Thursday, January 15, 2009

Friday Fiction for January 16, 2009

Friday Fiction this week is being hosted by Lynn Squire at her blog, Faith, Fiction, Fun, and Fanciful. If you haven’t gone there first, be sure to click on the link to find your way to the terrific submissions waiting for you.

I realized this week that there is one other book of mine that I have not directly excerpted for this blog –
Cardan’s Pod. This is a rather clumsy oversight, since it’s also the one that anyone interested can actually order and read the entire story, instead of just getting teased with a snippet of an unpublished work.

The doctor that created the Pod had been missing for some three years before Marta rescues Josh, and the Pod has been forced to subsist on whatever they could catch or find in the ocean. While exploring parts of the island that they cannot reach, Josh finds an old pantry with some canned goods remaining, and brings the food to them. This scene from Chapter 7 takes place shortly thereafter.

From Cardan’s Pod
By Rick Higginson

It was as if a holiday had been declared, and by afternoon the Pod had enjoyed a relaxed day. Lessons were cancelled and foraging was held to a minimum. Play seemed to be the overriding thought on everyone's mind.

Josh sat on a rock and watched it all. ‘It’s really not that different from what used to go on at the Country Club pool,’ he thought, as the two sixteen-year-old boys postured and showed off for the girls. He noted the mermaids were acting just as disinterested as the girls had when he and Diego had clowned around for them way back then. They had always kept watching, though.

But this was not the Country Club, and they did not have the designer clothes, or the jewelry, or the latest hairstyles to impress anyone. He and his peers had thought all that superficial stuff was so important, but for the Pod, a few old cans of peaches were cause for celebration.

Had I really been that shallow?’ he wondered. ‘Could anyone here get away with being as phony as so many of the Country Club people had been?’

Just as some of the mothers back at the Country Club had done, Eva and Marta exerted a subtle, but unmistakable, control over the group. At the sound of a curt word from Eva, Josh turned to see a pair of the fourteen-year-olds starting to make out. The correction was received without argument or even a scornful glance, and the two returned to a platonic distance.

Are they not allowed to fool around at all, or just not in front of everyone else?’ Whatever discipline Eva and Marta used, Josh thought a lot of parents could learn something from them.

Yet, despite her authoritative position, he noted Marta was as much a part of the shenanigans as any of the others, while Eva tended to keep sober watch. When one of the young girls leapt out of the water close to the elder mermaid and landed flat to splash her, Marta chased her down and responded in kind. The adult's splash was much larger than the child's, but when everyone shook the water from their faces, the only thing evident was laughter.

One of the sixteen-year-old boys boasted he was going to touch the roof of the cavern. The young merman dove and then erupted from the surface to climb toward the stone ceiling above. His arms flailed over his head, but never contacted anything before he fell backwards.

Eva scolded him, in a mock-stern voice, saying he had not done it correctly at all. She disappeared beneath the surface, and a few moments later burst from the same spot the boy had. Twirling as she rose, she continued to climb in the air over the pool until everyone clearly heard the sound of her hand slapping the stone overhead. Falling tail first, she executed a graceful half-flip as she angled herself headfirst toward the surface. She tucked her arms to her sides and re-entered the water with a smooth splash.

Josh watched in awe as she swam a circuit of the pool, just beneath the surface, making a low leap every few moments.

A voice next to him interrupted his thoughts. “You're being rather quiet right now,” Leanna said.

“I'm just...” he searched for the right word, “overwhelmed.”

She laughed. “Eva doesn't play very often anymore, but when she does, it's always a good show. She's one of our strongest swimmers.” Leanna lowered her voice a bit. “Personally, I think Marta is stronger, but she won't do anything to prove it. She respects Eva too much.”

“Do you know your relationships in the Pod, Leanna?” Josh asked, hoping the question didn’t sound judgmental or superior. How much of what he had read did they already know?

“Of course,” she said. “Marta is my older sister, and Ophelia and Francine are our younger sisters. Eva’s sisters are Lily, Beatrice, and Annette. We have no brothers in either of our families. Both Candace and Marianne have one brother and two sisters in their family groups. After that, each family contains two boys and two girls. The youngest sisters in two of the families, though, are still missing.”

Josh nodded, though he wasn’t sure if she’d seen the gesture. What she told him agreed with what Marcel had noted in his records.

Leanna continued without his prompting. “The boys were supposed to father all of our children, but Dr. Marcel decided that wasn’t such a good idea. He said it might be good for horses, cattle, and dogs, but not for people. Beginning with Robert and Timothy, we have potentially two couples in each age group, since those two are the same age as Annette and Francine.”

“But no one for you older girls?”

“Dr. Marcel taught us that getting pregnant too young increases the risk of problems later in life. He wanted us to have more time to mature before the boys were ready to father children. He didn’t think about us pairing up like people do until later.”

“Doesn’t that bother you sometimes?”

“Of course, but it’s not like we can do anything about it now. Dr. Marcel made his mistakes, but he really did love us and take care of us. That’s why we keep hoping he’ll come back.”

“What will the Pod do if he never comes back?” he wondered, without realizing he’d voiced the question aloud.

Leanna touched his foot and gave him an admiring gaze. “If Dr. Marcel does not come back,” she answered him, “we have you now, Joshua Cardan.”


Joanne Sher said...

Wonderful. Marta is definitely a favorite character of mine, and you picked a great excerpt to grab our attention.

Julie Arduini said...

Ooh, this is good. Perfect set up for us readers to say...what happens next??