Prompt Source: Spinning Spinny Thing
Prompt: See Here
Prompt Success: Partial
I didn’t manage to fit the guitar into the prompt, and I’m not sure if my story could be considered “all ages” at all. It isn’t explicit, but it’s pretty dark in tone. I’m still pleased with what I’ve ended up with, though, and 1600+ words isn’t a bad spot of work considering how blocked I’ve been lately. It’s a rough first draft work, but then these aren’t supposed to be polished pieces, just exercises. If I can get to the point where I’m writing even half that every day, I’ll be well on my way to getting my writing muscles bulked up for NaNo.
Overall I like the SST prompt generator. It’s got some pretty good options. It could use some tweaking, though, as “killing” doesn’t seem like a particularly all-ages action for a prompt, but if you start constricting the massive amount of options the generator provides you might as well not be using the generator at all! But it’s got a nice overall setup, and I like the permalinks to your own prompts, that let you share your prompt with others. Anyway, here’s my take on it. I’d love to see what other people come up with from the same prompt.
I remember sitting in front of the water butt, grizzling while my pa wiped the blood off my lip again.
“Everyone fights with their brother once in a while, Brison, try not to get so upset over it.” Pa gave me a pat on the back and lifted me up off the floor, “If you can’t learn to fight back you’ll get in far worse trouble with the other boys in the village.”
Of course, telling me the other boys would beat me worse didn’t help, so I just ended up in an even worse state, shaking and sobbing like a newborn. They were big, wet sobs, the sort that come with globs of snot and ruddy, swollen eyes. I’m pretty sure my pa was ashamed of me then, because he didn’t say anything more. Just set me on my feet and walked away.
I can’t blame him really, he thought he was doing the right thing. Brothers do fight, it’s true, but that’s not what was going on with William. I was too young to know any different, so when my Pa said it was normal I believed him. And how was pa to know better? When your youngest boy, a small and skinny thing, comes a-crying that his brother beat him, it just sounds like rough-housing gone a mite too far. Not his fault I didn’t know the words yet to explain it proper.
But I think even my pa realised there was something wrong with my brother after what happened later.
It was the Feast of Returning Light, right in the heart of Mid-Winter. I loved that holiday. Not necessarily for the prayers and the godliness, you understand, I was far too young to really understand all that. But our pa, rough as he could be, was a truly generous and loving spirit at heart, and never was that more obvious than during the Feast. His gifts were always the best.
That year, our ma got a lovely new shawl that pa had got a local girl to make in secret, working night and day since the last Feast to get it done in time. William got his very first set of tools, made by pa himself in his forges. A proper gift for the eldest son meant to follow in his father’s steps. And for me….
I might not be the strong, brave boy he wanted, but pa loved me all the same. So when I noticed the box he got for me was shaking about a bit, I squealed with delight. Lifting the lid, I saw the most wonderful sight. A Lyrebird chick! Still bald and wrinkled like an old man it was so fresh from the egg, but unmistakeable with its bright purple eyes. She made a little purring noise, something between a contented cat and a budgie, when I stroked her, and tried to burrow herself into my tunic to keep warm. I was already in love.
“Now take care, Bry,” my pa told me, “This ain’t just any pet. A Lyrebird can be the strongest, most loyal companion a man can have. She’ll hunt for you, sing for you and die to protect you. But she’s weak and frightened now, and she’ll need you to be gentle first, then firm later, to let her thrive.”
“I’m gonna call her Allie, Pa.”
William howled at that, throwing his tools across the room. “No fair, pa! Why does Bry-baby get a pet and all I get is some stinking tools?”
My brother grabbed a pick from the toolset, next. Came right up to me with it in front of Ma and Pa, even. He got a right mean look in his eyes then, when he waggled that pick under my nose. “Gimme your bird, Bry, give it!”
I reckon he got the shock of his life when Allie bit his hand hard enough to make him bleed, and boy was he mad. All shouting and screaming for pa to give him Allie so he could kill her and getting so wound up he ended up sent to bed right there and then to cool off.
Any other man would’ve given his son the hiding of his life for gratitude like that, even on Feasting Eve, though it wouldn’t be godly. Pa said later, he thought maybe he should’ve done after all. Like it was his fault William turned out like he did, when truth is I think he was just born wrong.
The rest of Winter passed quickly for me after that. Allie nestled in my tunic all day and slept in my bed with me at night, and needed feeding every few hours or so, so I was mighty busy. Sometimes William would look at me in an odd way while I was caring for her, and one night I woke up from her squawking and caught him standing close all strange like, watching us, but he mostly left me alone after the biting incident.
By Spring Allie was much stronger. She’d started growing in her silver feathers, and she was getting big! Pa made me an arm brace for her to perch on so I could start teaching her to fly. It was weeks before she was even brave enough to stand on it without my other hand there to support her, but in time she was walking back and forth along it, strutting like it was the most natural place in the world for her to be, and by the time she was ready to fly she’d even taken to sleeping perched on it, strapped to a pole next to my bed.
I had to keep her leashed then, so she’d stay reasonably close by at night. When I didn’t, she took to wandering through the house in search of mice, and one night I woke up to a fearful racket to find her almost trying to peck my brother’s eyes out. He insisted she attacked him for no reason and my pa believed him, scolding me to keep her under better control.
William started behaving better, after that. Made a real effort to be nice to me and ma, and I guess It seemed like Allie’s fighting spirit had knocked some sense into him at last! I thought maybe being on the receiving end of violence had taught him what things had been like for me.
By day Allie had a longer leash than at night, to let her fly about me without risking that she’d be tempted to soar away. I trained her hard, then, and she learned to obey my commands to hunt, return, and of course, to give me a wee kiss on the cheek! About a month before the next Mid-Winter, I decided it was time to let her hunt for real. I wanted to thank my ma and pa for getting her for me, and thought a pair of rabbit-skin gloves each would be just about perfect. So we set off to the fields out past the village, the old fallow ones now so ridden with rabbits even the beggars that lived here ate well. We got positioned downwind of the rabbits, hid ourselves good and well. And then I unhooked her from her leash, removed her hood, and gave the command.
She was a glory to behold. Her flashing feathers made her look like a jewel in the sky, confusing the hares and sending them into a panic. She spun and sped after them, so excited she barely seemed to care about catching, it was all about the thrill of the chase. But catch she did, and in no time at all I had enough rabbits to make a pair of gloves and a matching hat each for my ma and pa, and another set plus a soft fur sling for the wee baby sister ma had birthed a few weeks prior, and still she wasn’t done. Next thing I knew, she caught sight of some prey in the nearby woods and, quick as a shot, in she dove!
I chased after my Allie, of course, sack of hares over one shoulder and calling out proudly to her. But she didn’t return. I thought maybe she’d gotten lost or distracted, or had gotten tired and settled down to eat her last kill, but couldn’t find her at all. Nor did she turn up at home waiting for me, or find her way back the next day.
I was heartsick and panicked. Went out every day to look for her, tearful and more hopeless by the day. Even William seemed to sympathise with me, to the point he started encouraging me to keep up hope, sending me out each morning to search with an encouraging pat on the back and assurance that I’d be bound to see her again soon. But I never did. Eventually I figured she must have still been a bit too wild, and just got a taste for wild living that day.
I got the gifts made, of course, and come Feasting Eve presented ma and pa, the wee babe and William too with lovely furs from her first and only hunt. Pa outdid himself again with gifts, of course, and even William had taken the time to arrange gifts.
He smiled so sincerely when he handed the box to me. “I think you’ll really like it, Bry. Take a look.”
I screamed when I opened the box. Dropped it on the floor and backed away from it, lying on the side with those limp feathers hanging out. The babe cried, too, and ma cried. Pa just sat there, staring like he’d forgotten how to move. And William just kept on smiling the sweetest smile I’d ever seen on him.
“Told you, Bry-baby, I knew you’d see her again some day.”
Copyright © 2013 Victoria Horsham
An original work written and owned by Victoria Horsham, first drafted and published here 15th August 2013
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