Dragon Deal

Photo by Jared Rice on Unsplash

Once upon a time, Princess Lola watched as her father drew the lottery name for the annual sacrifice. The name was hers.

Her family cried, but Lola had a plan.

Late at night, she made her way to the Dragon’s Den.

Smoke billowed from the cave.

“You’re early,” the dragon’s voice echoed through the cave.

“I have a deal for you. It’s just between us,” Lola said.

“I have a deal with your father,” the dragon countered.

“Your deal is for girls. Wouldn’t you like a juicy boy?”

“You are scrawny.” The smoke heaved and billowed as the dragon chuckled.

“I’ll bring a boy if you’ll spare my life.”

“Are boys tasty?”

Lola promised the dragon a boy and several hours later she returned.

“Where are we going?” the chubby boy asked as he clung to Lola’s hand.

“It’s not much further,” Lola said pulling him along behind her.

“Is this the Dragon’s Den?” the boy asked as they reached the end of the trail.

“Dragon,” Lola called.

The dragon’s claw grabbed the boy, and he was gone.

“Remember our deal, Dragon,” Lola called over her shoulder. Not waiting for the dragon’s answer, she hurried home.

The next day the festival led Lola along the same path to the Dragon’s Den.

Like the previous night, the dragon’s claw reached from its den, this time the dragon grabbed Lola.

“Hey, we had a deal,” Lola screamed.

“Deal? What deal?” the dragon asked.

“Remember, I brought you a boy and you promised you’d spare my life.”

The dragon laughed.

“Promise? I made no promise. Besides, girls are made from sugar and spice and everything nice. Boys are not as tasty.”

And Lola was gone.

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

Day of Blood

Red clouds

Photo by Laura Vinck on Unsplash

Crimson robes fluttered, flowing behind Bellona like a boiling sea. The doors of the great hall slammed, and Lucina ran to keep up with her sister.

“What are we going to do?” Lucina asked.

Bellona didn’t respond. She wished she had worn her breastplate and whip to the audience. Still, her tongue had provided a brutal lashing.

“Did you have to provoke him?” Lucina panted, intercepting her sister on her march through the palace corridors.

“What?” Bellona’s voice echoed on the marble walls. She stopped before colliding with Lucina.

Lucina trembled as her sister’s proud anger pounded on her soul.

“Bellona, he means to kill you,” Lucina whispered. She clutched Bellona’s sleeve and saw the fire in her sister’s eyes ebb.

“Believe me, I know it. If he wants war, then he has pissed off the right girl.”

Bellona petted Lucina’s hand and attempted to smile. But the anger won.

“Genius thinks he is a special god, but he is a snake. I will chop off his head and condemn his writhing body to the eternal flames of hell.”

Lucina flinched and clenched Bellona’s sleeve wadding into a crumpled ball.

“I will not allow him to continue his assertion that genius is only within the domain of men. Tradition dictates we bestow genius on every human being.”

“What will you do?”

“We are going to the Field of Mars. There we will assemble the Bellonarii and send a messenger to mother. I swear. He will have his day of blood.”

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Jo Hawk The Writer

Enduring Love

stick-figure-hanging-from-a-red-heart-shape-pointed-on-wall

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

The hairbrush whizzed past my head, and struck the doorjamb, before falling to the floor and skidding under the bed.

“You bastard. You’ll ruin my life,” she screeched.

I stood in the doorway prepared for the onslaught, ready when it came. She slapped my face, and I felt my flesh burn. Her fists pounded my chest, and I smelled her familiar fragrance, it always enveloped her. I tasted it when we kissed and smelled it in my clothes when we were apart.

“You can’t leave. We love each other too much,” she said as the pummeling stopped. She leaned in, her arms weaving themselves around my neck. I wanted to hold her but forced my hands to obey.

“You love me. I know you’re angry, but you always come back. So just stay,” she cooed. Pressing against me, she lifted her head, wanting to be kissed.

I turned, and her lips grazed my still stinging cheek.

Offended, she pushed away, “Why does it matter? Why do you care?” she hissed and stared at me, tears welling in her eyes. Then she turned, collapsing on the bed and sobbing into her pillow.

That’s how I left her all those years ago. Smeared mascara, highlighting bloodshot eyes that said everything was my fault. It was a lie. It was too late. It was over. No one blamed me. They knew about the hidden bottles, the late nights at smoky bars and the denials, rehabs, and relapses.

Late at night, my phone buzzes.

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

First Frost

Frost-on-grass-red-maple-leaf-with-frost-in-dappled-sunlight

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

A timid morning ray reached through the window, warmed my face, tugged my eyelids, and coaxed me to wake with the newborn day. I yawned, stretched and felt the chill air, a chill that was absent when I fell to sleep.

It was a time when nights pushed back the edges of day and cool fingers plucked warmth from the sun. The sun would submit, darkness would rule the world allowing the handmaidens of snow and ice to dance while summer slumbered.

For now, there were preparations needed ahead of darkness’ descent. I rose, dressed and flung open the door. Night’s chill reached into my lungs, stealing my breath while the sun dazzled my senses with crystalline grass and lace-edged leaves. My hand touched the shawl hanging on its peg where I had abandoned it months before. Delicate wool magically constructed stored welcome warmth, my shield, my protector. Armed, I stepped into a world transformed.

The dazzling display would fade, it was the harbinger, a gentle warning to make haste. My sisters emerged, we marveled a moment, then without a word, we spread iridescent wings, and rising like the mist, we flew.

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Jo Hawk The Writer

Big Game Hunting

girls-in-huddle-on-soccer-field

Photo by Jeffrey Lin on Unsplash

This was crazy, or maybe I was nuts. I suspected it bordered on obsession, but I couldn’t help myself.  I had tracked them for weeks, observing them in their natural habitat. Occasionally my best friend, Josh would hang with me. Josh was an expert who often had them eating out of his hand. He gave me tips and offered suggestions, but in the end, I was on my own. Everything depended on my timing, my approach, and a little luck.

I moved carefully so I wouldn’t startle them. I become proficient at knowing where they would be, so I wasn’t always following them. One mistake and they would notice me and bolt. I couldn’t afford to spook them. After a week or two, I knew their honey holes, the places they might be, depending on the time of the day.

Today’s honey hole was the big field behind the gym.

Josh slid in next to me as I manned my hideout by the bleachers.

“Have you gone in for the kill?” he asked.

I glared at him, then shook my head.

“Man, you’re running out of time. What are you waiting for?”

“I’m waiting for my best shot.”

“You mean you’re waiting for her to be alone? Dude. They’re high school girls, they always travel in packs.” Josh shoved my shoulder, hard. “And I ain’t gonna be your date.”

I knew he was right, so I took a deep breath, walked over to Missy and asked her to the Prom.

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

Hey! What Did the Blue Jay Say?

blue-jay-at-feeder

Photo by Faye Cornish on Unsplash

I heard the cry as I opened my eyes.

“Hey. Hey.” The call was sharp and incessant.

It was Saturday, the day I didn’t set my alarm intending to wake when I woke.

“Hey, what did the blue jay say?” Brandon sat in bed flipping the screen on his iPad.

“He says ‘there is no corn in the feeder’.”

“We put food in it yesterday. How can it be empty?”

“Between the squirrels and the jays?” I stretched, rubbed my eyes and squinted at the clock.

“You got an extra hour,” Brandon said swiping his finger across the tablet.

“Is the coffee ready?”

“I heard the buzzer a few minutes ago.”

I grabbed my robe, stuffed my feet into worn slippers and headed downstairs. First order of business was coffee. The aroma greeted me as I entered the kitchen. I took my favorite cup from its peg and filled it to the brim with hot, steamy java. The cup wrapped in both hands I leaned over and took a deep breath, allowing the steam to trickle into my fuzzy brain.

“Hey. Hey.” The call came from beyond the sliding glass door.

“Yes, yes. You want breakfast too.” I took a quick sip before reaching into the full container of corn cobs. We had gathered them from the field after the harvesters finished. My coffee cup in one hand and two big cobs precariously balanced in my arms, I opened the sliding door and stepped onto the deck. A jay sat at the feeder and tipped his head at me.

“Hey. Hey,” he called before he flew away. Another jay perched in the Norwegian Pine twenty feet away.

“Hey. Hey.”

I dumped the cobs on the platform feeder at the deck’s edge and took a seat at the table. A jay swooped in, landing first on the deck rail then hopping to the feeder. The sun was warm, but the air promised snow. I knew it was one of the last mornings I would share breakfast with the jays.

A squirrel chattered in the distance, wanting his share of corn. The jays and the squirrels agreed. It would be a cold winter.

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

Sunset City

 

Photo by Max Bender on Unsplash

I press my hand on the glass. It stretches, floor to ceiling forming an invisible barrier between me and the city I love. The day is ending the sun is setting, painting a glorious color display in the sky while the city lights twinkle a light show of their own. I lean forward, my forehead touches glass and I close my eyes imprinting the image in my memory.

Tomorrow a plane will take me far away, and I will leave my city behind. New adventures, new friends, a new beginning for my life. But my heart will remain in the city I love.

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

Brake Lights

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The taillights in front of me blazed red, he was stopping, fast, and I was barreling straight for him.  I slammed the brakes and felt the anti-lock feature pumping the pedal beneath my foot. My right hand flew to the passenger seat to stop my purse from tumbling to the floorboards. Too late. I was getting closer to the car’s rear bumper and I couldn’t stop. The anti-lock brakes still pumped the pedal, but my tires skimmed across the wet pavement. There was a car to my right, no escape route. In my rear-view mirror, I saw the horrified face of the driver behind me. He was too close. I had no intention of becoming the middle of a sandwich.

Both hands clutching the wheel, I yanked it to the left. Terrified the action might send me into a spin, I prepared to steer into the skid. I prayed the shoulder was wide enough to maneuver without hitting the cement divider and ricochet me into a collision I wanted to avoid.

My car shuttered and shook as the tires hit rumble boards and loose gravel. That bit of resistance stopped me from hydroplaning, the traction violently slowed the car’s forward motion. My whole body lurched forward, the seat belt locked, digging into my shoulder. White knuckles gripped the steering wheel, and I screamed as the windshield raced to connect with my face. The car stopped throwing me against the seat. The purse and its contents disappeared underneath the passenger seat. My heart raced, my pulse throbbed in my ears and I gasped air. My hands held their death grip on the steering wheel. I forced myself to let go of the wheel, my hands shook, and I wanted to cry. I slid the drive shifter into Park.

The man in the car behind me slid to a stop gently kissing the bumper of the car I had been following. Three lanes of traffic doing sixty-five miles an hour come to a dead stop. I hugged the steering wheel allowing fear and tensions to ebb.

A tap on my side window startled me. The man from the car behind me stared at me.

“You ok?” He asked as I opened the window.

“Yeah, I’m fine. How are you?”

“I thought I was dead. The brakes locked. I couldn’t stop. So, I closed my eyes and waited for the collision. But it didn’t happen. My car stopped. I opened my eyes, and you had disappeared. But here you are. What happened?”

“I swerved.”

“You did more than that, you saved my life.”

We smiled like fools and laughed.

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

Release

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Her head rang from jangles and sirens and the neighbor’s too loud tv. She couldn’t think, couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t write. A nap, maybe all she needed was a nap. But that didn’t work either. She grabbed her keys and drove to the lake.  The din fell away as she walked the water’s edge and the wind tugged the tangles from her mind. Gulls squabbled, turning somersaults in the air before plunging into the waves to snag a silver treasure. Waves lapped at her feet, erased her footprints, denied her existence. With a deep breath, she smelled the sand, water, dead fish and life. Her heart cracked open expelling a tension she hadn’t recognized she held. Without thinking, she sank to her knees and wrote.

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer