Ugh, friends, what a day. I was determined to help sort and clean the basement; in the process I found correspondence from my grandparents, old friends…and from my parents in the weeks before I married Bo. I was an emotional wreck much of the day, so it amazes me I managed to write at all. I hope you enjoy this moment with Chloe and her father, the return of Sumac, and the introduction of yet another peculiar character…
Writing Music: Kronos Quartet, “Sigur Ros”
Chloe nudged her father away from the sliding doors and crying men. “So that Reg guy thought I was a monster?”
“I, I don’t know.” Her father paused to take in all the crows drawn or stuffed around them. “Childhood’s always been off-limits with your mother. Eating habits of ancient Egyptians, treasured relics of Spanish monks, secret treasure hoards of Celts…” Thomas approached the coat-rack with the decorative nest on top. His hand moved along the brittle sticks into the nest. His face changed as he lifted something out: a buckle attached to a strap of holed leather too short to be a belt.
Now it was his turn to swallow back his thoughts. “Any history but her own,” he said, and tucked the bond into his coat pocket. A low whistled song began in the kitchen. “Must be that Sumac. Let’s ask him about gas for the morning so we can get out of here.
Chloe paused near the base of the stairs to study the crow carved into the bannister. The carving was slow, methodical, precise–the same painstaking pace her father would take when rebuilding a broken music box. Music boxes, they are special. They’re like magic you can call back again and again, and see how this one’s got a tiny compartment for some lucky little girl to hide a treasure in? And little Chloe would nod, following her father’s large fingers move with the delicacy of a danger among the pins, wheels, prongs, and cylinder. She always wanted that magic on her shelf, in her room, but too often the magic was for some other girl living in a far cleaner neighborhood. But that magic’ll never come for song that don’t play. One loose pin, one bent prong–one thing out of place, Chloe. It takes one wrong thing to break it all.
Chloe held her fingertip at the edge of the crow’s beak–sharp, knife-sharp.
A pricking in her brain made her pull her hand back as though wounded.
“Chloe, you okay?” Thomas took her hands and checked for wounds. “Amazed that thing didn’t blind that Reg fella as a kid.”
“N-no, it didn’t hurt me.” Chloe tried to shake that pricking inside her, but she knew it meant something. Even now she could feel the golden eyes, just a scribble, and yet, those eyes were hidden under a mass of crow drawings.
And yet, those eyes of a snowy owl were drawn and pinned in this house of crows.
But it felt too weird to say to her dad–at least, at this point, it did. “I’m just thinking about Mom being a kid here. I can’t handle it.”
The father and daughter hugged as a shadow watched. “If I had to grow up in a place like this,” Thomas said, “I’d see monsters everywhere I look, too.”
“Would you, now?” Sumac leaned in the kitchen doorway, drying his hands with a ratty towel. “Can’t imagine any monster taking you down.” The towel shrunk in Sumac’s hands, small into a ball into a— thwip. Sumac whipped the towel-ball at Thomas—
–who caught it without moving a step. “I should hope not.”
Not another showdown. Chloe nudged her father, hard this time, so she could get in between him and Sumac. “Our tank got really low driving up here. Is there a town we can hit in the morning for gas, or just, you know, pay you for some? I’d…” she paused to throw in a dramatic look over her shoulder. “I’d rather Dad not have to leave my mother with these people.”
“Heh. No one should be left with these people.” Sumac motioned with his pointer finger that they follow him back to the kitchen. “Closest town’s twenty minutes in the truck. We can leave at daybreak, Miss…”
“Chloe. I like it.” He held the swinging door open to the kitchen.
Remembering Sal’s warning, Thomas and Chloe took their time going in.
The kitchen itself wasn’t overrun with crows, at least. There were more pictures pinned to the walls, sure, but there weren’t feathers pinned to the cupboards or beaks in a bowl. It was actually pretty plain in there–wooden cupboards too old for their varnish lined one wall, interrupted only by a window and a sink. A long, narrow butcher’s block sat in the middle of the room, and a simple ovular table with four chairs sat over by a row of windows along the far wall–the back of the house, Chloe figured, since there was a back door, a pile of wood for the fire, and an axe. A big axe stained with blood. Stained with the same blood, maybe, as the blood on one of the kitchen chairs. On the furthest cupboards. In the sink. Maybe the same blood as that which sizzled atop a coating of grease, of oil, of God knows what else on the old gas stove where a kettle steamed.
The body lay spread out on the butcher’s block, limbs spread, ribs cracked into sections, skin hanging over the side like a wet dish cloth, jaw snapped open to show a complete set of tiny teeth crowned with the two long incisors. Inches away from those incisors sat a teacup, a teacup being stirred with a spoon held by a man who looked like a Santa Claus who’d lost a bet.
“Ah,” the man said with a playful grin. “You’re just in time for the evening medicine.”
Word Count: 915 Total Count: 6881
Whew! Here’s hoping I can shine a light on things tomorrow…and find a smile or two to share with you. x
Catching up? Here’s the list of installments thus far.
Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!