So as a part of my writing prompts, one of the items was “Write a different version of the fairy tale, “Hansel & Gretel.” I had half a page, which … Continue reading A modern update to Hansel & Gretel…
As I’m plowing my way through my first draft, I occasionally like to take a moment to share snippets of the story that I’m writing. Why is this chapter titled “Lorraine”? Well… You can’t know at this point. It comes later in the chapter. For now, enjoy what little I’m providing. =)
I put Dodger’s food and water in his crate with him, along with what was left of Mr. Cuddles, and made a mental note to pick up an actual chew toy for him while we were in town. I grabbed the keys to the rental car off of the counter, then walked out to the car. It was a white Camry, about as non-descript of a car as one might find on a lot. I started the car up, then drove towards the Huddleston’s home.
As I passed the cupcakery, I saw River standing in front of her shop, taking a long drag off of a cigarette.
I slammed on the brakes, unsure of what had just happened. The engine went from a methodical hum to an irregular thumping, and a black cloud billowed out from under the hood. I shut the engine off, pulled the hood release, and jumped out of the car. I opened the hood and looked at the engine, unsure of what I was actually looking for. I was keenly aware I had exhibited the most innate of male reactions: looking under the hood of a broken down car, regardless of having any actual clue as to what was broken.
“Are you aware you’re smoking?” River called, approaching from up the street. The cigarette smoldered in her left hand.
“You’re one to talk,” I retorted. I thought I may have come across too harsh, but River didn’t appear to notice.
“May I?” she asked, dropping the cigarette to the curb and stamping it out with her sequined ballet flat. With her apron, she fanned away some of the smoke, then leaned over the engine. She felt around with a tattooed hand, finally tugging out a loose wiring harness.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Looks like your spark plug blew out,” she replied. She squinted, looking into the boot. “Looks like it broke off, you’ll need a mechanic with an extractor to fix it.” She turned and smiled at me, and must have noticed a raised eyebrow and mouth agape. “I worked part time at a Toyota service shop during college. My small hands made me pretty useful around the shop, I picked up a few things.”
“If you don’t mind my asking, is there anything you haven’t done for work?”
“Investment banking,” she said flatly. “A girl must have her moral standards.”
This evening during my final session of Personal & Professional Assessment, we were given an assignment to use five words chosen from a list of fifteen to create a story. Being the overachiever that I am, I determined to use as many of the fifteen as I could in my story. This was the result.
Once upon a time there was a nimble mouse named Mortimer. Mortimer was a cheese thief, very meticulous in his chosen mousely profession, making sure his actions did not endanger his mouse colony by catching the attention of the guard cat, Carlos. One day, Mortimer noticed a tempting piece of cheese in the middle of the room, but something seemed off—behind the cheese was an absurd looking tea cozy, with an obsolete chartreuse paisley print. The print gave an optical illusion that appeared to almost shudder, as though the tea cozy was cowering with fear. Mortimer bustled out of his hiding place, snatched up the cheese, and was attempting to avoid prolonging his time out in the open, but his gullibility put him right where Carlos, hiding under the tea cozy, could catch him.
I managed 11 out of 15 words on the list, but as it happens, Arlo managed to eek out 12 in his. Not quite the most in class, but I felt good about it anyway.
This is the first chapter of a story I started writing called “The Cobbler of Belfalls”–It’s not something I made it very far into, really only scratching the surface of a second chapter, but it was inspired a bit by Tolkien’s “Farmer Giles of Ham.” I thought I’d share what little I have, though. ~A.L.
The Cobbler and the King
Long ago, in the southern part of what is now Britain, there was a town known as Belfalls. You shan’t find the town on any modern maps, for it was long since been destroyed and built over, though the history books are scant in details as to how it was destroyed, be it in some long-forgotten battle or the decay of time, but it was located near where Bristol is now. In any event, the town was not large by any means, nor noteworthy in any fashion, except that it had a cobbler.
Cobblers, you see, made shoes. It wasn’t like today where you could simply go to the store and buy a pair of athletic shoes that had come off of an assembly line. Someone needed to make them by hand. Why it was noteworthy is, in those days, very few people in the world wore proper shoes, except for the royalty because of the expense to have them made. Most went barefoot in the summer and wrapped burlap around their feet in the winter. The cobbler of Belfalls made the shoes for anyone who asked, and was willing to barter for prices that were reasonable for even the lowliest serf. And they were comfortable, much more so than the shoes you might buy today, and they lasted longer, but it should come as no surprise, as they were much better made.
Though his name’s been lost to history, the cobbler of Belfalls was renowned for his shoemaking, and although most of his work was done for the local peasantry, one cold October day a king was travelling with his courtiers through the town of Belfalls, when he noticed the curious nature of the peasants – they all wore finely crafted shoes, and not the burlap wraps on their feet that he had seen in the many towns before. And the shoes were of such quality that, though the king would never have admitted it, his looked old and worn.
“You there, peasant!” the king called to a passing villager. “Where did you get such shoes?”
“From the cobbler of Belfalls, your majesty,” the villager replied. He turned and pointed to the signpost in front of the cobbler’s humble shop. It was a small cottage, with a thatched roof and an aloof hound tied up next to the door, laying with his paws in the air, napping. The king rode his horse to the front of the shop, and called out from the back of his horse.
“I say there, cobbler!” he shouted. “I require shoes!” The king, rather stupidly, assumed that simply because he was a king that there was no need for him to get off of his horse to do business with the cobbler. His assumption is much the same as if you were to go to a shoe store and expect that the salesperson to bring the shoes out to you, and was received by the cobbler in much the same way, for the cobbler, with his back to the king, merely called back from his workbench inside while continuing to work:
“If you wish to buy shoes, sir, I suggest you get off your high horse and buy them.” It is a little known thing, but in fact, this was the first use of the expression “Get off your high horse.” Neither the cobbler nor the king would realize the historical significance of such a remark, nor did they realize that its use at this time would spread like wildfire when referring to someone being pompous or arrogant. However, the king was hardly amused with the situation as it stood.
“I said, I require shoes, cobbler! Know you not who I am?” The king called back abruptly.
“Nay, I’ve no idea who you are, sir,” the cobbler called back. “But it’s apparent you know who I am, else you’d not be standing at my storefront, demanding shoes. I can only venture that you’re some kind of highwayman, wishing to rob me of my wares, and I must warn you that my hound is part wolf, and does not take kindly to thieves and robbers.” The hound rolled over, looked up at the king, snorted abruptly, then put his head back down and returned to his nap.
“I say, your wolf-hound is as menacing as a sparrow,” the king called back. This coaxed a chuckle out of the gathered courtiers. “I’ve not come to rob you, cobbler, I require shoes and the peasants have guided me to your storefront.”
“Indeed?” the cobbler retorted. “Did they also tell you I have little patience for arrogant fools who make airs and expect to be waited on like some sort of king?”
“Blast it all, cobbler, I AM a king!” the king cried out.
“And did your mother raise you to have such poor manners as a king?” the cobbler asked. At this point, the king became livid, drawing his sword.
“I demand satisfaction, cobbler!” the king shouted. “You may retort at me all you like, but to speak so brashly of my mother…”
“Sire, if it is satisfaction you have come looking for, I have none of it here,” the cobbler replied. “If you wish to purchase shoes, however, I have many, and you need only come in and I can fit you for them right quick.”
The king hesitated, unsure as to how he should respond. You see, on the one hand, he also came to the same realization that you and I had much earlier, that to demand the cobbler bring him the wares instead of going in to ensure they were properly fitted was quite arrogant, but on the other hand he was a king, and never once had anyone spoken so abruptly with him, save perhaps his father, and he did not much care for the feeling. Dumbfounded, the king sheathed his sword and began to dismount, however while he was dismounting he became entangled in the stirrup, and without warning fell flat on his back, soiling his favorite cloak on the muddy road in front of the cobbler’s shop. Two of his knights quickly dismounted and helped him back to his feet. The king was visibly flustered, but putting on his best air of kingliness, he strode into the cobblers shop.
The shop itself was not much bigger than a stall in the king’s stable, and although the stalls in the king’s stable were actually quite generous in size, to the king’s eyes it actually looked rather small. There were racks of every shape and kind lining the walls, and each rack contained pair after pair of the most unique shoes you had ever seen, in every size imaginable. Towards the back of the shop was a workbench covered with tools, with the cobbler of Belfalls sitting at work. He turned to the king, looked him up and down, and spoke.
“Begging your pardon, majesty,” said the cobbler, bowing quickly. “It would appear that you have something on your royal robes.” The cobbler appeared genuine in his concern, which surprised the king after their initial exchange.
“Yes, well, as I prepared to come in I stumbled.” the king replied, doing his best to not pin blame on the cobbler for making him get off of his horse.
“I wouldn’t worry about it, sire,” the cobbler said. “After all, the good Lord said that ‘Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall,’ and I very much expect He even means it literally from time to time.” This was not what the king had expected of the cobbler. He wasn’t a terribly old man, though clearly not young, either. His voice exuded certain wisdom beyond his life years, however. He was fitter than the king had expected, with blazing green eyes and a full head of reddish-brown hair. Had he not known the man’s trade, he would expect such words to come from a priest, not mocking in tone, but truthfully spoken.
“You are a curious one, cobbler,” the king said. “I see you are a master at your craft, and yet you seem to be a fair learned man beside.”
“I do my best to learn something new by the sun’s setting, majesty. I find it makes life most interesting knowing that I have not attained all knowledge and likely never shall.” The cobbler dusted his apron and walked to the king. “Now, what shoes do you require?”
“I am in need of boots,” said the king, looking at the cobbler’s shelves. “Mine have become rather worn from long travels across the kingdom.”
“I see, I see…” said the cobbler.” Let me have a look.” the cobbler knelt before the king, eying his current boots carefully. “Mmhmm… Oh, yes… Most interesting…”
“What is?” The king asked, curious what the cobbler saw that he himself did not.
“Does this foot bother you after wearing these for a long period, sire?” the cobbler asked, pointing to the king’s right boot.
“Yes, as a matter of fact,” replied the king. “How on earth could you tell?”
“Because of the unusual wear on the outside edge,” replied the cobbler, pointing at a worn seam near the sole. “It appears that the maker of these made them too wide in the center and too narrow for your toes. I imagine you have a blister on your heel as well?”
“Both, actually,” the king replied, astonished that the cobbler could derive so much from worn leather.
“It’s apparent that these boots were made on a form and not for your foot,” the cobbler replied. “They are tighter than they should be, but are just loose enough that they’ll rub and cause your ailment.” The cobbler went to his workbench and brought forth a length of leather, with many small notches marked on the edge. The king could only imagine it was used for measurements.
“Now then, sire, if I may be so bold as the burning bush, as it were, and ask that you remove your boots. This isn’t no holy ground, to be certain, but it makes the measuring of your feet much easier.” The king loosened the straps on his boots, and removed them, and immediately the cobbler went straight to work, measuring what seemed to be the length, breadth, circumference, and just about every other angle imaginable, eagerly jotting down all of his notes on a small pad of parchment he kept in his apron, while he occasionally spoke under his breath between measurements.
“Yes… ah yes…. I expected as much… Hmmm… Ah, there we are…” And almost as quickly as he had begun, the cobbler had completed his measurements.
“Very good, sire,” The cobbler said. “If you return in three days, I will have your boots prepared, and at that time we can discuss compensation.”
“Only three days?” the king enquired, puzzled. You see, when his royal cobblers made shoes for him, whom he considered to be the experts of the land, they were notorious for taking weeks to complete them, working out every minute detail by hand.
“Your ears don’t deceive you, m’lord,” the cobbler said. “The good Lord could raise himself from the dead in that amount of time, I’ve always fancied I shouldn’t take any longer to make a pair of boots.”
“Very good, cobbler,” the king said. “In three days I shall return, and I shall bring a price for the boots at that time.” And with that, the king returned to his horse outside, and the cobbler returned to his work.
I’m writing a bit tonight, making use of what little time I have between spring and summer terms, and thought I would share a snippet of what I’m working on. Enjoy!
Ethel “Meemaw” Huddleston was the elder stateswoman of Elk Cove, the widow of Thomas Huddleston the third, who was the town’s longest-serving sheriff from 1938-1974. At 96, she was the oldest living resident of Elk Cove, and having lived there all her life, she had likely forgotten more about the town than anyone else remembered, which made her stories fantastic, if not impossible to disprove. She told of the time when a Nazi spy had tried moving into town, only to be captured by her husband, who amazingly determined that the man was a spy for the Reich based on the unnatural amount of “victory cabbage” he had in his pantry. Or the time that J. Edgar Hoover himself came to town, seeking her husband’s help in solving the assassination of JFK. By this point in her life, most townsfolk had determined that Meemaw had wildly embellished the stories over the years, but no one dared question her recollection of the events, for even in her 90s, she was spry and nimble, and was not beyond boxing the ears of a “whippersnapper”, as she called them, regardless of that whippersnapper being well into their 50s.
Interestingly enough, I had forgotten I composed this and only recently stumbled across it. When they say the Internet never forgets, they surely aren’t kidding.
As some background, shortly after high school I became involved with Star Wars Galaxies, a MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game) based on the Star Wars movies. I was a nerd, I will admit, but I had a ton of fun, particularly when becoming involved in character creation, back stories, etc. I really rather enjoyed the creative aspects more than anything else.
Nenro Lapor was actually the second character I created – the first, Inean Tjaur, was a bounty hunter, but Nenro was probably the one I spent the most time in character Development for – where Nenro was my Han Solo, a complicated, involved character, Inean was Boba Fett – static, relatively quiet, really just in it for the money.
This story was written for a contest to get a slot in the Jump to Lightspeed beta test – I didn’t win, but I got in anyway. It gave everyone an idea of his tragic backstory and what drove him.
In any case, I think this is one of my better pieces of short form fiction. I wasn’t as nervous to sound stupid back then, so things just flowed easier.
Readers who saw the original may notice one slight modification – I emphasized Nenro’s rage in a way that was raw and emotional, but in hindsight a decade later I wasn’t too proud of, so I revised. George Lucas would be proud, at least.
“10 years, Korr. 10 years.”
Nenro Lapor sat looking over the lake, watching the sun as it started its slow descent into the horizon. A breeze swept across and blew a sweet smell from nearby flowers.
“What was 10 years ago?” Korr Obb sat down. Nenro had walked to get away from the group, but Korr had noticed something about Nenro’s demeanor that showed something was up.
“Did I ever tell you I was married once?” Nenro half smiled, as if a distant memory brought him back to happier times.
“No,” Korr said. “This is the first I’ve heard.” Nenro chuckled.
“I was, once.” He sighed. “Her name was Nadona, we met back home on Corellia.”
“What was she like?”
Nenro smiled, looking off into the distance. “Eyes like the oceans of Kamino, a deep blue with a storm brewing within. Hair like Lokian wheat ripe for harvest,” a tear ran down his cheek. “She was the most beautiful woman I’ve ever known.” He looked at Korr. “You would’ve liked her, she was a spirited woman.”
“What happened?” Korr said. “I mean, you said you were married.” Nenro flinched when he said “were”, as if someone pelted him with a rock.
“We were running a mining installation on Talus. It was a small operation, we weren’t exactly wealthy, but we never went hungry.” Nenro’s face was still half smiling as he spoke. “We’d been mining there about a year, when all of a sudden we hit a rich pocket of ore. It would’ve made us a fortune on the metal markets.” His face grew saddened, with a flicker of rage in his eyes. “Until they came.”
“They?” asked Korr.
“An Imperial garrison wasn’t more than a few klicks away. The base commander heard about our operation and wanted to harvest that ore.” Nenro picked up a rock and threw it out on the lake. “So he sent over his lackey and a couple of stormtroopers. They offered us a paltry sum, considering what that mine was worth, less than a third of its value. We refused.” Nenro took a deep breath, choking back tears. “Then one day, I went into town to get some supplies. While I was gone, the commander sent a brute squad over and killed all of the miners and kidnapped Nadona. They left a note demanding if I ever wanted to see my wife alive, I would have to give up the mine.” Nenro looked at his friend, knowing he had Imperial leanings but trusting him with his private thoughts.
“What did you do?” Korr asked.
“What any sensible man would’ve done,” Nenro said. “I gave in to their demands and signed the mine over to the empire, and the garrison commander kept his word. I saw my life alive again.” A dark scowl crossed Nenro’s face. ”Then he executed her right in front of me.” Korr put a hand on Nenro’s shoulder.
“The Empire did this?” Korr asked. “That’s horrible. I’m sorry.”
“Ten years ago,” Nenro breathed. “Ten years ago today was the day that she died. I still remember the commander’s words to this day: ‘Remember this the next time you think of crossing the Empire!’ For ten years I’ve been hearing his words echoing inside of my head, seeing the sneer on his face as he said it.”
“There’s a lot of corruption in the Empire,” Korr said. “Something has to be done about it.”
“Korr, I know you tend to side with the Empire, but I trust you, I don’t think you’ll turn around and report me for anything that’s said between us.”
“My lips are sealed,” Korr said. The anguish on Nenro’s face would hold him to that oath, if for no better reason than the conviction he felt knowing what the Empire had done to his friend.
“For ten years, I’ve had to live with the fact that she’s dead. For ten years I’ve been able to think about what he said to me. For ten years I’ve been haunted by this, living as a citizen of the Empire and unable to do anything but sit by and watch.” Nenro looked out at the lake again. “After ten years, I’m finally going to do something about it.”
“What do you mean?” Korr asked.
“It’s taken me ten years to realize that I died that day,” Nenro said. “When they took Nadona from me, my life ended. Now that I’ve realized that, I’ve got one reason left to live.” Nenro took a breath, then let it out. What was a mere flicker of rage earlier was now a roaring bonfire in his eyes. “I want revenge. I swear to you, Korr, I don’t know when, I don’t know how, but someday, I will find that base commander and kill him. I don’t care if I have to fight the whole Imperial Navy, I will not stop until I’ve paid him back for what he did to Nadona.” Korr looked at his friend, worried where this dark path was leading him.
“We should probably get back to the others,” Korr said, standing up. Nenro looked up, then back out over the lake.
“Go on ahead,” he said. “I’ll catch up.” Korr walked off towards the camp, and Nenro stared at the setting sun as it dropped behind the lake.
“Ten years,” he whispered faintly. “Ten years.”