Thursday, March 25, 2010

Friday Fiction for March 26, 2010

Welcome to Friday Fiction, which I have the pleasure of hosting this week! Look at the bottom of this post for MckLinky, to either enter your link, or to click over and read the other submissions.

This week, I decided to post one of my personal favorite Challenge Entries from the Faithwriters Weekly Challenge. While this story didn’t place (possibly due to the Topic that week being the United Kingdom, of which Northern Ireland is a part, but Ireland proper isn’t, and I didn’t differentiate which I was referring to in this story), it remains one that very much struck a chord with me as I wrote it.

The hymn is one that I both love to sing, and to play on my flute, and this made it especially easy for me to imagine the scene as I wrote it. I hope it resonates with you as well.

Visions of an Old Flutist

Challenge Entry: Week of January 22, 2009

He ran his gnarled fingers lovingly down the wood of the old flute, still impressed after all the years by the craftsmanship that had gone into it. As a young man, it had seemed to him a gift too rich to receive. Now that he was old, it was a friend too precious to lose.

Drawing a breath that was not nearly as deep as those he’d taken the first time he’d played it, he brought the instrument to his lips and, with practiced ease, blew a single, long test note. Happy with his tuning, he launched into the first phrases of the tune, playing by memory and singing the lyrics in his mind.

Be Thou my vision,

Oh Lord of my heart.

Naught be all else to me

Save that Thou art!

Thou my best thought

By day, or by night.

Waking or sleeping,

Thy Presence, my light.

The rich music of the flute carried over the hills, much as his voice once had when he’d still been able to sing. His father had taught him to play, and he’d refined his skills along with other musicians at the local pub. The sessions had always been a pleasure, and an Irish tradition that dated back longer than any could tell.

Be Thou my wisdom,

Thou, my true Word.

I ever with Thee,

And Thou with me, Lord.

Thou, my great Father,

And I, Thy true son.

Thou, with me dwelling,

And I with Thee one.

His Father had taught him the true joy of music, though. While the lively jigs and reels were exhilarating to play, it was in worship that his spirit found release. Sometimes, an old friend would come by and join him in the praise, playing the fiddle or the bodhran to accompany his flute, but most evenings now, he played alone.

Riches, I heed not,

Nor man’s empty praise.

Thou, mine inheritance

Now, and always.

Thou, and Thou only,

First in my heart.

High King of Heaven,

My treasure, Thou art.

You could make some money, playing for tourists in the city, friends told him. People come from all over the world, looking for a taste of the old Ireland, and you could give it to them, they said. His old home wasn’t much, but it was where his children had been raised, and where he and his wife had enjoyed many happy years together. It was where she had smiled at him before telling him good-bye, and he fully intended to make that same journey from the same bed she had passed away in.

When he was young, he had enjoyed the accolades given to his music. It had been his flute that had caught her ear long before his smile had caught her eye, and of all the Earthly audiences he’d played for, she and their children had quickly become his favorite. He imagined her now, sitting alongside the angels, listening to the simple solo.

High King of Heaven,

My victory won,

May I reach heaven’s joys,

Oh bright Heaven’s Son!

Heart of my own heart,

Whatever befall,

Still be my vision

Oh, Ruler of all.

The last notes echoed away on the breeze, and he lowered the flute. Holding it close across his chest, he allowed only a moment of sad nostalgia before mouthing a silent prayer of thanks for the voice of the flute. For as long as he had breath, he could still praise the Lord.

Standing from the old chair, he felt the wall behind him for the door and entered the dark house. He put the flute in its case by feel, and set it in its place on the shelf where he could find it the next evening. Shuffling off to bed, he fell asleep with the assurance that his next vision would be of the Ruler of All.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Friday Fiction for March 19, 2010

Friday Fiction is hosted this week by Christina, over at With Pen in Hand. Set aside your pen for a moment, and check out what she produced with the pen in her hand, along with the other submissions in MckLinky.

I’m trying to decide if this is a good place to leave Timothy and Teresa for a while, or if I need to give a more conclusive ending to this story. Sometimes, leaving room for imagination is a good way to finish a story, and sometimes it’s not. Feel free to chime in with your opinion on whether this is a satisfying place to stop for now.

Reef, Her Madness

Part 7

By Rick Higginson

Teresa entered through the front door of the bungalow, wearing a blue tropical print sundress. The fabric appeared lightweight, and well-suited to the climate of the island. She spread her arms and glanced down. “I can’t believe how much the gift shop wanted for such a simple dress,” she said, sounding like she was about to apologize.

“It looks nice on you,” Timothy said. “Did they have everything you needed?”

“Sort of; I’m not real crazy about the souvenir print panties they had. I mean, I can understand t-shirts or hats or tote-bags, because people will see those and the resort gets advertising from them, but underwear? It’s not like I’m going to let the whole world see my panties so they can know that I visited here.”

He shrugged. “It’s probably not much different than a tattoo someplace on a person’s body that they wouldn’t show to anyone else, except underwear can be changed.”

“I suppose you’re right, but it still feels weird to pay extra for a piece of specially decorated clothing that I’m not going to show anyone else. They’ll do, though, until I can get to my clothes in my bungalow.”

“Look beside the bed,” he said.

She took a few steps farther into the room, and stopped. “My luggage – how’d it get here?”

“When I called the manager earlier to tell them it was okay for you to charge to my bill, I mentioned that you’d been locked out of your bungalow. He went and investigated, and had your stuff brought here.” He crawled up beside her. “Your bill is being credited for your share of the bungalow from last night on. He doesn’t have another open room for you yet, but is going to try and find you one. Until then, you can stay here if you want.”

“He couldn’t get Jenny to let me back in?”

He hesitated a bit before answering. “No. She wouldn’t budge, even when he told her she and her boyfriend were going to have to pay the full cost of the bungalow.”

“Did she tell him why?”

“Before I answer, do you have any idea what she’s angry about?”

“Not a clue.”

“She said you’d hit on her boyfriend.”

“What?!? Where’d she get a stupid idea like that? I can’t imagine what she sees in him, let along having any desire to be within arm’s reach of him myself.” She released a disgusted-sounding noise. “I’d hit on a pig before I’d hit on him.”

“Well, wherever she got the idea, I guess that explains why she’s locked you out.”

“I should just change my flight and go home.”

“No, you shouldn’t. Why should your vacation get spoiled because she has a problem?”

She gestured in frustration. “I came here to spend a week with my friend, and I’d hoped she’d get over whatever her problem was so we could salvage some of that, but that’s not going to happen now. So I don’t have my friend, I don’t have a bungalow, and I don’t really have any reason to stay.”

He moved to the foot of the bed, and took hold of the corner post. Struggling hand over hand, he pulled himself up until he could get his fluke under him. Finally standing upright, he hopped awkwardly to turn and face her, holding onto the post for support and balance. He let go with one arm, and held it out to his side. “You still have a friend here, at least if you want one.”

“That looks really uncomfortable for you.”

“Maybe a little, but I thought it would be more comfortable for you than asking you to get down on the floor with me. I don’t have legs to go for a walk with you, but I do have arms that work just fine for hugs.”

She stepped into the embrace and lowered her face to his shoulder. “Why have you been so nice to me? I’ve been such a pest.”

“I don’t know, Teresa. I’ve spent pretty much my entire life surrounded by the Pod, and I came here thinking that being alone for once would be enjoyable. The funny thing is, you’ve been the best thing about this vacation so far. Maybe I’m just not cut out to be alone.”

“You’re the only reason my vacation hasn’t been a total disaster.” She sniffed and squeezed him a bit tighter.

He gave her a light kiss on the neck. “Would you really want to split up the duo of Merman and Crazy Reef Girl? There’s still so much ocean to save.”

“How am I supposed to save an ocean when I can’t even save my oldest friendship?”

“You don’t know that it’s not salvageable yet, and if it’s not, it’ll be because Jenny doesn’t want to save it.” He stroked her hair. “The Pod has an old friend named Diego. He’s a church pastor, and he often has some interesting perspectives on things. He told us once that God sometimes has to use a bad situation to direct us towards something good.”

“I’ve told friends similar things. Funny that it doesn’t seem as easy to accept when it happens to me.”

He chuckled. “Diego says that faith isn’t accepting things that are easy. The Pod had to accept a lot of things that weren’t easy since the day Dr. Marcel was taken from us. Some of us still don’t accept that it was all part of a plan, but looking back, I see too many things that were just too much to be coincidence.”

“My pastor says there’s no such thing as coincidence.”

“Then maybe both of us being here this week is no coincidence, either. I’m not suggesting we rush into anything, but we could always take the rest of the week to decide if it’s worth pursuing beyond that.”

“A week isn’t much time to figure something like that out.”

“Ten feet isn’t much of a swim, either, but we’d never have made it out to the reef without swimming that ten feet first.” He shifted his weight slightly, trying to relieve some of the discomfort in the tip of his tail. “There’s a restaurant in town that’s setting up a low table for my birthday tonight. I’d love it if you would join me for dinner.”

She lifted her head from his shoulder and looked into his face. Her eyes were red and wet. “It seems I’ve invited myself to so much of your vacation. I think this is the first thing you’ve invited me to.”

“There are a lot of things the Pod has no experience with, but I think I’m actually asking you out on a date.”

“It’s been a long time since I was asked out by anyone that I would consider going out with. Are you sure you want to date a crazy girl like me?”

“I wouldn’t have asked if I wasn’t sure.”

“Is this dress nice enough for the restaurant?”

“It’s nicer than the t-shirt I’ll wear.”

She put one hand on the back of his head, and gave him a quick kiss. When he smiled, she gave him a longer kiss.

“Does this mean it’s a date?”

Nodding, she whispered. “Thank you for saving my vacation.”

“Thank you,” he said.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Friday Fiction for March 12, 2010

Friday Fiction this week is Dancing on Rainbows with Sharlyn. Since St. Patrick’s Day is this coming week, dance an Irish jig over to the rainbow, where MckLinky awaits like a pot of gold, only full of fiction links for you.

No Irish jigs in my story this week, but we do have a guest appearance by one of my favorite characters, and maybe just a glimpse of the end of the rainbow. If this is your first visit to this story, please start at Part 1, or else you’re probably going to find it confusing coming in this close to the end.

If you’re completely new to my blog and my stories, it might help to know the Pod first appeared in my book, Cardan’s Pod. I have quite a few Pod stories here (hence the name of the blog), but a good one to start with would be The Rescue, from August, 2008.

Reef, Her Madness

Part 6

By Rick Higginson

Timothy ate his breakfast, absently staring out over the ocean through the sliding glass door. Teresa sat at the desk with her breakfast, still wearing the Ocean World t-shirt and fidgeting her left hand through her hair.

She’d been talkative until she had tried calling her bungalow. As near as Timothy could surmise, her friend had hung up the moment Teresa had spoken. Her mood and expression had both changed when she placed the phone back in its cradle, and she’d kept her face turned away from him.

I don’t even know what’s wrong, so what could I say to make her feel better? He took the last bite of the raisin toast, and wiped his fingers on a napkin.

The phone rang, and Teresa snatched it to her ear. “Jenny?” she said, and then, “No, no – he’s right here. Let me hand him the phone.” She got up and brought him the handset. “I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to answer for you. I just thought maybe Jenny was calling back.”

“It’s okay,” he said, as he took the phone from her. He rolled onto his side to take the weight off one arm for holding the phone more comfortably. “Hello?”

“Happy birthday, Timothy,” a chorus of voices shouted from the other end of the connection, followed by assorted whistles, cat-calls, and cheers.

The noise had barely quieted down when a single voice spoke over it. “Even if you’re not here, we couldn’t let your birthday go by unnoticed, could we?”

“Well, I’d kind of hoped you would, Marta,” he said.

“I doubt that,” Marta said. “You’ve always enjoyed previous birthday celebrations, so why should your own be any different?”

“I don’t know. Maybe I just don’t really feel like it this year.”

“Hmm, well, I guess I can’t argue much with that. So, who’s Jenny, and who was the girl who answered the phone?”

“Oh, that was Teresa,” he said, and gave a quick rehash of the previous two days.

“Crazy Reef Girl?” she said, and then laughed. “I can hear you smiling when you say that, Timothy. Are you sure she’s only a friend you just met?”

“I’m – not sure, Marta. I – um,” he stammered.

“Hold on a moment. Let me get to my room where I can talk without all the distractions.” There was nothing but background noise for a few moments, until it faded and allowed the sound of her crawling to carry through the phone. When that stopped, she spoke again. “That’s better; now, your hesitation tells me that there’s something more on your mind. Are you feeling something more for this Teresa?”

He sighed, glancing towards the desk where she’d returned to face away from him. “I don’t know, Marta. I really think I could, but – ”

“If you think there is a potential, then what’s holding you back from seeing if she might feel the same way?” When he didn’t answer right away, she pressed further. “Timothy, do you know what’s holding you back?”

“Yes, Marta,” he said quietly.

“Has there ever been anything before that you couldn’t tell me?”

“No, Marta.”

“Then why don’t you just go ahead and tell me what the problem is now, and maybe we can work it out together?”

He could almost feel her giving him a gentle, encouraging touch, just as she had done so many times during his life. “It’s Annette,” he said, almost in a whisper.

“You’re afraid of what she might do if you fall in love with someone else?”

“That, and what Eva might do if I hurt her sister.”

“Do you really think Eva would punish you for following your heart, Timothy?”

“I don’t know. They are sisters, after all.”

“Do you ever remember a time when Eva set aside what was best for the Pod in favor of what one of her sisters wanted?”

“No, but as Annette likes to remind me, this is what Dr. Marcel planned.”

“Eva and I knew Dr. Marcel longer than any other members of the Pod, and I can tell you that, despite how much we loved him, he wasn’t perfect. His plan wasn’t perfect, and he kept changing it as he realized his mistakes. If he’d lived, Timothy, I’m sure he’d have changed the plan many more times. We’re much too far from the last revision of his plan to even think of going back to it now, and Annette should know that.”

“Yeah, well, she sure isn’t acting like she knows it.”

“You just leave Annette to me and Eva, and see how things go with your crazy reef girl this week, all right?”

“Are you sure about this, Marta?”

“If we always waited until we were sure, I doubt most of us would ever find love.”

“I suppose you’re right about that.”

“So, promise me you’re going to do something special and fun for your birthday.”

“I promise.”

“Good; now let me talk to Teresa real quick.”

“You want to talk to Teresa?”

“If she’s still there, yes.”

He held the phone up. “Teresa, she wants to talk to you.”

“Huh?” Teresa turned and looked confused. “Me?”

He nodded, and stretched the phone a bit higher. “That’s what she told me.”

She took the phone. “Hello?” she said. “Marta? You mean, that Marta? You’re really – I – oh my – I don’t know what – yes, ma’am, er, sorry, Marta. Sorry, Marta. Uh huh, yeah? Okay.”

The side of the conversation he could hear gave him little clue as to what Marta might be saying, though he found Teresa being starstruck amusing.

“It is? Ah, I see. Uh huh, uh huh. Sure, I think I can do that. Yes, I definitely will. Really? That would be awesome, thank you. Uh huh, okay, you, too. Bye!” She put the phone back in its cradle, and turned to him. “You didn’t tell me it was Marta on the phone.”

“Who did you think I was talking to, all those times I said her name?”

“I wasn’t listening. I was kind of lost in my own thoughts.”

He smiled at her. “You don’t look quite so sad, now.”

“She said it’s your birthday, and asked me to make sure you go out and do something especially fun today.”

“I should have figured she wasn’t going to just take my word that I would. What else did she say, if you can tell me?”

“I’m supposed to take lots of pictures and send them to her, to prove you had fun today, and that she’d love it if I came out to your island sometime and meet her.”

“So, what are we going to do today, Crazy Reef Girl?”

“Can we break into my bungalow and get some clothes for me to wear?”

“I don’t know about that, but they do have some nice outfits at the resort gift shop. I saw them when I was checking in, and you could just go pick something out to wear until we figure out how to get Jenny to let you in.”

“I really can’t afford the gift shop prices.”

“Don’t worry about it. I can afford it.”

“I can’t let you buy me clothes.”

“Why not?”

“I just – can’t.”

“You’ve been my swim buddy for two days, my meal companion, and you even shared my bungalow last night. You’re not afraid of gossip, are you?”

“No, it’s not that.”

“Are you worried that I’ll expect something in return?”

“Well, maybe a little.”

“It’s my birthday, Teresa. There’s nothing in the world I need or want, and you’ve already made this vacation far more interesting than it would have been otherwise. You told Marta you’d make sure I had fun today, and I would enjoy it if you gave me the gift of letting me buy you something.”

to be continued...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Friday Fiction for March 5, 2010

Friday Fiction is hosted this week by Karlene over on Homespun Expressions. Find MckLinky and more stories for your enjoyment over there!

My apologies for making you wait an extra week for the next installment of Reef, Her Madness (I really should come up with a better, more fitting title), but with the return travel last weekend, I didn’t get much chance to work on the story. I think this one will have maybe one or two more parts, though it will depend on how the rest of the story plays out. Sometimes, my characters have different ideas than mine.

If you’re new to the story, you’ll probably want to start back at Part 1, and read your way to this week’s chapter.

Reef, Her Madness

Part 5

By Rick Higginson

Timothy was in a twilight sleep state when the faint tapping came. He continued to lie with his eyes closed, trying to decide if the sound had been part of a dream. When it came again, louder and more insistent, he opened his eyes and looked around the dark bungalow. The tapping had been crisp, unlike the slightly muffled sound of someone knocking on a wooden door.

It repeated a third time, and he localized it on the sliding glass door leading out onto the beach-facing patio. He crawled through the dark room, and then pulled the blinds aside to peer outward.

Teresa stood on the patio, still in her bathing suit and holding the dive lights and her snorkeling gear.

He loosened the clip in the bottom track of the sliding door, and opened it. “Did you forget that we already went for the night swim?” he asked.

“I, um – Jenny locked me out,” she said, her voice softer and more timid than any other time she’d spoken to him.

“Wait – that’s your bungalow, too. How could she lock you out?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know if her and her boyfriend made up and wanted some privacy, or if she’s still that mad at me, but all the doors are bolted from the inside. I tried knocking, without any response.” Her look was embarrassed but hopeful. “I was wondering if you’d mind if I used your couch tonight.”

“The couch? What for?”

“To sleep on.”

He backed out of the way, and gestured for her to come in. “Why the couch? Why not the bed?”

“Well, because I’ve never been into the idea of sharing a bed with a guy that I’ve only known for a few days.”

He slid the door closed and tightened the clip to secure it. “I wasn’t implying that we’d share the bed. You’ll have it all to yourself.”

“I don’t want to displace you from your bed.”

He chuckled. “Come over here,” he said, and led her over to one corner of the room. “This is my bed,” he added, indicating a large pad on the floor, with a lightweight blanket and pillow over it. “Whether you’re here or not, I won’t be using the regular bed. While I could probably lift myself up into it, this is more like what the Pod has back on our island, and what I’m most comfortable with.”

“Are you sure?”

“I was snoozing right here when you knocked.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you.”

“It’s okay. It’s really not much different than when another Pod member crawls by me to get to the bathroom in the middle of the night.”

“Well, I really do appreciate it. I was starting to wonder if I’d have to sleep out on the beach tonight. Is it okay if I use your shower before I go to bed?”

“Whatever you need; just make yourself at home.”

She put the dive lights and snorkel gear on one of the end tables. “It would have been nice if Jenny was going to kick me out, if she’d let me get clean clothes and something to sleep in first. I guess I can just sleep in my bathing suit for tonight, and hope she lets me into the bungalow tomorrow.”

“Would a t-shirt work for a nightgown?”

“It would, if I had one with me.”

“Look in the overnight bag by the television.”

She went to the bag, and opened the top. “Why do you have t-shirts? I didn’t think you ever wore anything.”

“I have them because human culture is weird. If I’m in an airport or a hotel lobby or something like this, it never fails that someone gets upset because I’m naked. If I wear a t-shirt, though, they’ll be satisfied because my human portions are clothed. They never care if the dolphin part of my body remains naked, just so long as my human part is covered.”

“You’re right – that’s just weird.”

“Eh, it’s not just the Pod that people are that way with. Think about fantasy movies. If a human character was running around naked from the waist down, the film would get a more adult rating. If the character is something like a centaur, though, nobody cares if his horse portions are naked.”

“Yeah, well, I’m not sure pants or even shorts would really fit the centaur image, and I wonder if the typical centaur could actually manage to twist the human torso around enough to pull shorts up over the horse hindquarters. That’s a rather long reach.”

“I suppose we should be glad Dr. Marcel didn’t get it into his head to create centaurs, then.”

“I’m betting if you were a centaur, you’d have picked a different place to go on vacation. I don’t think a centaur body would be very good for diving on a reef.”

“True, but at least I’d have legs.”

She held up a t-shirt with a large Ocean World park design on the front. “Is this one okay to borrow?”

“Sure. I have a lot of those shirts. I went on one of the appearance tours, and the park gave us all a bunch of shirts to wear when meeting the public. You can keep that one if you want.”

“What?” Her voice was playful. “You don’t want it back after I’ve worn it?”

“Are you kidding? Do you have any idea what some people would pay for a shirt worn by a Pod member? I doubt you wearing it one night will devalue it at all, so if you don’t want it, I can always auction it off online.”

She flipped the shirt over her shoulder, and headed towards the bathroom. “In that case, maybe I’ll go ahead and keep it and auction it myself. I might be able to pay for this trip with this t-shirt.”

He laughed, watching her walk away. She had a swimmer’s body, rather than a swimsuit model’s figure, and he found it a pleasing look. He especially liked the muscle tone in her legs, and for a passing moment, he wondered how she’d fit in with the Pod.

He was pretty sure Annette wouldn’t like her.

To be continued...