Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Another Short Short Story

This was for a writing contest with some specific requirements. It had to be under 875 words and refer to a couple of specific sentences. I didn't win, but it was fun to try and write to such conditions.

Jenny Going Home by Bob Cram Jr.

“Who is the lamb and who is the knife?”
-Rabbit Heart, Florence and the Machine

Barefoot on the dirt, pounding the rhythm of her heart, boom boom boom SPLASH into the pools sitting in potholes, the water cold enough to make her heart skip a beat. The fire keeps pace to her left and right, flying overhead in sparks and cracks where the trees overhang.

Jenny, twelve, but tall like fourteen, runs to the water where her mother drowned only days ago. She tops the hill and the grass falls away down to the river, overflowing the hilltop like spilled flour, like water over stones, with the road a black racer whipping through it down to the trees that hide the shore.

The fire rushes around her, past her, eating up the grass, eating up the very sky. A greedy feeder, it snatches at her nightdress, sinks its teeth in her hair, and she flees down the road with smoke streaming from her locks like a scream in winter.

The trees are already aflame as she runs between them, sharing embers amongst their branches like pieces of gossip. Past the trees the stone bridge waits, and her thoughts are a tumble as she races across. She thinks: how long will the river hold back the flames?  She thinks: the bridge will probably survive, though the fire may crack and blacken its stones. She thinks: how often did my mother stand and stare into the dark water as it rushed beneath the bridge?

And she wonders, as she has many times over the past few days, what it feels like to stand in a river with stones in your pockets.

Ahead, the town seems to rise out of the top of the next hill, spearheaded by the church steeple. Once she thought of the church with ‘s’ words, like sanctuary, safety, sharing, and silence. Now it’s all ‘d’s’ - words like doubt, denied, degraded, and daughter. The shadow of the steeple stretches towards her and if it crosses her heart as she runs it is only briefly, and she takes no notice of it at all.

Behind her the fire pauses at the river’s edge, gathers in the trees, piling up higher and higher. Embers float across the stream like dandelion seeds, seeking a foothold… and then the fire is across. It moves through the grass and trees towards the town, slower now, as if to give her time.

Jenny, twelve, but with the dark, haggard eyes of an aged crone, runs through the streets of town and where her feet touch the cobbles she leaves black marks that smoke in the early morning air. 

She finds him in the market, walking with an easy smile and pockets empty of stones. Around her the crowd parts, all forked fingers and hasty crosses. She touches his sleeve. He turns and his smile fades away like frost in the morning sun. “I told you,” he says, “to never speak to me again!”

How does he not see the marks on her? The smoke still streaming from her hair? How does he not see, with his priest’s eyes, what she’s done with bell, book and candle? And she knows it’s because he doesn’t really see her, he sees only what he thinks of her, sees only the pain and the shame of her. His words are hot and tight and spittle hits her face as he speaks, his hand hurting her arm, hurting her for the last time. She blinks, and there are flecks of ash on her lashes that leave streaks on her cheek. 

“NOT YOUR DAUGHTER!” She screams it, a voice so loud and bright and bitter that windows shatter all along the street. The priest claps his hands to his ears; his mouth opens in a wide ‘o’ shape. The crowd seems to screech with one voice, and they wheel and turn and flee like a flock of birds with a cat set amongst them.

“There are fathers,” she says, stepping closer, “and there are fathers. When a child is rejected by one, who can blame her if she finds another? ” The priest tries to take a step back, but she clutches his sleeve.  She hears the sound of the fire as it finally reaches the town, roaring as it takes the first few buildings.

“You FELL,” she screams, “and my mother jumped, but I was the one who landed, and it was so, so far down.”

She lets him go, and as the buildings behind her come alive with flame she raises her arms and closes her eyes, as if waiting for an embrace or a benediction.

The priest takes a step back, turning to run, but the fire has moved too fast and there is nowhere to go. “Oh my Lord,” he says, but he’s wrong, oh so wrong. The flames eat up the sky and the last thing he sees is an enormous shape behind it, all wings and horns. Over the crackle of the flames he can hear gigantic hooves stamping in the dirt like thunder, Jenny’s father, come to take her home.

Friday, April 25, 2014

New Old Artwork

Still working on doing more new creative stuff, but here's something most of you haven't seen. I did some work for Merrymeeting Games a few years ago and just saw this up on their site.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Book Covers

Bit of a repost, but hey - it's a migraine day. Here are a few covers for books/short stories that I've done. All of these (except for MW:Apocrypha) are available on Amazon.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Alice in Wonderland by Raymond Chandler

A Short-Short Story by Bob Cram Jr

It was late. I'd already sent Queenie home and was thinking about heading there myself when I saw the shadow fall across the frosted glass of the front door to my office. As quietly as I could I reached inside the top drawer of my desk and wrapped my fingers around the Walther PPK I keep there. You can't be too careful in my line of work. My name is Rabbit, W. Rabbit. I'm a private detective.

When the door opened I relaxed my grip on the pistol a little bit. It was a dame, and a looker too. A little too young for me, and I'm a happily married man anyway, but she sure coulda turned some heads. Still, there was something about her that bothered me. Sure she had a dynamite figure, long blonde hair and china-doll skin, but there was something in her smile that reminded me of that Cheshire sicko the Knight and I had busted back in '26 after that whole Dumpty mess. (I know what you read in the papers, but I'm telling you that the grinning bastard had poor Humpty pushed.)

 She said her name was Alice and that she worked for the Tweedle brothers. That name raised the hair on the back of my neck. Dum and Dee run the biggest mob this side of the Looking Glass. She said that Dum and Dee had had a falling out over a rattle and now it was looking like a gang war was in the offing. She wanted me to find out who had stolen the rattle and why.

The next day I went down to the Mad Hatter Bar looking for the Worm. Mouse, the bouncer, was snoozing in the cubbyhole by the door like always. I never could figure out how a guy his size managed to fit in that small space. I gave Hatter a nod and headed for the back room. Hatter runs an opium den in his back room, one of his "side interests." Calls it his "tea party." If I was going to find the Worm anywhere, it was there. Sure enough, there he was, curled up on the cushions, smoking that hookah pipe like there was no tomorrow.

Worm's my best informant - he keeps his ear to the ground. Soon I had a buncha pieces to the puzzle, even if I couldn't get 'em all to fit. Somebody had taken Dum's rattle and Dee had been accused. The two brothers were supposed to meet for a final showdown somewhere in Wonderland, but nobody knew where.

After leaving Hatter's I dropped a dime on Alice, see if she had any ideas where the brothers might meet to air their grievances. The only place she could think of was the Old Forest, out on the west side of town. It was a slim lead to go on, but it was my only one.

Old Forest is a grim and dark place. I don't go there unless I absolutely have to. People got a bad habit of going in and not coming back out. I walked into the shadows of those cranky old oaks with my Walther out, just as a precaution.

Wasn't ten minutes before I stumbled over Dee, face down in the dirt with a bullet in the back of his head. Nice and clean. A couple of feet further on I found Dum as well, same deal. I could feel my ears start to twitch. The whole thing was turning queerer than a 3 dollar bill and I was stuck in the middle of it.

 Right about then I heard a somebody on a bullhorn hollerin' my name. "Rabbit! Give yerself up or we're comin' in after ya!"

Great. Sounded like Carpenter and his partner the Turtle were already on the case. Those two flatfoots have a bad tendency to shoot first and forget about the questions. I knew I was in a tough spot so I did the only thing I could. I rabbited.

 I managed to catch Alice in the act of disposing of the gun. Knew it had to be her, nobody else even knew I was going to the Old Forest. Pretty clever all around, eliminate Dee and Dum and end up in control of the size-changing potion racket. Her only mistake was in underestimating my speed. W. Rabbit ain’t easy to catch.

 As it was, I managed to get the whole case wrapped up in time for supper. Which was good, 'cause if I'd been late for dinner one more time Queenie woulda had my damn head chopped off.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Kickstarting the creative engine

I've been in the doldrums of late. Moving forward mostly on momentum and apathy with little drive or spark. Part of it's been the weather and time of year. (Thanks for that mid-April snowstorm, Mother Nature! Now it looks like December again...) Part of it's been health issues. Mostly, though, I think it's down to not doing a lot of creative stuff. I don't draw much any more. I rarely take out the camera. My writing has slowed to a trickle and it's been a victory if I get a good sentence or two on the page. Hell, even my reading has taken a hit - it's taken me a month to read two books.

I've come to the realization that this is a nasty cycle. I don't create, there's less creativity in my life, I create less. That's no good for me - I've always had some kind of creativity in my life, whether it's writing, drawing, painting minis, or making videos. SOMETHING. Without it, I'm feeling pretty grey and washed out.

That leads me to the reason for this post, which is to announce that I'm going to try and dedicate at least three days out of my week (I wanted to say 5, but probably better to start small) to creating something and/or sharing it. I don't know what it'll be - some days you might get an old, bad poem, another day a new, bad photo - but it'll be SOMETHING I made, something I created. I hope that helps kickstart my inner engine, gets me excited and invested again.

So keep an eye on this space. There may be a reason to, eventually.