Dear Guests, Patrons and People Who Think They Can Sing but They Really Shouldn’t,
“Thank you for joining us on yet another night of Bonnywood’s Annual Cultural Arts Festival and Bacchanalia. I’m sure a few of you are beginning to wonder if this festival will ever end, but that’s the beauty of Bonnywood. You never know what’s going to happen!”
A voice rang out from offstage: “Well, I know ONE thing that is going to happen. I’m shutting this place down.”
I sighed with trademark flair. Was Ellen DeGeneres trying to crash my party once again? (I mean, she’s sweet and all, but that perkiness can make you claw at your face after a while.) And yet, it didn’t sound like Ellen’s voice. It sounded more like… “Mrs. Campbell?”
Mrs. Campbell: “Honey, you’re not in my eighth grade English class anymore. You can call me Myrna.” She trotted onto the stage, beaming.
I might have peed myself a little. “Oh my God! Is it really you?”
She continued beaming. “Well, I can’t imagine that anyone else would want to be me, so yes.”
I raced up to her, brimming with nerdy glee. “I can’t believe you came to visit me at Bonnywood. It’s such an honor!”
She shook her head. “It’s not an honor. It’s an intervention. As I mentioned in my opening remarks, something you would have noticed if you had been paying attention instead of passing notes to your friend Cindy, I’m here to stop this madness.”
My nerdy glow dimmed a bit. “I don’t understand. The Bonnywood Bacchanalia is a safe place where we celebrate writing, just like your class was back in the day. I thought you would be proud of me.”
She patted my head with affection, a flashback gesture reminiscent of a time when teachers could do such without facing criminal prosecution for touching a student in any way. “Oh, I am proud of what you’ve done. You’ve published some wonderful pieces. But you have also been responsible for some amazing pieces of crap. I don’t think you’re applying yourself as you should.”
I was not particularly impressed with this assessment. “You never said anything like that to me when I was your student.”
She smiled in that resigned way that most teachers and all mothers have. “Because you were applying yourself then. You’ve been piddling too much for too long. It’s been a long time since you started your quest and you need to get one with it. After all, I was one of the first teachers hired by the new state of Oklahoma and you were one of the first students. Now I’m old and retired.”
Another resigned smile. “That’s exactly my point. You’re letting that water just flow under the bridge. It’s time you get off the bridge.”
I was flummoxed. “But what exactly do you want me to do?”
Myrna pulled out her teacher’s planner, consulted a few highlighted comments, and then slammed it shut. “For your first homework assignment, I want you to find that post from a few years ago where you talked about possibilities. You know the one I mean?”
I nodded. “I think so.”
She nodded as well. “Run it again as your next post. These folks around here are used to you doing that, so they shouldn’t mind. But I want you to read your words again. I think you might have forgotten some of them.”
A woman in the front row of the audience stood up. “Speaking of folks around here, could I interject something?”
Myrna looked at the woman. “You can if you raise your hand in the traditional manner of requesting to speak.”
The woman sheepishly did so.
Myrna acknowledged the protocol. “Thank you. Did you have a question, young lady?”
“Yes, I did. I couldn’t help but notice that we have veered from tonight’s agenda in a rather dramatic fashion. I was given the impression that I was to be the featured artist for this evening. And while this impromptu reunion has been rather heart-warming and mildly inspiring, and I even shed a poignant tear whilst the camera was panning the audience, I’m beginning to wonder if we’re ever going to get around to the featuring. And yes, I realize there were extended intros with the other entries in this challenge, but this one feels different, and I’m not sure that I fit in here.”
I cleared my throat. “I’m so sorry, Louise. Yes, this is your night. It’s just that I got a bit nostalgic about-”
Myrna whipped out her ruler and rapped me gently on my knuckles. “Don’t apologize. Let the writing take you where it feels like it should go.” She turned to Louise. “And what might your story be about?”
“Well, it’s about a lot of things, actually. But there are pirates involved.”
“Ah,” said Myrna. “That’s perfect.”
I wasn’t making the connection. “It is?”
Myrna looked at me wistfully, and somehow the years faded and we were both younger and our dynamic was fresh, the concrete of her influence still wet. “Yes. Whilst pirates are basically amoral and worthless, I admire the concept of reaching for what you think should be yours and doing everything to get there. Now, do what you need to do and come see me after class.” She trotted away.
I looked down at my cue cards.
Artiste: Louise at “Tales from Dragonspire”
Three Words: potentially, exquisite, murkiness
Medium: Short Story
And here we go…
A couple of months ago I read a humourous post over at Bollywood Manor, where the author challenged writers to write a story based on the three words he provided. My words were:
Potentially. Exquisite. Murkiness.
I looked at images for ideas, but most of my inspiration came from being at the beach and watching Netflix!
I had fun trying to fit these words into a story, although ‘murkiness’ gave me more trouble than the other two.* You’re getting pirates today. I blame Netflix and too much time at the beach!
*Wordpress spell check also insists murkiness is not a word. It lies!
Onto the story!
Freya crouched behind the bushes at the outskirts of her family home and crept towards the house. Cloaked in her dark Navy uniform, she ignored the bright lights and raucous laughter from inside and took careful steps towards the balcony that surrounded the back of the house. As the sea came into view she thought she heard the floorboards creak, and she cursed and plastered herself against the peeled painted wall of the house.
When no angry shouts filtered through the windows, and the ancient wooden door remained shut, her shoulders sagged. Her tense silence was for nothing. She was undetected, for now. She measured her next steps with even more care and continued towards the back of the balcony, where she paused to take in the view. Fog rolled in over the sea and shrouded the dock in mystery, but despite the murkiness the ocean was as exquisite as she remembered.
As she squinted to try to spot the end of the dock a childhood memory danced across her mind and prompted a smile. Not much had changed since the days she’d led her brother on missions to protect the neighbours boats from imaginary pirates, aside from her deteriorated relationship with her family. Her own fault, for going against her parents wishes. She’d chased dreams of a future in the Navy. Dreams that’d come true, potentially. If she passed training.
No. There was no question. She had to pass. To captain a ship with more finesse than her own captain, who’d led an assault against pirates and gotten most of their crew killed. Her brush with death was why she was here, where she hadn’t dared tread in thirteen years. She wanted her parents to know she was doing it. If they still refused to support her at least she’d have closure.
She clasped the pendant around her neck, an old medal from her father’s navy days, and took one last glance at the sea before she spun around and strode up to the back door. This, home, meant everything, and she hoped her parents would give her somewhere to come home to.
Fist raised to knock, she was taken by surprise when the door was flung open and three bearded men in loose shirts strode out. The cutlasses hanging from their belts caught her attention, and she frowned. Her parents would never keep the company of pirates…
She was about to push past them and investigate when they strode through her as if she didn’t exist. She gasped, but not one of them turned. They hadn’t heard her. They hadn’t seen her. They’d walked right through her as if she were nothing, and an unpleasant feeling twisted in her gut. ‘What happened to me?’
She didn’t have much time to wonder. Another man, far more handsome than his companions with his long leather coat and hooped earring in his right ear, appeared in the doorway. His hearty voice boomed across the balcony. ‘Ten years, boys!’
Freya leapt to one side to avoid the unpleasantness of her non-existence as the man strode onto the balcony. His cutlass gleamed in the moonlight as he passed by her instead of through her. What was going on? Had she died on her last mission? Why were pirates at her house?
‘Aye!’ one of the pirates yelled. ‘To Captain James, the most villainous pirate on the seven seas!’
The motley crew of pirates clinked together weathered bottles and downed the contents. Footsteps sounded in the doorway behind them and a hand appeared on the captain’s shoulder, attached to a man nearly identical to Captain James. Freya blinked. They could easily be twins.
‘My brother,’ the man said with pride, ‘Who didn’t hesitate to run his cutlass through man, woman, and child to secure us the most profitable outpost on the coast.’
‘Well, I wouldn’t go that far,’ James replied with a wry laugh.
One of his crew gestured to the rickety house. ‘Story goes you skewered the family that lived here mercilessly.’
James smirked. ‘Aye, that I did. But it wasn’t without hesitation. I stopped to let them pray first.’
Freya’s eyes narrowed, and she flew forward to clutch Captain James by the collar. Her fingers went right through the thick material, but he frowned and brushed at his chest as if he’d felt something. Freya frowned. If she could just get her hands on him she could make him pay.
‘Breezy tonight,’ James said, and Freya swore his eyes lingered where she stood for a few seconds before he nodded towards the docks. ‘Perfect time to set sail.’
‘Aye Captain!’ his men replied.
They filtered off the balcony and along the thin wooden jetty, their laughter echoing around her. Freya didn’t hesitate. She tore after them to join them on their ship, which sat flying skull and crossbones where her family’s private ship used to. Pirates. Pirates who’d killed her family.
Freya stood at the bow of the ship and gazed out over the murky fog surrounding the harbour, deep in thought. If she could stand here without falling through the deck, she could learn to touch another person again. She had no choice but to try. Revenge must be her unfinished businesses, and the only way to end this ghostly existence was to get it. Captain James had stolen her chances of going home. For that? She’d make sure he never saw his again.
This piece has been nominated in the following categories:
The Johnny Depp Award for making an unwashed man seem sexy.
The Precision Alignment Award for managing to use all assigned words in the closest proximity to each other.
The Revenge Is Sweetest When They Can’t See You Coming Award.
Gratitude Award from the founder of Bonnywood Manor.
You can review more of Louise’s portfolio by clicking here.
Me: “I truly hope you understand how much your support and encouragement meant to me. It changed everything and gave me courage.”
Myrna: “Oh, I didn’t do all that much. Sometimes we make more of a thing than we really should.”
Me: “That’s not true. Nobody had ever paid any attention to what I wanted to do until I was in your class and-”
Myrna: “Shh. Don’t speak. Do. Jump off the bridge.”
Categories: 3-Word Challenge