them?  Let alone walk.  Let alone dance.  They had to come off!  Pip pushed her way through the people, and the thudding music, which seemed almost a physical presence, and left the lounge room.  She blinked in the brightness of the hallway and bent down to wrench off those high heels.  Those stupid sexy shoes she had been talked into buying in a moment of weakness.

“Sitting down shoes,” her sister called them.

Indeed.

Pip found her jacket and hid her fabulous sitting-down shoes beneath it.  She wriggled her toes and arched her feet.  Much better.  She would simply go barefoot.

Pausing just beyond the doorway, Pip let her eyes adjust to the dark again.  The room was full of dark shadows, dark figures lounging around the perimeter against walls and windows, the centre full of bouncing, flailing dancers.  Her hips starting moving again.  Then her shoulders.  Then Pip’s arms flew above her head, and in the next instance she was dancing in amongst them again.  Who knew where her friends were?  At this point it didn’t matter.  If you were dancing, if you were in the zone, you could dance anywhere, with anyone.  So she did.  She did her hip hop moves.  Some salsa.  Joined a conga line.  She was up for anything.  Any song that came on was her favourite.  Was the cause of whooping and cheering.  She was in “the zone”.  She found her friends again, held Sophie’s hand, mirrored her moves.  Led Sophie through her own.

A searing pain in foot.  Burning.  Pip’s eyes widened and she fell to the floor in a heap.  Jonny lifted her up and carried her out of the dark into that blinding light again.  Through to the kitchen.

They all groaned as they looked down at her foot.  A red welt slashed into the skin above her toes.  A hole.  Purple around the red.  Pip stared at her foot and felt the pounding of her blood through her whole body.  Her vision began to blur and whiten, she stared and stared, as if falling back into a tunnel.

“Let me through!” someone shouted vaguely from a distance.

She felt someone lift up her foot, her poor fragile foot and slap something cold over the top of it.  Pip breathed out through her teeth and felt the whiteness retreat.  Felt her mind return from that tunnel.  Come back to her.  The hot burning was fighting against the cold burning.  It was spluttering.  The fire was going out.

“What is that?”

“Just peas,” someone said.  “Mint peas actually.  Shelled and snap frozen.”

“Do you want to go home?” Sarah brushed Pip’s hair out of her face with gentle fingers.

“No.  I’ll just sit with the peas.”

They carried her back into the darkness (Make way!  Make way!)  and found her a place on a couch.  Sarah piled up the cushions behind her back.  Jonny nursed her legs.  Mira held her feet and draped the peas over Pip’s foot, now only dully thudding.  Sophie brought her a cold glass.

“Just water,” but who knew “Just water” cold from the fridge could taste so good.  Pip leaned back and peered out into the dance.  From the friend zone.

 

 

Y is for…Yearning

By Vita Forest

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Derek and Billie, Billie 4 Derek.

Billie eyes widened as she stared at the words she had written on the page.  Her pencil hovered in the air, then she scribbled through the words until she tore the paper.

Sometimes when they talked, she looked at his lips.  At his lips forming the sounds that she was hearing.  Except sometimes she wasn’t really listening to the sounds.  They were secondary because what she was thinking of was – what would it be like to kiss those lips?

Sometimes when they met, she thought how easy it would be to reach out and hold him.  To just reach out and wrap him in her arms.  They were standing so close!  It would hardly be any effort at all.  She was standing right in front of him, not across the city, or across the uni, or across the classroom, or across a table.  They had covered all that distance that had separated them their whole lives, but this is where she had to stop.  Her arms could not breach that gap.  Billie had to content herself with hugging her books to her chest.  As if they could give her any comfort, as if they could warm her, as if they could make her feel.  (Actually they could comfort her and make her feel, and actually they did.  Jane Austen did provide comfort.  So did Shakespeare.)

Billie watched Derek.  Often she would deliberately sneak into the lecture hall late so she could sit behind him, away from him.  For the sole purpose of watching him.  At times that was better than sitting right beside his physical presence.  Which she sometimes found unbearable.  The yearning could be too much.

He would usually text her.

U here?

Yup

He would turn at that and scan the hall.  His face would break into a smile when he found her crouched behind her laptop.  She would remain deadpan but would raise a hand in greeting.  Then he would wink at her.  She would wink back.  And then he would turn away.  Which was lucky, because by then, she was probably blushing.  She could only do deadpan for so long.  And the blushing was getting worse.

Billie hoped he hadn’t noticed.

So Billie walked up to Derek and always stopped that arm’s length from him.  Though her heart pulled her closer towards his heart, but she would resist it.  Grip her books and resist it.  This terrible, delicious yearning.  This torture.

Billie supposed she should do something.  Throw caution to the wind.  Take his hand.  Kiss him.  Tell him how she felt.  She almost laughed.  What a ridiculous idea!  No, much better to stay in this state of friendship, good friendship, close friendship.  She didn’t want to lose that and if she said anything and he laughed…  It would be beyond awkward.  Beyond excruciating.  It would be devastating.

So she watched him from across the room and waved at him and winked at him and texted him and talked to him and laughed with him and was with him, in a way.  She was with him.  And that was what really mattered, wasn’t it?

U is for… Unconscious

By Vita Forest

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How much of what Nicola did was unconscious?  Was it an unconscious decision to apply for that job?  In that other world she thought she lived in, Nicola didn’t have to do that.  It had not been part of her plan.  They had more than enough money for a comfortable life and she had time for contributing to her children’s life, to her family’s life, to the community.  But somewhere down deep, a tiny hand had tugged at her shirt tail and told her to put in the effort and apply for that job.  Told her that even though she didn’t have to, she should.  Called back to her from the future that it was an absolute necessity.

And she got the job.  Started building her career again.  It was good to feel useful, to be good at something, because she was unconsciously beginning to get the message that she wasn’t good at being what Joe wanted anymore.  That little hand again, tapping at her side, pointing out the way he winced as she spoke (shrill), the way he sneered at her achievements (small), the way he stayed out more and more (Important meetings).

Was the swimming unconscious too?  Was the building up of her strength and stamina just something that she happened upon?  Afterwards, she would charge up and down the pool, screaming into the water, as her fingers clawed and her feet thrashed and her whole body beat out her frustration.  Up and back, up and down, back and forth, following the black line on the base of the pool, hypnotised by that thick black line, her world reduced to getting to the end, then slapping the side and doing it again.  Turning herself into a warrior.  Strong.  Flexible.  Resilient.  And smelling a little of chlorine.  But it gave her a place to go.  It gave her something to do.  Something regular.  Something calming.  Something slightly more wholesome than turning to the drinks cabinet (which was also tempting).

Nicola liked the way swimming made her lungs burn, her arms ache, her temples beat in time with the blood pounding around her body.  She liked the way the water blanketed and obscured the noise of everything outside the pool.  She was a fish, a dolphin, a stingray, communicating through clicks and squeals.  There was no language.  No words.  No betrayal, just survival.  And that was unconscious too.  Nicola could go through the motions, let herself be carried by the water, by her body, by her routine, until the time came to emerge from the pool and get back on land.  Among the living.  In that new life that she had had no inkling of, except in her deepest unconscious.

That place that seemed to know everything.

 

This week

By Vita Forest

A to Z challenge April 2016

A to Z challenge April 2016

This week I have been

R is for… Red

By Vita Forest

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Scarlet, cherry, ruby, burgundy… there are so many words that call themselves red.  And my world is festooned with it.  In the garden, the tomatoes swell and hang heavy on the vine.  Ripening from green to red in the hot summer sun.  The chillies are little streaks of scarlet too, concentrating their fire inside each tiny cone.  The capsicums positively glow, and underneath drooping leaves, the prickly skins of magenta strawberries hide.

And flowers!  Nasturtiums send their snaking tendrils across the gravel path, gold and orange and cherry red.  At the centre of each petal, the colour deepens to burgundy.  I hold a flower up to the sky and watch how the light glows through the fluted skin of each bloom and pick a bunch for my bedside.  Each morning, the nasturtiums have colonised the path even more, stretching, reaching, flinging across the gap, trying to get to the other side.  Occasionally, a wheelbarrow will slice through a strand and end its progress, but I will not have them cut back.  Ramsey sighs and presses his lips together at this instruction.

“They will trip you Madam,” he predicts pessimistically.

“They will not,” I retort from deep within my vortex of happiness.  I need the colour, I need the wildness, I do not want it tamed.

Rory noticed my fondness for these radiant jewels and passed me one of their speckled, round leaves.

“Eat it,” he ordered.

“Truly?” I frowned.  Sometimes I feel I know nothing.

He folded one up and crammed it between his teeth chewing slowly.

I followed his example, my eyes widening at the peppery heat in my mouth.

He laughed and handed me mint to cool my insides down.

I can practically see the garden growing, practically hear it.  The sun sending beams of light and heat down to the upstretched greenery, until seed pods pop – insides bursting free, fruit swells and strains against its tightly stretching skin, buds are peeled open, petal, by papery petal.  And insects hover and swoop and suck and drown.

Each fallen peach is crawling with drunken wasps and bees, drawing up the nectar, fighting the birds for each precious drop.  (Have you ever eaten a warm peach fresh from the tree?  It would send you wild with desire too.)

All my senses are heightened.  My eyes are drawn to every bead of red amongst the cooling green of the leaves, the colours singing against each other.  There is even a bird that carries this contrast with it – the king parrot.  Green and red, red and green, they fly in pairs and chime to each other through the trees.  The sound seems to ring through my head.  And who can walk through the garden without sniffing the rising scents in the air, dizzying me as much as the insects that zigzag ecstatically amongst the fruit trees.  And eating!  I hardly need dinner after sampling the harvest, the cornucopia we work amongst, a warm red tomato here, a streaky-skinned capsicum there, biting into it, crunching into it, juice dripping off my chin.

If I close my eyes and sit very still, I can feel the sun working its magic on me too.  Coaxing out new shoots, unclenching all the knots and tightness in my back, expanding my chest.

I am a seed carried on the wind.  I am a fruit splitting in the sun.  I am a tendril uncoiling.