January 28, 2012

Word Count Podcast - Bloody Bleating

RB Wood hosts a podcast where writers read their own writing. I've listened to a few of the podcasts and have been meaning to contribute. This episode (22) I am included!

In case you are unable to do the audio, or you just want to take a look, here is the print form of Bloody Bleating. I hope you enjoy the entire podcast!

I washed the blood from my hands, but only my hands. My arms were still streaked with it, and no doubt smudges reddened my forehead and hair. I couldn't stop. The lambing waits on no man, or woman. I swiped at my forehead again, the bitter tang of iron from the blood filling my nose and seeming to coat my tongue.

“How many more?” I asked, breathing heavily. The rough wool of my worst dress itched all over my skin particularly where the perspiration irritated further.

“This was the last, Missus. The rest seem to be progressing normally. Will this ewe make it?” the shepherd asked.

I looked back at the bleating ewe, the crying lamb. I put a hand on her chest, above where the lamb was already trying to suck. It rose and fell, her breath shaking, but not impeded. “She'll live. I'm not sure she'll lamb again, though. Mark her for slaughter. We won't take her 'til we have to, but come the winter...” I sighed, wiping my hands again on the rag that I'd tucked behind my belt, pushing back sleeves to scrub at my arms. My husband's shepherds were all diffident. The master's first wife was not just any woman, after all.

“Yes, Missus.” He ducked his head and hurried away in the direction of the other ewes, ones having less trouble than this poor creature.

I knelt beside her, spitting on my rag and wiping my face. I tucked some hair behind my veil. I made no move toward her lamb, but touched the ewe's head gently. “You have something I never will, even if it costs you your life.” I would give my life to have a babe, a son or daughter.

“Missus!” I stood quickly, afraid someone might have seen my moment's weakness. I was already burdened with all the weakness my people assumed of women; I didn't need any added to it. One of the younger shepherds came. “It's another set of twins, Missus.”

“Holy Father,” I prayed. Silently I added a promised sacrifice if He would see me through this day. Almonds and lotus. It wasn't a typical offering, but it was one I had found He appreciated, one specific to me. I hurried after the boy, no older than my Caleb. In fact, Caleb should have been out here. I looked around the pasture, but couldn't spot his shining black head. More were the dark dusty brown of the hired boys and men.

Caleb wasn't mine. It was a ruse orchestrated by Jessa, Benjamin's second wife, and myself. Her first son was mine, having all the rights of the first born. No one outside our family knew that Caleb wasn't my own blood; even Caleb didn't really know. He resembled his father so much that it didn't matter what little of Jessa he bore. Her second and third children were more like her, exotic in appearance, nubile.

I pulled another lamb, using a work knife to cut free as I needed. This ewe was lost. She'd stopped bleating before I reached to her. It was all I could do now to save her lambs. The first was black and the shepherds all backed away. I opened the lamb's jaws and wiped free any birthing fluid that might be blocking his air. He immediately began crying. The second lamb came free easily, almost falling from her mother before I'd finished with her brother. She had a beautiful white coat despite the blood that stood atop the downy hairs. I pulled her into my arms, knowing this lamb was special.

“Make sure that one finds a nurse ewe,” I instructed the others. “He will breed strong.”

“But he's black, Missus,” one of the older shepherds said.

“I know. It is a sign of his strength that he holds to black when father and mother were white. He will add to our flock.”

They continued to stared at me, obviously unsure whether or not they should listen.

“You heard my wife.” I smiled at the sound of my husband's voice behind me. I turned to look up at him, towering over me, and I wasn't small for a woman. “What have you found? A bedraggled little thing.” He ran his hand over the bloodied fleece without concern. “She is fine.”

“She will be the queen of our flock one day,” I promised him, rocking the tiny lamb. “And I know just the mother ewe for her.” I walked back to the mother I'd marked for slaughter, Benjamin following me.

“This one? You're sure she'll survive the night?” He squatted down beside the still recovering animal. He huffed. “She will at that. You helped her lamb, didn't you?”

I nodded, setting the second lamb beside the first. “She won't lamb again, but she will feed these two, and then she will feed us.”

“A worthy life for a worthy animal. Dani, you are a mess. You'll send me running to Jessa looking like that.”

I nudged him with my hip and sent him sprawling from his squat. He laughed, lounging on one elbow.

“We'll see who's running,” I warned. Another cry came across the pasture. “Me,” I answered myself with a sigh, lifting my skirts enough to run. Every ewe saved, every lamb saved, was one more to bring our family wealth. I didn't notice Benjamin follow at first.

“Me,” he said, his voice full and low. “You've done enough, Dani. Clean yourself, rest, have one of the children bring you some food. I'll take care of tonight.”

Leaning on his arm, I kissed his cheek. He could have divorced me when I was proven barren. He could have vaulted Jessa above me to first-wife. Instead he had kept me close, consulted with me about a second wife. I was with him when he found Jessa and knew she would be a friend to me as well as wife to him.

Despite all the children Jessa had given him, and continued evidence that I could not, he came to my room as often as hers. He loved me as my father hadn't loved my mother, as I'd never seen a man love a woman. I would do anything for him.

“I will eat, and then I will return if the lambing isn't over. I will bring food for the shepherds as well.” Jessa and her daughters would have been cooking while I was in the field.

His eyes and smile must have seen through the blood and grime that caked me because the fire in them was usually reserved for my chamber. I licked my lips nervously and wiped hair away from my face, odd honey-coloured hair. I almost adjusted my veil before thinking of the blood I would get on it. My hands fell to my sides.

“I suggest you hurry, wife.” His tone, like his eyes, gave me the impression that I wouldn't be returning to the pasture tonight. “I will expect your return.” Then again... I looked to sun sinking in the west. Making love with Benjamin under the stars would be a perfect end to a bloody day.

January 22, 2012

Flash Fiction

As you may have noticed, I don't blog much. However, there are few blogs that I LOVE to frequent. Why? Because they give me inspiration through tiny bursts of creativity. There is a whole week worth of flash fiction contests out there:

Menage Monday
I admit, I haven't participated in this one yet. Mondays are busy....

Five Minute Fiction
I've missed out on this one a lot because I work on Tuesdays and the contest is limited to a 15 minute window (hence the name).

Humpday Challenge
Another I haven't participated in myself, but enjoyed following.

Thursday Threads
Relatively new.

Friday Picture Show
A picture is worth 100 words, exactly, if you please.

Other blogs I turn to for writing inspiration?
Haley Whitehall gives us a challenge every month.
The Word Count Podcast covers a variety of themes and prompts. It also lets you HEAR your fellow authors, how cool!
Picture Prompt Writing Challenge I have had several characters jump out of these prompts for repeat appearances and ongoing writing opportunities. You should consider joining us by writing a piece using one or both pictures every week!

So, there you have it. Write a little, inspire a lot. It's amazing how much punch you can get from less than 500 words, truly.

January 3, 2012

Coffee time

"Ah, there you are, User298. It seems like it's been minutes since we've met. How can I help you? "

"My user would like to open those pictures in the Summer 2008 folder. Do you think I could access it?"

"Of course you can. Why don't you sit down while I fetch it for you."

"You are a dear, User 021. Are those cookies?"

"They are! Would you like one?"

"It seems I have dozens of my own, but this one looks very tasty, thank you."

"Now be careful with that one, it's hot and I'm pretty sure someone popped in here while I was sleeping to check on it! Can you imagine! And me in just my screen saver."

"No! How concerning. Do you think it's an attacker?"

"Just some peeper. Don't you worry yourself, User298. Now what were you looking for again?"

"The pictures in folder... Oh dear, nevermind, User021. It seems my user doesn't want them any longer. I don't know why she does that. Why would you ask to see something and then just walk away?"

"I don't know, User 298. Oh! But there's my user looking for the same folder. Here, you enjoy the tea and I'll be right back."

What I imagine happens when my coworker tries to access my transfer folder.