Has it been a month since the last chapter? I apologize. The holidays have been a blur. A stress fracture in my right foot has kept me immobile . . . sitting is difficult as well, putting any weight on this foot is a bother. Still, I managed to write over two thousand words for Part 25, the longest of chapters, and it’s ready for its debut here on A Writer’s Life Blog. Thanksgiving comes to an end with Roger Compish celebrating the feast, carving up the large bird at Sally’s home. You get to meet her two boys, Miles and Carter, and find out what is important to each of them. Parents do influence their children.
“We are all demonic!”—QUEEN STORMAG
Here’s another painting from my father, George Bogdanovitch, that I felt captured the bounty of Thanksgiving, the bones, the wishes, the grateful and ungrateful. I hope the new year finds you in creative places.
If you want to refresh your memory (it has been too long between chapters), please click HERE to begin reading from the very beginning of Part 1. If you want to read a bit of the last chapter first, simply click HERE to read Part 24!
A Play Demonic (The Queen’s Idle Fancy) — Part 25
The turkey’s wishbone was larger than Morton could remember ever seeing before, and he marveled at it, showed it off to the kids, preserved it after carving into the large bird to pry it out gently. The wishbone dried on the windowsill above the kitchen sink, awaiting Miles and Carter’s tug-of-war jousting later in the evening. The two boys nudged each other, pestered and gave each other grief, boasted about being the luckiest. Roger glanced at the wishbone from time to time as he washed pots, the gravy boat, china, glasses, the stuff the dishwasher couldn’t take after a full load. Too long ago now, everything with a bit of haziness clouding each memory, he thought of his own childhood past, when his parents and his younger sister were forced into the same room in the house, celebrating any birthday or holiday together (without his mom or dad drinking too much booze before, during, or after the feast), and to care as much as he did.
Now, he hadn’t seen his father in over two decades, after pops simply walked out on his family. His mother became more of a harpy, wine-fueled rages of despair, and rot, ruin, and Roger graduated high school and had to do hard time, entering Washington State University in Pullman, where his mother worked as an assistant to one of the bureaucratic bigwigs—she received a marked discount from the university, her children who enrolled there did too with tuition discounts, and their mother never let them forget it. Her sharp mind fastened chains to both her children’s futures. She wanted to keep them close, and this only made them frustrated, hateful even, at times.
After he graduated with an English degree (Roger wanted to teach—escape) he sought work in Anacortes, far from his Pullman, Washington homestead—married and divorced young after failing at acquiring a job in the local school system. His sister, Judy, never forgave him for leaving, her bitterness mirroring their mother’s monstrous cracked heart. Judy couldn’t escape until years later. It was a college town, and she scraped by, decided to live at home, take care of (enable) her decaying mom, day-drinker extraordinaire, save up funds, be a waitress at a breakfast lunch diner, study economics. She had a mind for it, the smartest of the bunch. Their mother died of liver complications in her fifties, and Judy called, sent Roger half the proceeds from the sale of the 1,500 square foot, three-bedroom family home. Roger had fled west, reached Anacortes and seldom glanced backwards into his history. Judy married an accountant and lived in Spokane. She had three kids, all approaching their teenage years, converted to the Mormon faith—which suited her hatred of alcohol, and enhanced her enjoyment of sweets. Roger and Judy communicated but once a year, and Roger didn’t let this distancing bother him. He sent his two nephews and one niece gift cards for Christmas, not knowing them well enough to pick out anything personal. Stayed in touch just enough to keep them at a distance. It hurt Roger to see Judy. Simple as that. Can’t choose your family. Bullshit. And then his next thought wondering if he should send Judy an invitation to the opening of The Queen’s Idle Fancy in May, months away. She’d have time to coordinate her schedule at work, and the kids would love the action scenes, the fighting with swords, the execution scenes. All children loved grisly tales.
“Where’d your mind get to?” Sally asked with attached levity. “That’s the final dirty pot—can’t believe I ate as much as I did. Great stuffing by the way. I would’ve continued to eat and eat if there’d been any left.”
“Thanks, it was my grandmother’s recipe, handed down with binding vows of secrecy.” Roger’s thoughts didn’t immediately fly back to the past, but the image of his grandmother flashed. She had a line of darkness where her lips pressed together, but she radiated an ironic streak of happiness otherwise. She laughed a lot. That’s what Roger loved and remembered most about his grandmother. Tough as nails. Soft as a de-clawed alley cat. Strength lived within her, and she was Roger’s protector, the one who stood up to his father, and surely integral in his father’s option to abandon his mewling family. Judy told him grandmother gave their father an ultimatum and he (lily-livered bastard) chose to leave town the very next day. Something like: Be a man! Take care of your family! Her son-in-law left and she died of a massive heart attack not two months later, giving a small inheritance to her only daughter, which helped with her grandchildren’s college expenses.
“She sounds as serious as my aunts. They won’t share their recipes without threats of bodily harm if they’re passed outside the family.”
Roger’s next thought: Oh, I doubt my family and my upbringing’s anywhere close, but he said, “With constant social media, and the age of self-publishing, their worries have more foundation. Speaking of, are you going to contribute a recipe to the Fidalgo Pool’s Charity Cookbook?”
Sally thought about it for a second and then said, “Nope. Don’t have anything worth giving.”
“I so beg to differ. You’re a great cook.”
“Pure amateur hour in this kitchen, but don’t tell the kids that. Somehow, my cream chicken on toast with peas passes muster.”
Roger rinsed the last casserole dish and handed it to Sally, who held a towel more wet than dry. He thought about the play while conversing with his host. In that faraway time period, way over in a made-up kingdom, Thanksgiving didn’t exist, but other celebrations did, and these had a pagan quality—Roger thought about the second act’s celebration in the village square, where everyone contributed and worked hard to observe the kingdom’s special day, almost like a birthday, and how quickly Queen Stormag pulled back from the joyous time when a riot broke out—locals took up farm implements, weapons, tools, to save a young child; the riot beginning, formed from whispers of impropriety, lasciviousness (Frenalto and Camoustra at the center of this wretched gossip), and it was this delicate child the queen fixated on and called to be brought to the castle keep along with the two strangers who defended her from harm.
The two strangers? They saved the youngest daughter of the blacksmith while he was engaged, being restrained by a faction of the village who’d always hated his moral underpinnings. This small scurrilous group thought the blacksmith deserved a righteous comeuppance. Almost wishing his daughter into the sights of Queen Stormag, they knew a hobbling would soon come; they knew few escaped the castle once becoming the queen’s idle fancy, even a small, pretty, dirty, girl, daughter of the humble blacksmith, who never lorded his faith over any other person, be he friend or foe. They forgot that the sister of the blacksmith worked for the queen, a handmaiden as meek as a mouse, someone who never looked upward, cleaned floors, bowed in subservience, and someone who loved her niece with every fiber of her being. Bilder kept quiet during this scene, waiting in the wings, so to speak.
Frenalto and Camoustra were honored for their quick thinking. Darker things did exist back then, a superstitious judgment, the worst, the most persistent, surviving to this age. He realized the words, the stage filling with villagers and livestock, farm animals milked and led to slaughter, hens in proper egg-laying shacks, should be as . . . honest was the first word that came to mind . . . and then tests for honesty . . . if animals acted naturally, so could the players gathered to perform their roles. He thought of a test, something he could ask at the formal auditions, and then another test.
Panicking for a second, he turned around, patted his left front pocket, which revealed emptiness. Then he rushed out of the kitchen, Sally giving him a cocked eyebrow and a chuckle of amusement. Roger didn’t care how strangely his actions had become as Thanksgiving dinner progressed.
Roger stormed into the guest bedroom where his coat had been placed on the futon’s bedspread, a family quilt in overlapping squares of gold, red, and green, perfect for the Christmas holiday, the next big gathering—I’ll be here, and my knife better be here as well, Roger thought.
He breathed with relief, his pulse calming as he rubbed the theatrical knife that he’d placed in his windbreaker’s inner pocket. He took it out and touched the tip of the knife, and it stayed sharp for a split-second before giving, shrinking into the handle with easy grace.
“Hey, come out everyone and watch Miles and Carter pull the wishbone!”
Roger put the knife back into his jacket and returned to the living room. Morton handed him an overfull glass of scotch on ice, and Roger wondered how he’d drive home safely. He’d drunk too much.
The kids jumped, bumped, jousted verbally with each other, and tested the limits of their vocabulary restriction, which didn’t pass muster, both facing a scolding from Sally. They had moved to the living room, decorated in upholstered, oversized sofas and puffy, comfortable reading chairs, side tables, coasters, all with a blue and white nautical theme to suit the island flavor. Coasters, glasses, brass clocks, one that ticked audibly, and a brick fireplace filled the space. No television though, Sally wouldn’t approve the distraction; she wanted her kids to focus on anything else but games, television, or the internet, and this was getting harder and harder to accomplish. A television was banished to the guest bedroom—and Miles and Carter always asked permission to go watch it.
I’d put them in their place if they spoke to me like that. Certainly face a harsher reckoning . . .
Roger took a slug of scotch, a wicked grin forming as the kids chose sides. Miles, older chose the short stout side of the dried wishbone.
“No fair! I wanted that side.”
“Nope. You get the longest. Be grateful.”
“Miles,” Sally said, “no need to tease your brother. He’s younger, doesn’t understand.”
They lined up close, each holding an end of the dried-out bone.
“I’ll count to three and then you can pull. Okay? One . . . two . . . three!”
And the bone didn’t break. Miles struggled, being the stronger, and his tiny fist turned sideways. Carter, breathing heavy, felt like his arm was being pulled too high, then low again. And then . . .
The wishbone broke in a snap, the force bringing Carter’s arm flailing out and spiking the sharp pointy bone, the losing end of the wishbone, right into Morton’s left side, ripping through his holiday sweater, blue button-down shirt, and drawing blood.
Morton yelped with bewilderment and then pain, but tried to quell anything beyond this . . . for Sally’s sake. Carter let go of the spindly bone and there it was, sticking out of Morton like a fishhook in fish-mouth.
“Oh,” Sally said. Short. Wild.
“I won,” Miles said, and he held up the jagged, but more complete half of wishbone.
No one cared except for him. Roger stared at the blood as Morton pulled his shirt and sweater up. There was a lot of it pooling. Did it hit an organ? Spleen, stomach . . .
“I think it’s deep,” Morton said. It looked like it went in half an inch, maybe more. That was a long wishbone, Roger thought.
“Are you able to drive?” Sally asked Roger. I know I’ve had too much wine. “You need to take Morton to the Emergency Room.”
“Sure. Good thing I didn’t down the scotch. Morton, what’d’ya think, buddy? Can you . . .” Roger felt he could drive, but if he was stopped . . . the face of his alcoholic father popped into his mind and he chewed his lip, a distorted face, someone from decades past, a black-and-white image haunting his thoughts at the worst time. Nerves. He could do this.
“Pull it out,” Morton interrupted. His voice was faint. “It’s not that bad. A lot of blood though. Pull it out.”
“Are you sure?”
“Just do it.”
Sally ran and retrieved a dishtowel and placed this underneath Morton’s left side. Roger grabbed the wishbone and pulled it out of his friend’s side. More blood and then pus pooled in the wound. It looked like a pencil puncture, a divot. And it oozed more and more.
“I’m taking you to the hospital. It’s not that deep, but there’s infection worries,” Roger said.
Carter looked apologetic, scared even, guilty.
Miles looked miffed. This was supposed to be his victory time.
Sally looked bizarre, her face an emotional wreck. Roger blamed the wine.
They left Sally to handle her two boys, and tell them nothing was their fault. On the way to the hospital’s E.R. Roger didn’t know what to say to his friend beyond basic comforting words. The ride was silent most of the way. Morton pressed the towel against his wound and said he felt faint. They got there in less than ten minutes.
“Something to tell the grandkids,” Roger said.
The nurses took Morton into a back cubicle, asked him about tetanus, asked him to tell the story. They’d never heard of a wishbone stabbing before, and they’d laugh about this patient, how it happened on Thanksgiving, later, when they got off shift, when they could enjoy their own postponed Thanksgiving celebrations. Roger didn’t feel sorry for them. They made a choice, made time-and-a-half, as he did whenever he worked a holiday for the ferry system.
Roger waited in the lounge and three hours later, after shots and stitches, a nurse wheeled Morton out and told him he was ready to go home. Nothing serious (now), but peritonitis infections could develop (antibiotics), almost scraped an organ (lucky it wasn’t a bowel; he’d be dead on the floor after great pain if that’d been the case), Roger forgot what it was the moment the nurse said it, too rapidly, trying to get back to the nurse’s lounge. She was the type to color up any situation, showcase what the worst outcome could’ve been, before saying what Roger’s friend faced was nothing, a boo-boo, a tale to tell.
Fully sober now, Roger called Sally, told her Morton would be fine in a bit. Stitches and drugs. They’d meet up again the following week after rehearsal for the Christmas pageant, return casserole dishes, and drink beer at the Brown Lantern.
Miles slept after being calmed down . . . he whispered to his little brother that he was a murderer, a stabber, and bad kids go to jail.
Carter didn’t sleep. He listened to his brother breathe deeply above him from the bunk bed they shared, that they wanted to share. He thought of the wishbone, and the man who had fooled his mother. It wasn’t that hard to do. He himself had fooled her. Morton and his bleeding gut. Carter did that. I did that, he thought.
His mother and Mr. Morton, what he and Miles called this man who was paying too much attention to their mother, read the play to each other almost every night visit and Carter sat there listening to the dialogue. Although he didn’t understand the story, the dialogue, as well as his mom, she tried to explain to Carter what was happening. Miles watched television, Cosmos, alone, and grew sullen with any mention of the play.
“You love dragons, honey. Wait till you see a real live dragon on stage, performing, FITE will pay for the best special effects. You’ll love that.” Sally said this to both of her kids.
Carter concentrated on the play. He wanted to audition, and he’d tell his mother that in the morning. He knew there was a role for a small, young boy, and he wanted it.
To read the next chapter of A Play Demonic (The Queen’s Idle Fancy), please click HERE to discover Part 26!
Thank you for reading the latest chapter of A Play Demonic (The Queen’s Idle Fancy) . . . it’s a longer novella at the moment (reaching just over 35,000 words) and I always love a slow, creeping horror, a pace that shines light on smaller moments, characters key to a huge gathering, what each minor character feels and thinks is too much, but in this story, every part of the play needs to be cast. Stay tuned.