Butterfly

Zara lay, face skyward, on the damp grass. The buzz of bees and the distant hum of traffic were audible. Nearby dogs barked and windows whooshed open. It seemed all the world was on the move except her. She felt the gentlest touch upon her cheek, and another upon her arm. Her eyes swivelled in their sockets veiled by her eyelids: she was a little nervous of bees.

Are they bees? Bees!

She opened her eyes . There was  a graceful orange and black Wanderer, a butterfly on her right arm — the white spots along the edge of its’ wings distinguishing it, as explained by her grandfather when she was younger. Another kiss near her lips made her look down past her nose, and she saw the blurry orange shape of another Wanderer. She pursed her lips and kissed it back. She thought of her boyfriend, Mitchell Grant. Mitch.

Where was he? Should she worry that he was late?

She jumped up from the moist warm grass, scaring butterflies and bees alike.

“I’m not even ready,” she declared.

She bounced up the brick front steps of the porch. By the time she reached the front door of the rendered brick veneer she shared with her middle-aged parents, she was fast enough to cause the front door to slam against the wall. She didn’t see one of the  Wanderers fly off with what, she may have thought, was cocoon silk dangling from its’ feet, unaware it was a spun gold thread.

In the farthest part of Lilyborough from Zara’s front door, her boyfriend,Mitch, was mouthing off at his boss for the second time that month.  The red-faced  boss shook his greying head.

“ I hope you can make a living from being a know-it- all Mitch, because you are one more warning away from being fired.”

Mitch grunted and walked away towards his Ute parked by the western chain link fence of the truck depot where he worked.

Why did I take an apprenticeship with this Dick?

Right then Mitch couldn’t think of one thing he liked about auto electrics. He’d forgotten that the firm he worked with were solid employers, respected in half the state. His grandfather had coached him through the VET pre-apprenticeship course, and pulled a lot of strings as he often reminded Mitch.  Mitch imagined he would be better off as a beach bum watching Zara sashay across the golden sand in a red bikini, all day long. He drove away from the depot in a cloud of dust.

When he arrived at home, he gave his parents, who were seated at the kitchen table, a cursory wave as he stalked past them.

“Where are you going in such a hurry?”

His mother called out to his disappearing back.

“Zara,” he yelled back before he locked the bathroom door, and turned the shower to pelting. He loved the sting of the water between his shoulder blades.

He stepped out of the shower, and grabbed a thick blue towel from the nearby rack. He sniffed the scent of lavender dryer sheets.

Ugh!

He shuddered. He could not remember when he had enjoyed floral smells. He glanced up to see a butterfly on the sill of the open window above his head. As it fluttered down toward him he was bemused by the sight of a glimmering golden thread between its’ feet.

I thought only spiders floated with threads.

Mitch felt weightless. A damp suffocating weight was between him and the light, his body and the patterns. He fluttered and crawled, fluttered and crawled until the light was all around him. He felt himself lift toward the illuminated air. Now he rested on the metal edge of the way out; he moved his wings with ease and their perfect motions caused the currents to lift him, up and out. He flew towards the north-east, his thorax rushing with longing. His soul trembled around what he now felt were the limits of himself.

Mitch had an instinctual recollection of Zara; the emphases of his memories were transformed. Her sandy ringlets were recalled as an attractive nimbus of light, her pink mouth  as strangely unimportant. The smell of sandalwood, which before he had grown to just tolerate, now made his feet burn with desire. He wanted to feel his feelers brush against her soft, ivory palm so he could experience that richness.

The rhythm was delightful in the downward thrust and upward sweep of his almost human-heart-shaped wings. The motion surprised him with its’ engineering. When he least expected it the air rushed up, pushing him forward. He couldn’t understand it, but he was feeling it. He weighed only as much as the index finger of his former earthbound body. Now he surrounded this fluttering bundle of proteins. It was if he was a great formless shadow, observing this minute creature — a shape patterned with orange, black and white. There were many Wanderer bodies around him, strengthening the uplift, driving them all forward.  His soul sighed and he began to plummet down towards the dry, harsh earth. The smell of milkweed drew him like a siren’s song.

He felt a fearful shadow nearby , the mouse brown shape of a thrush. He knew its’ laser-like yellow eyes were fixed on him. His soul shrieked. Thrusting his wings, he raced forward between two other butterflies in the crowd, and escaped. The fluttering tribe forged on.  Underneath him he felt a rush, he knew the thrush had struck hard; tortured wings were crushed in its’ beak, then dropped. The bitter, milkweed-fed fragility was nasty. With a cry the young thrush wheeled away.

The tribe of butterflies flew steadily, with the setting sun lowering behind them, and the evening breeze pushing them on.

Zara found the butterfly ornament of fine gold wire  on her dressing table the day after Mitch disappeared. It  distracted her for only a moment. She placed it in a square floral patterned cardboard box that had sat on her dressing table for as long as she could remember.

I wonder if Mum made that. I must ask her, she thought.

It took Zara a week to go from being angry with Mitch to being seriously worried about him. How dare he? was where she started out, and she ended up at Is he OK?

At tea time a week later, when she had the chance to ask about the butterfly, she was sidetracked by a phone call from her friend Celia, who was visiting that evening to commiserate with her about Mitch. They loved that word; they always said it with as much earnestness as they could find within themselves. She never did ask anyone about the fine gold wire sculpture of a butterfly, though she kept it for years and years.

That night after Celia had gone, and the moon had drifted high amongst the trees, on the eighth night since Mitch had disappeared, Zara dreamed of butterflies.

A swarm of Wanderers, with their orange and black wings edged with white, were covered by a great shadow in the shape of eagles wings. She saw the swarm settle in a shaded grove of flowering trees. Despite the shadow she danced between sunlit almond trees, removing nuts from cracked shells, and eating them. A relaxed smile grew on her face. The butterflies hung like giant teardrops from the branches of the almonds, and  from the branches of nearby flowering plants that looked like Rhododendrons. The strange dream where sunny orchards coexisted with moist shaded hillsides, ended with a golden veil of mist falling over the scene, hours before Zara woke.

Mitch was heady,flitting from flower to flower in pursuit of the pheromone-laced females. The soft milkweed flowers smelt marvellous, but the females made his wings sing. An instinct whispered to him to settle and wait.

Wait until a female pauses and wants to mate.

He alighted and spread his wings to scare away predators. He waited until the sun was halfway to the zenith of his sky. A female flew over him, and he lifted his wings to fly beside her. It was an amazing feeling fluttering his wings in perfect synchronicity with another.  A male rival appeared, brushing wings with the female, and flying straight at Mitch. Mitch shifted to above the female, and then stalled  to drop below her. He turned himself in a westerly direction towards the thickest patch of milkweed, and the female followed him. They descended between the thick green stalks with their abdomens locked. They twitched and settled, surrounded by a mist of pheromones amongst the humid chlorophyll enriched pores until the sun began to descend.

Everyone rose from amongst the grass. They were indistinguishable from one another like a huge orange and black cloud. Mitch tried to keep the female in sight, but a pair of pied shrikes began to strike at the edge of the moving mass. Their cruel beaks scored here and there, crushing the thoraxes of just-fertilised potential.Mitch and the female found each other again. They dipped and weaved, escaping they knew not how. At last they settled on the easterly side of a rhododendron that bore orange flowers. The shadows grew long over Mount Lily.

The female mind-whispered to Mitch, At first light I will lay my eggs.

His body grew still with the rightness of it all.  At dawn he flew with her down among the milkweed to guzzle the dew. When he lifted his feet and antennae from his feast, the female was nowhere to be found. He felt his strength leaving him. His feelers tasted nothing now.

Though Zara was in a dream, it seemed as if the light was blinding her.

How could that be? 

Her eyes swivelled in her head, the nerves shivering, but she could not waken then.

The glare encapsulated a shadowy butterfly shape. The shape transformed from two dimensions to three, it flashed Technicolor. The colours muted into lighter shades, and as if Zara peered through a camera lense, her vision zoomed in to capture the minutest detail. The butterfly’s body was in mid-flight as it sought to settle on a branch. It’s trunk curved as if it were a boomerang. Its’ wings had separated enough to slow their downward motion. The light outlined the space between its’ moving wings, and she saw the funnel shape appear, then change to some space resembling the shape of an aeroplane wing. To her, the air did an unexpected thing, it curved over the broad top edge of the wing. And she could see the air flow like golden meridians, long strands that lifted the butterfly rather than holding it down like she had anticipated.

When the thought pictures faded, she felt sleepier than she had in the dream. It was if the dream was sure reality, and her ordinary room an extraordinary place.

Zara left her room, and headed to the kitchen. She was driven to seek food, by a hunger she had seldom experienced before.  It was Saturday morning, and she missed Mitch.

Twelve of the two hundred eggs that Mitch had fertilised survived to become yellow and black caterpillars bloated with the sap of milkweed on which they fed. Fat and prosperous , they shed their wrinkly tobacco brown skin to hang in Chrysalis. Trapped inside, their bodies dissolved to a hopeful jelly. Metamorphosis allowed their wings of watchful warning, antennae of smell, and feelers of taste to emerge  — all the wherewithal for migration on the milkweed express.

Despite this preparation, odds of survival were low for Mitch’s offspring. Three of the twelve made it through a pack of marauding Magpies, 160 kilometres east of the mountain on which they were born. Mitch’s instinctual mating had produced one surviving male and two females, one of which would never mate.

Six months later Zara sat on the front porch of her parents’ brick veneer, nursing a bouquet of flowers she had bought for her mother’s birthday. After storms of tears, and nights of denial, she had accepted that Mitch had run off. Even his own mother thought it was a possibility that on the night he said he was meeting Zara, he had, in fact, met someone else.

“ He always kept me in a flutter, with his impulsive ways,” she had said to Zara only the previous week.  “I always wanted something special for him but you can’t control people like that.”

Zara’s own mother had stated, “ He wasn’t getting on well at work you know. Just a restless young man.” She said it with a shake of her head.

Zara knew what wasn’t said. It’s just as well you found out now, before you got really serious about him.

The familiar orange, black and white patterned Wanderer settled on the yellow roses in the bouquet. Zara watched it bend and twitch its’ antennae, and then flutter to her right hand. She felt the kiss as its’ tiny feeler feet moved over her hand — more kisses. She knew they drank that way, and her hands were moist with drips from the rose stems. The butterfly flew upwards, and got caught in her sandy ringlets,  in the spot where her skull met her spine.  At that moment, her parents arrived to pick her up for dinner after their afternoon out.Distracted by her father tooting the horn as he pulled up in the drive with her mother in the car, she missed the last kisses.

Later, around midnight, as Zara was combing her hair before bed, she was shocked to see fragments of butterfly, fall onto the polished surface of her dressing table. She turned her head to grab a tissue in which to collect the fragments and bury them in the bin. When she looked back to the dressing table, the mess was gone. She shook her head, and decided she’d be vacuuming the fragments off the carpet tomorrow. There was a breeze stirring the curtains on her window and she went to pull the sash down and lock it. In the open box on her dressing table the gold wire butterfly glowed.

The End

You might like to catch up on Butterfly news…

Disclaimer: Any links I post were live at the time of posting.  If the links don’t work , I have tried to give enough information so  that you can search them if the creators are still making them available online.

1.Time lapse – The life cycle of the Painted Lady Butterfly

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63B1lnqPa8k (5 Mins, 23 seconds)

2. Ethan Spencer – Caterpillar to Butterfly

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQOFh1exp3A (6 Mins , 55 seconds)

3.Disney Nature documentary about the secret life of flowers. (I found the voice over annoying – you might like to watch in silence) The visuals are amazing, and it does have an important message

Wings of Life

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbvPqkmmats (66 Mins)

4. The Story of the Butterfly, posted by Janson Media

[This link is to a British educational documentary. Its script is very formal]

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-T6EXTK4-w (34 Mins)

5. Flutter, the Butterfly movie… produced, edited, and directed by Braddon Mendelsohn (noisivision studios)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4DQY9ZwzsI4

(My favourite…)

 

 

 

 

 

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Pehlwani Potting Mix

[A weird episode paying homage to the Australian Tall Story – a true form of traditional culture down under.]

Gorgeous bright tomato red orbs floated behind my eyelids. The sun-ripened ones that yield to a knife like butter and give out juicy seed-laden flavour; I dreamed of them with a longing like homesickness. They would be bloody delicious layered on toasted buttered rye bread, a sprinkle of salt, a dash of pepper,and, in memory of my grandma, a pinch of sugar. I would devour the breakfast of my juvenile summers with passion born in boyhood, if I could only grow that premium ingredient.

With some help from my silver-haired neighbour Theo, the first sunny Saturday of spring saw us building a large L-shaped garden box made of sleepers. It reached almost to waist height on me, and we half-filled it with manure and straw.

“ The best thing to do is get some quality potting mix and mushroom compost to add to that,” said Theo.

I was enjoying the digging, sweating and pungent smells. It would be worth it to have real tomatoes to eat and share. He continued to explain how after the potting mix and compost I should add a layer of topsoil ,and plant the tomato seedlings about sixty centimetres apart.

“ Don’t forget your cages. Are you gonna grow Super Beefsteak? “

“ Yeah, I’m gonna give them a try. Eight of those will give me plenty of tomatoes for my needs.”

“ You’ll get the maximum yield out of this small space.”

I was grateful and sent him home with a six pack of German beer, since a cash payment was refused. He smiled, and a little later I heard the sound of the football semi-final through the fence.

My trip to the nursery was expensive. I selected four ten litre bags of compost, and, thinking of my back, eight five litre bags of topsoil. Finally, the assistant showed me bags of potting mix.

“This a new type we’ve ordered from an Indian supplier. It’s meant to be good.”

The tired looking burlap bags with their faded red print were much cheaper than the last lot of potting mix I had bought to add to the garden when I planted red-flowering Grevilleas in my south-east facing front yard. I nodded yes. After I paid for a heap of bags and some Super Beefsteak seeds to be planted in pots to produce the seedlings for my garden, I knew my dream was costing me. I added eight tomato cages and we loaded up the Ute.

It was half-time when I returned, and Theo helped me stack the bags in a neat line, where I could easily open them with the edge of a shovel and transfer the material into the boxes.I emptied four bags of compost into the boxes and my aching back seemed to say call it a day.

I’ve been too long in a desk job, I thought. I trudged indoors and took a hot shower.

Late Sunday morning I finished the job , and gave it a half-hearted turn with the shovel which had lost its new gleam. I sprinkled the top soil over the top, and gave the lot  a water.

Perhaps Theo will turn it some more for me if I ask him.

I schlepped back inside and prepared two cheese toasties and scoffed them down. While washing them down with cold beer, I imagined how much better they would taste with tomato in them.

Mondayitis was exaggerated by muscular pain, and I left for work in a daze. I did remember to shut the rear security gate that sat almost flush with the concrete driveway in the back yard.

I returned from work around 4pm and decided to leave the car in the street because sweeping the concrete free from spilled soil and potting mix seemed a good use of a fine afternoon. After some water and a few stretches, my entrance into the backyard was almost enthusiastic.

A hissing sound caused me to freeze mid-stride.  Instinct raised the hair on my neck and prickles sprayed across my back. To my left was a four-foot black snake rearing up, its’ hood flared.

Cobra!

I bolted for the rear door of the house. Without looking behind me, I kicked the rear door shut, and striding to the lounge I snatched the cordless phone from the lounge side table. I dialled 1223 and asked the operator to connect me to the Hobson’s Bay Council.

What am I going to do if they don’t answer?

It was now 4.20 pm

Holding the phone to my ear I walked down the hall to the small study that overlooked the yard. Raising the blind, I stared at the black horror that dominated the white gravel space beside my garden box. I was relieved that the garage door was down, and the small garden shed was shut. The clipped lawn under the rotary hoist offered no hiding place.

I shivered.

The receptionist put me through to the environmental fauna department.

“Animal control”, a young voice said.

“ My name is Phil Dwyer, and I have a Cobra loose in my yard at 234A Sykes Avenue, Altona.”

“A Cobra, Mr Dwyer? How do you know  it’s a Cobra.”

“It’s black with a hood.”

“It’s black. Does it have any markings.”

“I didn’t stop to see if there were any markings. I walked out my backdoor and there it was, ready to strike, so I came in here and rang you.”

“Would you mind holding please Mr Dwyer? Don’t approach the snake, please stay on the line.”

Don’t approach the snake. DON’T approach the SNAKE. I mocked in my head, as annoying musack played.

I moved as close to the window pane as I could to see what was happening. The snake was gone and in its’ place was a tall, muscular, dark-skinned man in black spandex.

Where did he come from?

He walked under the rotary hoist, and each wedge of the clothesline separated and dropped to the ground. The center pole of the hoist melted into the ground, and the sections of clothesline arranged themselves into a strange fence on each side of the small lawn. A silver snake erupted from the garden bed. As it grew and shimmered before my eyes,a tall muscular pale man in grey shorts appeared. The dampness of drool soaking through my beard told me my mouth was hanging open.

Grey shorts man stepped across the fence and the two men began to wrestle. They were well matched physically, and a few minutes later sweat had soaked them and was dripping into the ground. Their heavy breathing became audible.

The voice was back on the phone. “Mr Dwyer, two animal control officers will be at your residence in about forty minutes. Don’t approach the snake, but do what you can to stop it  escaping from the yard.”

“Yes,” I croaked. The man asked for the address again and I repeated it.

“ Is there anything else I can help you with today?”

“No.”

The line went dead. My hands trembled. The wrestling pair had locked arms and their heads seemed to press against each other’s shoulders. The ground was turning to mud under them, chunks of ripped up grass thrown around by their gripping feet. Black spandex man was gaining the advantage now. The panting grew loud enough to hear beyond my yard. Theo’s head appeared over the side fence, and he stared at the wrestling match. I raised my hand to wave, but he couldn’t see me from where he was.

I was grasping my hands together, leaning my forehead on the glass. My breath appeared as a mist on the glass.

Grey shorts man was now doing well, and locked his arm around black spandex man’s neck. Quicker than I could blink black spandex man had his arm locked under grey short man’s left shoulder pulling it forward, while pushing against his right shoulder. Black spandex man twisted his body, throwing grey shorts man off balance with a swiftness that made me gasp. He pinned the man’s head and shoulders against the muddy ground. The lower half of the man’s body writhed in the mud.

Black Spandex man threw back his head and laughed. The kind of laugh I’d heard as a kid when I watched Victorian melodrama on a school trip to Sovereign Hill in Ballarat.  

My heart rate slowed. I would have put my money on grey shorts man for a win, based on first impressions.

The men got up and began to wrestle again. Maybe I was in with a chance, best of three bouts?

I will never know what happened but right at that moment they became snakes again.  The pole rose out of the ground, and the rotary hoist looked as solid as the day it was installed.

There was a thump on my front door. When I opened it Theo was standing there. His hair looked like it had been gelled into a spiky do.

“ Mate, was there a wrestling match in your backyard?”

I nodded yes.

“And now there are two snakes?”

I nodded again.

“Do you have any of that beer left?”

He headed for my kitchen fridge.

The front door was still open when the animal control officers arrived.

Ha hem. I mean environmental fauna officers.

They called out, “Hobson’s Bay Council, Mr Dwyer?”

Darn.

When I opened the screen door they showed me their identity badges, and followed me through to the back yard.

When the Cobra was in the sack, one of them said, “Do you have a licence to keep a snake, Mr Dwyer?”

“Call me Phil, and no I don’t have a licence. I don’t know how this snake got here. It appeared after I started my gardening project. For that matter after I bought this potting mix from India.”  

I lifted a discarded potting mix bag to show them.

The officer eyeballed me, tapping his pen against his left fist. The other officer left the yard to put the sack and its’ occupant into the council van.

“Where did you buy the potting mix?”

I told him and he wrote the details in his notebook. When he asked, I showed him my car licence.

They left, and Theo and I had a second beer.

“You can have some of my tomatoes Phil. I decided to plant some too, but I won’t be using any of that potting mix. It’s probably to blame.”

We discussed the wrestling match a bit, but after that night we never mentioned the weirdness again. I was grateful for that but I always wondered where that silver snake went, even after we emptied out those garden boxes.

 

—The End–

 

Sophie in Silk

[ When I don’t set them in OZ, I set them in some place from the land of magic realism or New York. Here’s how  Sophie rolls when she finds herself on a supposed-to-be three day location shoot.]

It isn’t any old  Monday  a girl from Herb’s Deli and Diner gets to dress in white silk and lace, ready to be photographed for a Belleview Magazine October Issue. With shiny hair the colour of butterscotch, and eyes the blue of a fair-sailing sky, Sophie looked like a lot of fun. She stood with her hands on her hips and a tilt to her head that proclaimed sassy , as she observed the black satin, and charcoal leather clad Italian model who, no matter what she did , couldn’t please the overthinking stylist.  The Italian, Vincenzia, was flushing a deep rose colour, and her jaw was clenched tight. The  fussing of the stylist, Bree, was causing the photographer, Stuart, to feel the need to rummage in his equipment bag a lot. From where Sophie stood she thought his mouth movements  looked like he was cursing. Yeah. Really colourful too.

Three hours before, Sophie had been released from the makeup chair and she was feeling hollow. She could smell, and imagined she could taste a spicy hot dog with roasted onions and mustard sauce. Her nostrils flared, and her stomach growled, as the nearby food van issued savoury vapours. She changed position and tried to concentrate. The person she felt sorriest for was her cousin Rada, the fashion editor’s assistant for Belleview Magazine. She had appeared half an hour before to find out why the shoot was running three hours behind.

Stuart was complaining to Rada, “ We’re meant to get these particular flower bed shots. By the time we’re ready the light will be all wrong.”

Bree seemed to be dictating a book about about which riding crop Vincenzia should use in the next shot. Should it be the one with the gold handle, or the one with the bronze studded handle? The third model, Brent, a pale lean man with wavy auburn appeared to have given up and sat in a black director’s chair with his eyes and his fingers glued to his phone.

I hope he’s not texting his agent blaming Rada for this debacle, Sophie thought.

Another cloud of delicious savouriness drifted between the trees. Sophie’s stomach groaned like a rusty-hinged door.

Anyone could tell I’m not a real model, Sophie thought, as she studied the fake tan on her shapely calves. They did a good job of that, nice and even. Just the way I’d like my mustard sauce, a nice coating all over the dog. Two hotdogs would be awesome, one with the all important mustard and onions, the second one with chutney.

Saliva pooled under her tongue. She shook her head, doing her best to focus on how great she’d looked when she inspected herself in the mirror after makeup and wardrobe had pronounced her ready.

Rada appeared in front of her, “Sophie, you’ll need to pop back into the trailer and get out of that dress for me. Leave it with Michelle so she can steam press it again. “

Ten minutes later Sophie, clad in a beige uplift teddy and a voluminous black satin robe patterned in cherry blossom, was seated on a bench by a spreading Oak sinking her teeth into a chutney topped hot dog. Vincenzia and Brent stared at her. Rada and Bree were having words behind the trailer. The breeze carried the phrase, stick with what we discussed, despite Sophie trying to tune them out. Stuart was consoling himself with the thought that every passing minute netted him $4. That particular flower bed was now in shadow. Sophie noticed Vincenzia was still watching her, while Brent had turned his back on her. She wondered if it was to show disgust, or was he concerned about shading his fair complexion?

Hopefully they’re both Vegans, she smiled to herself.

Vincenza’s eyes widened as she looked over Sophie’s head.

Right, Sophie thought, strawberry Ice cream after this.

On camera she was meant to be the angel to complement Vincenzia’s demon, and Brent’s vampire for the Halloween-themed shoot.

Too bad.

Sophie felt the presence of someone standing behind the bench. She turned and saw Stuart who nodded to her, and bit into a large bratwurst.  

Rada was now making her way towards Sophie and Stuart. Bree was walking away in the opposite direction towards Central Park West.  Vincenzia threw up her hands and stomped towards the food van.

Sophie watched as she gestured, seeming to take ages to order from the vendor. Her Italian accent was audible, but Sophie couldn’t quite understand the words. Soon after she stopped gesturing, she received a pale looking salad of tomato, lettuce and onion, with a spicy sausage and cheese on top. Sophie thought, not a vegan then.

Rada sat down beside Sophie, “Stop eating, you’ll have a food baby when we have to get you into that snug ethereal blue number that’s next up.”  

She grabbed what was left of Sophie’s hotdog and lobbed it into a nearby bin.

Sophie muttered, “That was rough, cuz.”

But she had to acknowledge the underwire was starting to dig in a little.  

Rada ignored Sophie and turned to Stuart, “We’ll do the dusk shots by the fountain, and I’ll talk to you about tomorrow’s shoot afterwards.”

Stuart nodded, still chewing he turned and headed toward the fountain. Rada headed in the direction of Brent who was still slunk down in the black director’s chair.  Vincenzia threw her plastic container, without the salad, but still containing half a sausage into the bin. She headed towards the van where the wardrobe lady was gesturing to them. Sophie sighed. Standing up and gathering the satin robe around her she followed along.

The assignment blew out to four days, while Sophie dutifully ate salad, and spoke with careful politeness to Vincenzia and Brent. She avoided eye contact except where required for the sexy shots. Sophie heard Rada talking her boss, Melany, down several times during the next three days. Rada was amazing as she spoke with graciousness to her boss while beads of sweat formed on her forehead. After all she had a mortgage on her apartment, and part-time care of a foster child. Rada reminded Melany of her recent success with a variety of magazine spreads and that all her other projects were on schedule. Yes, yes, this spread was for the October 1st issue, but it was going to be worth it  — the photographer was fantastic!

Yada, yada, yada, Sophie thought

On Thursday evening the shoot was finished. Rada entered the wardrobe van and threw herself on a chair, “Oh Sophie, being a logistics officer for Medecins San Frontieres would be easier than doing this job with Melany for a boss.”

Sophie squared her shoulders, “The shots are fantastic though. All those great setups will burn those designer’s names into your readers minds.” She made a sizzling sound, “images are soo hot!”

Rada slumped down in the chair, “Thank God and Stuart and Y’all.” She passed her hand across her forehead.

Sophie passed a bottle of water to Rada who opened it and chugged down half.

Sophie said, “Even Vincenzia turned out  to be not so bad.”

Rada sipped the other half of her water while Sophie collected her things.  Two guys who worked for the leasing company turned up to take the trailer away, and Michelle needed help placing all the bagged garments in the plastic lined boot of her early model Mercedes.

As the sun was setting, Rada and Sophie sat side by side on the stone wall facing the Natural History Museum.

Natural History Museum NY 2 Blog

Rada said, “ I haven’t seen my little darling, Russ for two days so I am looking forward to a day off.”

“You deserve more than one day.” Sophie patted her arm.

“I have to tell you something before I go. She turned her earnest gaze on Sophie.  “This business will eat you alive.”

Sophie pressed her lips together and gazed up into a nearby leafy canopy.

“I’ve had the thought I might not be perfect for it.”

“Good hold that thought,” she glanced at her phone, “gotta go.”

She headed off in a northeasterly direction towards Columbus Circle.

Sophie hugging her bag in front of her headed towards Subway station 81. She took a train uptown and walked the last five minutes of her journey to Herb’s Deli and Diner on West 129th Street.

Time to drop in on the Friday night faithfuls, she thought.

When she arrived the place was full up for Herb’s Friday night special : Steak or Fish with fries and two kinds of vegetables , followed by a slice of pie.  The choice was lemon meringue or pecan. Sophie rolled her eyes.

She thought, Herb wont even change the special dessert to  Pumpkin pie for November. But wait there’s more —

She smirked to herself. All the coffee you could drink. Everything was fresh and not too greasy, and you could get if for  $14.

Herb’s customers were in a good mood, ordering extra beer, and planning to tip  the three-day-a -week waitress , Nette, with a generous hand.

Sophie sashayed up to the counter. “Coffee, please,” she called to the counter server Libby. Libby began to laugh without even looking around.

“I know that’s you, Soph.”

Herb looked out from the kitchen, “So how was the modelling?”

Sophie shrugged, “I think I’ll try acting next. The photographer liked me – says the camera loves me.” She grimaced. “I might need a gig as a waitress while I’m making it.”

“No way,” Herb’s mouth said, while his head nodded yes.

The front table of regulars cheered and thumped the table.

Sophie took a bow.

The End

Image used with permission :  Copyright 2013 Lance O’Donnell

May : A Photo Poem

 

May arrives in the south surrounded by smoky air of burnt leaves…

burnt leaves Webster street

Her blue toes and icy fingers stroke your hands and face at dawn…

Icy fingers at dawn

Her heart carries warmth: russet red, butter yellow, burnt orange…

ading to the practical colours of an Aunt’s woollen cloak.

Aunty's Cloak 2

be arrested by her colours, her last potent and bright blooms

Despite her afternoon heat she reminds you of a cold, grey gloom that is coming.

Wendouree late May sky 2

Her evening shows of diffused golden light, appearing like Elven* play slides between the branches of half-naked trees, join earth and sky.

Elven slide of Light Late April

Her magic tempts you to linger in the cool to watch the Milky Way’s unmasked clarity.

20170423_174624

She dons her navy velvet couture embellished with diamonds

StarScape13-0105w Astro pixelshttp://astropixels.com/milkyway/autumn/StarScape13-0105.html

She dances with you through her dusky mist and charmed mirrors.

Autumn light window of promise.jpg

The End

All photos except the night sky © PhraseFarm

Milky Way Autumn Starscape © Astropixels

http://astropixels.com/milkyway/autumn/StarScape13-0105.html

 

Sustained Metaphor: “May”

[ I decided this morning to personalise May, the last month of autumn(Fall) in the Southern Hemisphere, and play a little. My experience of May  is influenced by  a lot of time spent outdoors, and in rural or semi-rural areas. I hope you enjoy what is a dissonant sort of tribute to my favourite time of year. It reminds me that Ballarat’s winter is coming…]

May arrives in the south surrounded by smoky air of burnt leaves, her dress is vapour thin. Her blue toes and icy fingers stroke your hands and face at dawn. You experience reluctance to meet her but her heart carries warmth: russet red, butter yellow, burnt orange fading to the practical colour of an Aunty’s woollen cloak. You cannot help but be arrested by her colours, her last potent and bright blooms, but despite her afternoon heat she reminds you of a cold, grey gloom that is coming.

Her evening shows of diffused golden light, appearing like Elven* play slides between the branches of half-naked trees, join earth and sky. Her magic tempts you to linger in the cool to watch the Milky Way’s unmasked clarity. Her magic hour is exquisite , her tea gown a deep blue that invites you to wait until she dons her navy velvet couture embellished with diamonds , and dances with you through her dusky mist and charmed mirrors.

Never mind that she comes to aid the lengthening of nights and the freezing of your breath; her unique charm bewitches you until her first showers drench her burning heart.

(* a reference to elves ( belonging to elves)- the word Elven was made famous by Tolkien- not to be confused with elfin which denotes something elf-like with associations finely built, lively, magical )

The End

Faraway by Rianh Wynne Silvertree

A story by Rianh Silvertree “Nestled in 110 acres of natural bushland the Mt Helen Campus of Federation University…” the wind whips the brochure out of the hands of Kelly Maguire. The blue and white promotional flaps from the doorway of the upper reaches of the Albert Coates Centre and stops abruptly, pinned by […]

via “Faraway” — Rianh Wynne Silvertree

A Flower Story

My interest in the symbolism of flowers was sparked previously, and I wrote a story Bare Dealings. It is a weird episode involving romance and a naked thief (note that the romance was not with the naked thief).  The floral references, despite Bare Dealings being set contemporarily, are to the Victorian era symbolism of flowers. In my story, it is intended to provide implication about the difference in the characters of Eitan and Bryant. Despite her experiences, Piper, the protagonist is still optimistic about finding truth and faithfulness in her beloved. After all, flowers bloom the best in Spring, symbolising new life. I have edited this story and presented it this week for those who would like to see how I used the language of flowers. Perhaps in later drafts, I will not bother stating the meanings. However, it is part of the characterisation of Piper and so I guess it will remain.

Below are images of the flowers that are mentioned in Bare Dealings. With some imagination, you could imagine them in pleasant bouquets, but they are a different fashion from the usual roses, carnations, liliums, gerberas, and tulips(despite the possibility of tiptoeing through them?) so popular in contemporary floral arrangements.

 

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Bare Dealings

 

Piper Franzman glanced across her driveway. And sighed.

There goes that sweet hunk of man. How can I organise a meeting with him?

It was too bad she did not have all day to plan the perfect outfit and the best strategy for a meeting with her new neighbour.

Piper Franzman sighed again, as she combed her auburn hair and straightened her navy blazer.  After nine months of casual awareness and three months of observation, she had decided that he was respectably employed, mostly from home, and was single. He went jogging every morning at eight, drove an expensive car and took many phone calls. Some days he went out in a very smart suit, carrying a briefcase; Friday nights he would leave around 7.00 pm and get home late, but alone (she hadn’t seen anyone with him yet).  Almost every Saturday morning two or three guys turned up and he met them in sporting gear with a squash racket.

Whoo, did he look good in those tight t-shirts too!

She hoped her efforts at the gym were improving her appearance. She had lost twelve kilos and rewarded herself with some new outfits. Piper was grateful for the female staff from the school where she taught for encouraging her, but all this effort wasn’t helping her love life as well as her health. It was a long time since she had desired an introduction to an interesting, attractive and eligible male.

I want to tick the three boxes, and avoid meeting any more mummy-boy cast offs vetted by my mother!

She wondered if her interest in her neighbour smacked of desperation. Her intense observation of him, which she hoped had gone unnoticed, could be considered stalking if she took it any further. She had started collecting her mail about five in the afternoon so that they met at the mailbox. They had exchanged smiles and waves. She was pleased to see that his was a grin hinting of boyishness, a sense of humour. He had wide eyes with thick lashes around them, and he had looked directly at her when he waved. Of course, she had not been close enough to see the colour of his eyes.

Time to get back to the real world and stop acting like a schoolgirl with a crush!

On her way to work, she noticed  a sign outside the newsagent: Police chief  warns singles about local nudist thief..  She knew that the newspaper would be available in the staff room on her break, and that she could catch up on that particular news.

Thank God, I’m not on yard duty today!

The nudist thief was the topic of discussion in the staff room during the morning recess. Francine Newton the fourth year teacher addressed Piper,”Sweetheart, apparently you’d better look out for this guy, being single and all.”

“Why? What does the paper say——”

” The paper quotes the local police chief who says that this guy’s modus operandi is to enter the premises of singles who appear to be well-to-do and live alone, apparently his methods of entry are quite professional, and he picks random times of the day or night. If he hears someone enter the premises, he then strips naked and escapes even if confronted. Listen to this: “This strategy appears to have distracted his victims, and to date we have no  specific physical description of this thief who has robbed thirty premises in the area over the last nine months, and escaped with an estimated 60,000 dollars worth of cash and jewelry. We are alerting locals in the hope that someone will have the presence of mind to get a description of the man and assist us with our inquiries. Apparently, he has an excellent physique and is’ well-endowed’.  This thief’s ability to disarm alarm systems, and sell stolen jewelry, create genuine concern that he will continue to commit these thefts. Any sightings of naked men acting suspiciously should be reported.”

Samantha Pope nearly spat out her coffee before quipping, “I’ve got a man acting suspiciously at my place. Maybe I could turn him in.”

Jane Nelson smiled before saying, “I’ve got one of them too but I’ve known him for twenty years and his physique isn’t quite excellent.”

There was general laughter before the bell, and the crash of coffee cups into the sudsy sink. The door slammed in Piper’s face as she lingered a minute.

She thought, I am the only single woman in this school.

She yanked the door open and headed back to the class of Prep A.

Five pm that evening Piper was at her mailbox. Her attractive neighbour was not there. She weeded the front garden bed and swept the step. She went inside to get some shears before beginning to work on the front hedge. It was then that she noticed that sweet hunk of a man coming right towards her.

I really need to find out his name.

He was walking toward her from her left,  and she popped up from behind  the hedge, “Hi.”

A muttered expletive, accompanied by a thud, preceded the hunk’s disappearance from sight.

Oh no, she thought as she raced around the hedge and approached him slowly.  He sat up on the nature strip.

“…You frightened me, and then I tripped on the edge of the footpath.” He looked her up and down before he gave a half smile and said,” I hope you’re not going to kill me now.”

“What?” Piper gasped before she realised she was waving the shears toward him and began to laugh.

The boyish grin appeared and they both continued to laugh. They went quiet at the same time, and he began to stand up.

Before she could lose her nerve Piper quickly said, “I’m Piper. What’s your name?”

As he reached his full height, he stretched out his hand, “Eitan Frame,How do you do?”

She clasped his warm, lightly tanned hand in both of hers and gazed into his eyes.

He looked down at his hand and said, “Sorry about the mess.”

hydrangea_arborescens_annabelle1

“Really your hands can’t be any worse than mine. I’ve been weeding and I did frighten you.”

“Weeding with shears? If I was a weed  I’d know I was doomed.”

He laughed.

She smiled and said,” Didn’t you put a dint in my lawn? The weeds need to fear you.”

He looked at her. The loud buzz of his phone made him go still.”I’m sorry. This is an important call.”

He jogged to his porch and began to speak into his mobile phone; she could hear him talking but could not make out the words.

Go inside, you snoop.

Inside she sat down at the kitchen table and gazed out onto the back courtyard. Her cockatiel Mindy wolf whistled at her . She got up, removed the feed box from the bird’s cage, and filled it with seed.As she flicked on the kettle to make a cup of tea, she pronounced his name. Ay-tan. I’ll call him Eitan Jewel-eyes. What gorgeous dark jade eyes, with bronze flecked irises, hmm … and I sound like ah. I have a crush.

She shrugged her shoulders. After a quick cup of tea and some nuts, she headed out to the gym. When she returned she found a business card tucked into her screen door: Eitan Frame; Jewelry Designer and Valuer, on the back in slanting capitals : ” Let’s meet in style next time. You owe me, so call me.” She smiled. He did have a sense of humour.

It was Saturday afternoon and Piper had changed three times, Finally she settled on a royal blue cotton knit and stone-colored jeans. Platform peep-toe heels and diamond shaped blue glass earrings were her only accessories.  A little makeup and her fingers fluffed her soft ringlets.

Mandy did do a great job on my hair.

She had not been able to resist booking a hair appointment after Eitan had responded to her invitation. She had waited two days to send him an SMS, trying to appear casual. Even though it had been three years since her break up with Bryant, she wanted to take it slowly for the sake of her mending heart.  During the last six months, the memory of Bryant’s kisses, and his hard words had disappeared into a kind of fog. Sometimes she heard him in her dreams but the words were whispers.

She and Eitan were literally meeting at Cafe In Style: Mandy’s sister’s coffee house next door to where the hairdresser plied her trade. The sisters were inseparable and had put their respective talents to use in business premises that were side by side, on the riverside business strip. It was a lovely afternoon and Eitan had laughed at her play on the words: in style. She tried to quash her rising expectations.

Eitan had a sweet tooth. Although he had eaten lunch, he ordered two desserts and insisted she taste them. He picked a table on the far end of the patio near the river. The sticky date was moist and the lemon meringue had sweet pastry to balance its’ tangy filling. The breeze from the river was fresh, but not chilling. Eitan leaned toward her, as she blathered on distracted his marvellous eyes.

After a while, he got the chance to talk about his move to Wilhelm.

“I’ve lived n Wilhelm for fourteen months now and I feel it has everything I want,” he said. “It has the river environs, vibrant business and tourist trade, and it’s not so big that the real estate is priced over the moon.”

” I’ve lived in Wilhelm all my life and I guess familiarity should breed contempt but it hasn’t. I’ve visited other places but I always come back. ”

“Ah, a hometown girl,” he sighed, and smiled.

“What do you mean—a hometown girl?”

” It’s an expression where I come from for a girl whose warm-hearted and loyal——”

She half-whispered the words,”And naive, perhaps?”

She blushed as he noticed her irritation, and leaned away.

Why am I so defensive still?  Damn Bryant.

Overly loudly he spoke,” So, what’s your favourite thing about Wilhelm?”

The awkwardness lingered until he dropped her home an hour later.

After she got home, she took Mindy’s cage out into the sunny courtyard. She heard Eitan’s screen door slam and the sound of his running shoes fading into the distance. The distant sound of a lawn mower, and a ball slamming against a wall filled the space left by his absence.

His gorgeous eyes say he’s sincere but can I  trust him?

Days went by and the other teachers noticed her silence.On Friday at lunchtime, Francine approached her just before the bell.

“Are you ok? Madeleine says you’ve been ‘off the air’ a bit this week. She said the preppies are more restless.”

Piper appreciated the observant sensitivity of her assistant most of the time.  Now she inwardly resented it.

“No, no, honestly I’m OK.”

” Well, I suggest you give the job your full attention. You make a rod for your own back if you allow a prep class to get restless. Don’t let distractions undo all your great work.”

She patted Piper’s arm. Piper smiled at her.

Francine always means well.

On Saturday morning there was a knock at the door. She was surprised to see a middle-aged man holding a large flower arrangement in front of him.

“Ms Piper Franzman?”

“Yes, that’s me”

“Sign here, please”

Piper stood in the open screen door holding the flowers. She didn’t need to read the card. She knew he’d sent them.

Why now?

She stared at the bouquet of purple Hyacinth and white and pink Broom. It was unusual and Piper imagined the florist would have been surprised at the request to make a large bouquet of these particular flowers. Her first reaction was to throw the lot, heads down, into the garbage bin but she had loved him, how she had adored Bryant: the companion of her childhood; the friend of her worst years; her precious lover.  It had made the hurt all the more devastating.

He of all people should have understood her decision to leave University, and come home to nurse her dying father. Anybody would have expected Bryant’s loyalty, especially if they knew the former couple’s shared history. Now he was back, sending her a message in a language most people did not use in the 21st century. She had thrown away many of his presents but not her hardback copy of The Victorian Language of Flowers: his present at the end of their first year of University. It had been delivered to their bedsitter, along with a bunch of coral-coloured honeysuckle. It was huge, and he had been saying, in Victorian flower language: I love you. She remembered how joyful she had been at his thoughtfulness which honoured her love of Victorian literature, which he believed she should teach. His love was expressed in a language that most of their friends did not understand. It was a declaration that spoke so much more poignantly through symbolism. Now the message he was sending her today became clear.

 Broom meant humility, Purple hyacinth: I am sorry, please forgive me.

She picked up the phone and dialed.

“Hi Mum. How are you?”

” I’m well dear. I was just about to call and invite you to dinner.”

“Are other people coming to dinner too?”

“Yes.”

“You wouldn’t have happened to invite Bryant?”

“Well, yes dear. It was the strangest thing. I was out to lunch on Thursday with Cynthia. You know Cynthia? Anyway, we were sitting in Cafe In Style and in walks Bryant. Well he was most chatty, said he wanted to catch up. I thought you wouldn’t mind.”

Thought I wouldn’t mind. How clueless! Dad always did understand me better, she thought.

“What time?”

“The usual. 7.30 for 8, dear.”

“See you then, Mum.”

Well, she thought, I’m going to look my best and take Bryant a message.

Piper rang Mandy for makeup suggestions. She visited the shops in time to get new makeup products, and a special top that matched her best skirt. She was dressed and made up when the doorbell rang. She had been so preoccupied, she had not glanced at the clock. Now she noticed she was half an hour ahead. She took one more satisfied look at her appearance. The blue chiffon and jersey outfit complimented her eyes, and accentuated her waist. Mandy had helped her choose the perfect shade of lipstick and for once, her hair had not frizzed.

When she opened the door, Eitan stood on the doorstep with a bouquet of Gladioli.

Gladioli, she thought, they mean, generosity and I’m sincere.

“Hi,” he said.”I hope you like these. I’ve just been to visit my mum and she’s a keen gardener, used to have a florist shop .”

“And you always bring home bunches of Gladioli?”

“Glad you know what they are. I do bring them home often enough, I can buy them wholesale, and the guys at work like them for their wives. Most of them are married. They have wives most of them…”

He trailed off, looking embarrassed, a half smile on his face.

She changed the subject, “Where does your mother live?”

“Allenstown. It’s about four hours away by car.”

” Yes, I know it. I attended University there for a few years–”

She twisted her hands together.

” You’re all dressed up. You look great. Going on a date?”

” I wish,” she gave him a smile.

“Obligatory dinner party at my mother’s, and I’m delivering some flowers too. Excuse me while I just grab them. Won’t be long.”

She went to fetch a bunch of striped Carnations and a Hydrangea that she had left in water in the laundry. She carried them back out into the front foyer and saw Eitan inspecting the photo collection, which hung next to the living room door. He seemed startled when she appeared beside him.

When he saw the potted hydrangea and large bunch of carnations, he said, “I’ll carry those for you.”

He reached for the Hydrangea first and the pot tilted, moist dirt hit his shirt and dropped down onto his shoes; the pot began to fall. They both bent and grabbed at the pot together. Piper was a split second slower, and her forehead connected with his cheekbone.

“Ow!”

He had managed to slow the pot’s fall, but now he completely lost his grip on it. It hit the floor and rolled against the wall.

Piper gasped out, “I’m sorry.”

Still clutching the carnations in her left hand, she reached up with her right to his reddened cheek. His hand came up over hers, and they stood for seconds gazing at each other.

Piper broke the silence, “I hope it doesn’t bruise.”

” I think I’ll be ok. Some ice would help though.”

She nodded. “I’ll grab some while you take a seat in the living room. It’s just behind you.”

“O.K, I’ll just grab the hydrangea. It looks O.K”

When Piper came back with the ice pack, he sat on the couch with his head leaning back on the cushion top. His button up shirt stretched across his chest. She sat a bit closer than arm’s length, and asked him if she could apply the pack.

His mouth went up at the corners as he said,” If you promise not to hit me.”

“I won’t hit you,” Piper replied,” and I can see exactly where it’s red. You may have a bruise just under your eye.”

He turned towards her and gazed into her eyes. He lifted her wrist and she applied the ice pack gently. Their heads were level as he slouched down. They sat without speaking for a  few minutes.

He said,” Your eyes are the colour of Sapphires.”

She giggled.

He spoke again,” Did I say that out loud?”

She nodded. The phone rang.

“Oh, no, that will be my mother. She hates tardiness.”

Eitan carried the Carnations and Hydrangea to the car for her. He dripped a little dirty water on what looked like expensive pants.

“I’m sorry I didn’t wrap them better, Eitan.”

It was the first time she had said his name and it felt good.

He grinned.” You said my name right. Most people call me atten.”

“I guess that means I’m no longer a real drip.”

He was still smiling as she pulled out of the driveway.

The guy sure does love my dad’s kind of jokes, she thought.

Her mother greeted her with, “You’re late but you do look lovely. Are we looking forward to seeing a certain young man?”

She could not help it; she rolled her eyes. She wanted to swat her mother like a bug. Her mother looked wounded.

” What happens to your students, Piper Franzman when they make faces like that?”

“Not much these days, Mum.”

The doorbell interrupted them.

“You check the table settings, while I get that.”

Her mother was very predictable during dinner. She asked Bryant questions and made many remarks that enabled him to make the most of his success as a chemical engineer, as a loving son and, as a fine upstanding citizen. Piper reached an almost teenage level of angst.

Make that a red haired teenager, she seethed as she took a pull of her red wine.

The heartless pair prattled on. The time between courses dragged and it was already nearing midnight. Piper made a point of highlighting the success of their other dinner guest, Mr Whitlow in the recent seniors’ tennis tournament.

“It was a wonderful coup, Stanley, Regional over 60, A Grade Champ. I was very glad when I read about it in the Chronicle.”

” I was very pleased myself, Piper. It’s been my aim for the last three years.”

He continued and told a few stories about Piper’s late father, who had also been a local tennis champion. It was bittersweet. Mum talked so seldom about Dad these days.

After coffee, Bryant started making signals: little gestures that used to make her heart race; he wanted to be alone. Tired and fed up Piper stood to go. Bryant offered to walk her to the car and she nodded.

As soon as they were in the dark, by the car, he laid a hand upon her arm. She looked up at him. He looked back, confident of admiration.

He is tall, great bone structure, large dark eyes, has an excellent physique, intellectually he’s bright, and  even well – endowed.

Piper listed the attributes that had made her the envy of half the girls of Allenstown University.

Nevertheless, you turned out to be a heartless insincere thug.

She oppressed as she remembered how he had tried to make her choose between him and her Father.

Daddy was so ill and still you were all jealous possessiveness.

Her thoughts stirred anger. He was stepping forward to embrace her when she turned and reached past him into the back seat of the car. As she threw the door open, the handle hit Bryant hard just below the waist. He grunted, and bent forward in pain.

Piper stared at him. ” I really didn’t mean that Bryant but I do mean this.”

She handed him the striped Carnations and the Hydrangea.

It really was the perfect message, Piper thought.

Striped Carnations meant: No, Refusal, Sorry I can’t be with you, and Hydrangea: Thank-you for understanding, and also, heartlessness. I’m sure he’ll work it out.

“Actually when you’re finished with the Hydrangea you can give it to my mother, ” she said.

As she pulled away, she turfed the copy of The Victorian Language of Flowers onto the driveway. Her headlights illuminated Bryant as he bent to pick it up.

Her unit back door was poorly lit but the full moon was risen, so Piper went to the rear door anyway.  She had been restless, as she thought about Bryant so looking for something to do she had stopped at the 24 hour supermarket. There seemed no point in  trying to sleep.She arranged her two bags of groceries in one hand, so she could hold her key. As she inserted the key into the lock, Mindy the Cockatiel, screamed then hissed.

Why was Mindy feeling threatened?

 She left the groceries on the step as she went in to investigate. She approached Mindy’s cage and crooned to her pet but the bird continued to hiss. The hairs on her neck began to rise. She saw a figure out of the corner of her eye and reached for a heavy ceramic bowl that sat on the table. Still grasping her keys in her other hand she turned. The outline of a tall naked man showed in the moonlight from the sitting room window. He moved toward her. She threw the bowl. She charged him, keys pointing out between her fingers. The loudness of her scream startled them both. He began to run back through the living room and out into the hall. She chased him as he retreated down the hall, entered the kitchen and ran through the rear door. She flicked on the light as he leapt across the step, caught his right foot in the grocery bags, and crashed to the ground.  He moaned. His was motionless, under the courtyard clothesline.

Hell, that looks like Bryant. I am so angry.

She could hear her breathing. She approached cautiously, keys at the ready.

It ‘s not Bryant, no heart -shaped birthmark on the butt.  Man’s hair is dark brown not jet black, excellent physique. The nudist thief. Wow, the nudist thief.

She took three deep breaths.

Lock the back door so he can’t escape through the house if he wakes up. 

She glanced around.

Hey are those his clothes by the fence.

She inspected the clothing.

One pair of Overalls: blue, she thought. To a passerby he would look like a gas repairman. That would work in the daytime but the nighttime? Hmm.

She ran towards her car and grabbed her phone. Get Etian. 

Call police.

As she walked she dialed 000.

“I have a naked intruder in my backyard.”

She gave her name.

“Are you being threatened, Piper?”

“No, actually he’s unconscious, he was in my house and I chased him. He fell over the step and hit his head. I think he’s someone who is wanted by the police.”

“We’ll send police and ambulance straight away.”

She pressed the button to end the call,as she pounded on Eitan’s door with the other hand.

After a minute, she heard.”Hey,I’m coming,I’m coming. It’s two o’clock in the morning. Is that you, Bro?”

“No, it’s Piper.”

“Piper?   What’s wrong? ”

She shouted, “I caught the nudist thief!”

Two more houses lit up in the street.

The concussed man was half-dressed in his overalls by the time Piper and Etian arrived back in her courtyard. He was in no state to fight off Etian and two other neighbours, who placed him under citizen’s arrest.

Etian caught her eye, and winking, said,” At least it wasn’t me you hit this time.”

When the police arrived they sat the guy up and noted  the egg-like swelling on his forehead.  The ambulance arrived two minutes later and took the thief  to hospital. The police asked Piper a few questions, and took down her details, said they would be in touch, and left. Etian had explained who he was and that he was  glad the thief had been caught.  Etian was quiet and kept staring at the man. After the police had gone,  Piper asked him if he had recognised the man .

“Yes, he works at the same firm I work at, just casual though.”

Piper shook her head.

“I’ll talk to the police about that on Monday.”

Instead of going straight home he came back to the courtyard and helped her clean up the mess of broken eggs , salad leaves and  milk. He came inside for hot chocolate and when he’d finished he reached across the table and took her hand.

“You did really well, Piper”

“Thanks, Etian, I owe you.”

“I like to think so,” he said looking smug. “But I’ll consider it payment if you let me cook you breakfast.”

“Just what are you proposing, Atten,” she said, butchering his name. But her heart was pounding.

“No, no”, he said holding up his hands, “get some sleep and head over to my house about nine.”

At ten o’clock that morning, Piper sat at Eitan’s table enjoying fresh croissants, scrambled eggs and espresso coffee. Finally, she pushed back her plate.

“That was delicious.”

“No kidding,” he raised his eyebrows; “I’ve never seen a woman eat so appreciatively.”

She snickered, and then looked down fidgeting with a fork. She saw his face go still.

” I hope I didn’t offend you.”

“No, no, there’s just something I need to ask you.”

“Well, ask away,” he said as he cleared the plates. She went and stood by him at the sink. He looked at her and waited.

“When you were at my house earlier this morning, and I asked you what you were proposing about breakfast… did you mean “no, no” as in “I’ll only ever think of you as a friend.” She blushed as she continued,” or were you… What did you mean?”

She forced herself to look at him.

He smiled a gentle, slow smile. Her thoughts seemed audible in the silence.

Is he going to let me down gently? I’ m out on a limb here. Help.

“No, I didn’t mean I could ‘only ever think of you as a friend’. My feelings are more like; you’re too special to be casual about.”

He reached for her hands as she gazed into his eyes. He lifted her hands to his mouth and gently kissed each finger.

She breathed out and in slowly, and unwittingly made her thoughts audible.

“You have the most gorgeous eyes.”

He laughed.

“Yours are better than sapphires.”

The End

© 2015 Danielle O’Donnell

Attributions  for the flower images

Carnation image :By Henderson, Peter & Co.; Stumpp & Walter Co. (New York, N.Y.) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0) or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Gladioli:By 3268zauber – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7262031

Honeysuckle (Coral):By Walter Siegmund (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Hyacinth:By Katia from Porto Alegre, Brazil (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Hydrangea:By KENPEI (KENPEI’s photo) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.1 jp (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.1/jp/deed.en)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Pink Broom attribution :By Pratt, Anne; Step, Edward [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0) or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons