Category: Mother Gran

FP531 – What Remains: A Mother Gran Story

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode five hundred and thirty-one.

Flash PulpTonight we present What Remains: A Mother Gran Story

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by Nutty Bites!

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you every Friday evening.

Tonight, we visit briefly with an old friend along a northern lakeside.

 

What Remains: A Mother Gran Story

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

FP531 - What Remains: A Mother Gran Story

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

FP454 – The Broken Circle: a Mother Gran Story

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and fifty-four.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Broken Circle: a Mother Gran Story

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by Glow-in-the-Dark Radio!

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight we revisit old friends dealing with new, unexpected visitors.

 

The Broken Circle: a Mother Gran Story

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

There came a time, well after the majority of Mother Gran’s family had fled the dried silver mines and the plummeting cost of wheat, when she was left to tend her acreage with the help of only fresh-faced Montgomery Smith and Ellen, her youngest granddaughter at twenty-two.

Smith had been a boon to the operation. Though by no means the burliest labourer the farm had seen, he had single-handedly cleared the brush and oak back to the lake that bordered the property, and his aid in the harvest meant having to depend little on the stipend provided by her distant benefactor, Thomas Blackhall.

It was Blackhall who had sent her Smith, and in exchange for the man’s dedication and the paying of a personal debt she had agreed to hold onto volumes of knowledge and artifacts beyond her comprehension. Gran herself was not unfamiliar with the arcane, but hers was a bush education gleaned from family knowledge and the passing wisdom of the occasional vagabond riding the rails through the wilderness. It was just enough schooling to understand the dangers of the items she possessed, and to respect the risk she undertook in keeping them.

Their pact had included an agreement that she would not pry into her obligation, and she held to the terms till the day Kenton Sweet arrived.

The stranger appeared as she was setting a meat pie upon her windowsill, and she watched from behind the curtain’s shadow as Sweet shuffled through the gate and passed the main house without attempt to raise awareness as to his arrival.

Both Smith and Ellen were occupied; he doing his best to fumble his way through a chair repair in the work shed, and she collecting dandelions so they might press them for spring wine.

The pair had been making eyes at each other for the better part of the year, and the aging grandmother often found herself wishing they’d discuss the matter openly instead of pining in their separate silences. She had little patience left for the dallying nature of the age’s courtship.

Ellen’s parents had been brought low by a cholera outbreak in Montreal, and the girl had been shipped to the fresh air and field work of Gran’s plot at the age of ten. She’d been there to see the collapse of the nearby town, and the subsequent sowing of their family to the wind. She’d also been there to witness the arrival of Smith himself, carrying news and calling in those debts owed to Blackhall.

It did not take long for Montgomery to settle. Though young he had seen military service, like many of the overly-excitable and under-parented boys of his era, and the trio’s post-meal evenings were spent in a friendly rhythm of exchanged tales while gathered about the fire: First Mother Gran telling of her youth or some local fairy story; then Smith speaking of his oceanic crossing – where a fellow rifleman had taught every rat on the ship to come to his whistle – or some bit of midnight foolishness he and his comrades had gotten into while vigorously defending the whiskey stills below certain southern public houses; then, finally Ellen would speak of the events of the day in lands both distant and not so distant. She’d befriended, years previous, a mustachioed train engineer by the name of Hanson, and often she would leave a fresh pie, wrapped in old newspaper, at the hilltop watering station, where, in exchange, he would deposit as many broadsheets and penny dreadfuls as he’d been able to collect since his last installment.

Though no longer obligated to wear his uniform Smith took the duties he’d sworn to Blackhall with the earnestness of any soldier lifting a rifle, and Gran sussed early on that this was why, though they sparred amicably on points of history or whose turn it was to handle the dishes, the young man maintained a certain distance from Ellen’s approaching affection.

It’d been four years since his arrival, but it was only three weeks since Ellen had stolen a kiss from him behind the barn, and the pair had been warming themselves on their supposed secret since.

At least this had brought a sliver of a grin to Gran’s face – it was a fool’s joke to think anything might happen within her borders that she was not aware.

She had, for example, spotted Kenton immediately upon his arrival.

Maintaining eighty acres was rough work, but harvests could be completed with the help of hired labour and the rest of the season managed by focused dedication. Such effort was not uncommon in hard times, and a body on the roam who knew anything about field work would be aware of such a farmer’s preoccupation.

From her position behind the half-cocked drape, Gran suspected this was such a visitor. She too could hear the hammering and swearing emanating from the remote work shed, and, even further beyond, Ellen’s stooping form, in yellow spring dress, was clearly visible against the field of green.

Sweet was creeping along the siding of the small garage in which the widow’s husband had stored their beloved show buggy, the interloper’s right hand in his pocket and his left held out before him as if it might somehow deflect the gaze of anyone he happened to encounter.

FP454 - The Broken Circle: a Mother Gran StoryDespite her years Gran had never been a woman with much interest in rest. Hoisting hay bales and wrangling swine had kept her wiry limbs taut, and chasing game and running the night fields had kept her feet light.

He did not hear her approach, yet he greatly felt the sting of her broom handle landing across his left calf and then his right elbow. The impact upon his arm was enough to draw his hand from his pocket, and, though she had sharp eyes on his grip, she was pleased to find it empty.

“Stand down,” said the stranger, “My name is Sweet – Kenton Sweet – and I am but a simple farmhand come looking for a bit of work in this lush slice of Eden.”

Gran’s toothless gums only acted to exaggerate the raspberry her lips formed in response. “Pfft – Mayhaps I’ve spent the better part of my years scratching at this patch of swamp dirt, but I know a bloody skulker when I see one, ye bloody skulker.”

She had noticed immediately the half-time swing of the hammer in the work shed, then the cessation entirely of its morning-long rhythm – yet Sweet had not. Smith, who’d revealed himself a watchful man notwithstanding his flip nature, had no doubt spotted her crossing of the yard, as it had been only the intruder from whom Gran had wished to obscure her approach.

Montgomery’s reaction had come so quickly that he was still clutching his cudgel as he cleared his throat, drawing the lurker’s attention, but Gran could not be sure her young friend had spotted the stranger’s fingers again drawing into his right pocket.

“Hey!” she said, her broom handle prodding his shoulder in warning, but at that same moment Sweet, reacting to the sight of Smith’s sudden hammer-carrying appearance, yanked forth a well-worn pocket pistol. Surprise and fear guided Sweet’s instincts and, as his firearm’s mechanism dropped into the breech it was only the stick’s nudge that saved Blackhall’s agent from ending his brief life with a third nostril.

Yet it was also, however, just enough of an adjustment that Ellen, approaching the gathering from behind with her basket full of daisies, received the startled shot just above her right eye.

By reflex entirely unconcerned with differentiating between revenge and self-defense, Smith’s hammer landed at Sweet’s temple even before Ellen had fully collapsed.

Then his weapon tumbled from his grip, and his violence was instantly forgotten as he loped to her side with a keening throat.

Silence fell. In the distance the same bugs buzzed, and the same birds cawed, and the same waves lapped gently at the lakeshore. The noon sun would soon be relentless in its assault upon the grass and dirt, and the moon would continue to hover over the horizon, eager to bring darkness to the land.

In that moment, Gran felt the weight of every day she’d known: Every hour she’d laboured against the land, fought against the small minds and quick hands of the local drunks, turned back threats beyond the simple comprehension of the townsfolk who’d shunned her before abandoning their birthplaces entirely.

Perhaps it was the frustration of not having killed him herself – perhaps it was the sorrow of watching Ellen’s too-young blood soak into the earth that had sustained her for so long – but, whatever the case, Gran, for the first and only time, betrayed the trust Blackhall had invested in her.

At seeing her collect her tools Smith assumed she’d set herself to scratching out her granddaughter’s grave, but by midday her work proved she was after a hole already dug. Swinging high the iron nails and cedar logs that made up the cellar’s roof, she descended into the cavern in which she had hidden her burden.

She wept and laughed and searched under the creeping light of the afternoon sun and the hollow glow of the moon’s rise, then she encountered a slip of paper whose edges were rung in skulls and sprouting saplings. Her church Latin was rusty, but the instructions were largely decipherable.

By that time Smith had carried Ellen’s form to the house, no doubt to wrap her in linens and gush his too-closely held adoration for the girl, but Sweet’s body, cold and staring, remained where it had fallen.

Morning was breaking at the edge of the yard as she washed her hands and face in water collected from the rain barrel, and the chill damp helped ease the sting about her exhausted eyes. She rarely slept more than a few hours most evenings, but those brief minutes were one of life’s pleasures she greatly looked forward to.

Still, she would rest easier once her work was done.

Standing beside the dew-dappled corpse, parchment in hand, she ran her tongue across her lips and began her recitation. Her toothless nature, however, lent certain consonants a mushy resonance, and thrice she was forced to repeat a word once she’d belatedly realized its correct pronunciation.

Kenton’s Sweet’s form began to buck, his wound knitting itself shut even as his flailing form snapped and reformed his spine repeatedly. Searing white light gushed from his eyes, and the sound of wind howling across a damned plain rolled from his throat. With the closing of her oration his thrashing dwindled, as did the blaze and roar, but Sweet continued to writhe, and his mouth began to form a much more human screaming.

Gran had prepared for such. Sweet’s pistol was refilled and ready within the broad pockets of her mud-spattered dress.

Recognition, and pleading, came into his eyes as she approached, but she did not hesitate in firing squarely upon his forehead.

He twitched once and was dead.

She allowed herself the space of a single breath, reached across the better part of a century to briefly touch the memory of her mother chiding her that a thing worth doing was worth doing right, then began her second reading.

Her diction was clearer, and her tongue moved more surely across the words, yet there came a moment, among a tangle of ‘U’s and ‘L’s, in which her jaw gnashed and gnarled, and she knew she had broken hard from the intention of the text.

Still, she was closer to finished than beginning, and she was unsure of what might result from leaving the job half done.

This time as Sweet came about there was no chance for screaming – instead blood drained in gouts from his mouth and nose, thick with a porridge of the poorly reformed brain matter that had surrounded her bullet.

Worse, her exhaustion had led her to skip a critical step, and she had not reloaded the weapon in question. As Kenton took to all fours and splashed scarlet across the muck, she retrieved her shovel and laid it heavily across his neck.

In moments Gran was fully collected and ready for the third attempt, and her oration was as smooth as the night breeze running its fingers through the tall grass.

Again the light appeared, but this time its intensity was a glow instead of a torrent, and the round shot with which she had penetrated his skull rolled gently down the bridge of Sweet’s nose as he sat upright.

His eyes were confused, but appeared otherwise human.

“Kenton?” asked Gran.

“Yes?” replied the resurrected man.

“Any aches and pains? Any lingering concerns?”

“No aches or pains, but many lingering concerns. How is it that I came to be seated here? My last memory is of -”

Then she hit him again with the shovel and finally took to digging a grave.

It was not that she thought it the right thing to do – it was not that she thought it the just thing to do – yet she certainly found it to be the most satisfying of the choices presented to her. There would be much to explain to Blackhall at his next arrival, but, in all fairness, surely he would not want a known murderer wandering about claiming he’d had a resurrection ritual practiced upon his corpse a number of times before his escape?

Gran could not say what the bushman’s response would be, but in the short term she did not care: There was one last repetition of the rite to carry out, and then a long nap ahead of her. Once all was right again she could worry about all that was wrong in the correction’s wake.

With aching yet silent feet she approached the farmhouse and the lovers sheltered within.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

181 – Which: a Mother Gran Story, Part 1 of 1

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and eighty one.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present, Which: a Mother Gran Story, Part 1 of 1.

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by Garaaga’s Children.

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight, Mother Gran relates a warning, via a parable of her youth.

 

Flash Pulp 181 – Which: a Mother Gran Story, Part 1 of 1

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

Mother GranWhen Mother Gran had discovered Briana, one of the youngest of her children’s children’s children, the girl had been busy creating a makeshift ladder so she might throw her legs over one of the farm’s plow horses. Her Pa had warned her away from the barn on several occasions, but, as she was of Gran’s stock, she had no instinct for heeding danger – besides, she argued, she’d ridden the nags many times before, with little harm.

Rather than take the lass over her knobby knee and lay plain the lesson, the ancient woman sat the youngling upon a hay bale, and told this tale:

“One grey May morning, many decades ago, just as the hens had begun to cluck, and the cows to lament their burden, two brothers, and their little sister, moved across the grain fields, and through the cart-paths, with mischief on their minds and bawdy songs on their lips.

“Their hands were heavy with warm plunder – speckled eggs plucked from beneath the nesting chickens of their father’s coop – and they chose their route with care, so as to preserve their bounty till it had reached its intended destination. It was only once they had come to their place of turning, an overgrown lane differentiated from a dozen others along the line by a tear-drop-shaped boulder, the majority of whose surface was etched with white runes, that they broke off their tune.

““‘Tis the road of the witch,” said the eldest.

““A long and shady patch, indeed,” replied the middle brother.

““Naught is accomplished with still feet and open mouths,” noted the youngest sister.

“Paying no heed to the warding stone, they tiptoed into the shadows of the spruce stands that oversaw their passage.

“Beyond the constant drone of insects, all was hushed.

“A quarter-mile’s further creep brought them to the splintered shanty that was their objective.

“They let fly their shelled payloads, painting the listing-shed’s single window in yoke.

““Witch!” cried the eldest.

““Witch!” shouted the middle brother.

““Witch!” repeated the youngest sister.

“With a howl from the interior, the chase began.

“The three bodies knew that the hound, a short-cropped tawny brute with slobbering jowls and paws the size of horse’s hooves, was on a leash of sorts – if they might outrun it to the marked stone at the hovel’s entrance, the beast would bark and bray, but not pass onto the road beyond.

“The eldest brother had discovered the fact one night while lurking beneath the moon, with a lad of his acquaintance, the blacksmith’s boy from town. In an effort to impress the exotic hooligan, he’d crept upon the house, whose reputation as a witch’s burrow was a well whispered tale, and loudly declared that the woods were aflame. As a light had flickered to life behind the poorly glazed pane, the pair of boys had gone laughing down the trail – only to have their merriment cut short by the hammering gallop of the behemoth. The thing ought to have had their throats, as they’d both lost their feet at the change of turf onto the larger path, but it had stopped up short. Pleased at their escape, they’d been uninterested in examining the nature of the restraint, but it was then, after the first authentic terror of his young life, that the eldest had begun his petty vendetta. After a half-dozen further successful outings, he’d enlisted his siblings.

“It was the inaugural excursion for the youngest, and even as the mongrel bore down on her, she found herself giggling at her nervous state. The thing hung perennially at her heels, its breath warming the exposed calves below the hem of her cotton dress. Fear was in her heart, and savagery at her back, and yet she found herself laughing throatily, sure she would die.

“Just as it seemed there could be no further reprieve, the trees gave way, and she tumbled into the muck, upended in the same fashion as her brother’s initial venture. Close behind, with it’s jaws snapping, the dog halted. It snorted once at the heaving-lunged children, then turned its hind-legs to the runners and trotted into the leafy shadows.

““Close!” said the eldest.

““A near thing,” replied the middle brother.

““No more than a Sunday stroll” chided the youngest sister.

“T’was the second last time they tried such a thing.

“At their return home, they discovered their father sitting upon the kitchen stool where he so often spent his evenings drawing at his pipe. He’d heard, while transacting an exchange of sheep, that a number of his offspring were making their way down the lane with faces full of ill intent, and he was not pleased. He had no trouble extracting full truths from the delinquents, and it was a sound thrashing in store for each.

“Their final attempt was made the spring following, not long after the thaw, when the winds are still wild and the air full of damp chill – when freedom from the snows makes a stripling restless to stop telling the same schoolhouse tales, and start creating some new ones.

“The pain of their lesson having long healed, and the memories of the earlier, more successful endeavors, having grown large with verbal repetition, the trio chose to slip out on the first warm eve. Once their exhausted custodians were safely snoring, and well after they might encounter any respectable fellow travelers, they took to the night, collecting up from beneath the ferns the selection of eggs they’d set aside that morning. They’d been hopeful that a day in the sun would do much for the condition of their aroma.

“Elation at their nocturnal liberty set their feet flying over the still brown grasses, and seemed mere instants before they were once again in a strong-throw’s range of the leaning cabin.

““A breakfast for you, witch!” cried the eldest.

““A lunch for you, witch!” shouted the middle brother.

““A dinner as well, witch!” squawked the youngest sister.

“Again came the bellow, and again the chase. They’d nearly made half the distance when they encountered calamity – an old woman upon the path, and, behind her, a hundred cavorting dead, all in various states of decomposition.

“As the siblings halted, the hag spoke.

“”You look not like the opposition I expected, but, whatever the case, the cure is the same.”

“With that, she extracted a dagger from within her billowing sleeves, and bared its blade.

“Sure they’d encountered the witch of the hut upon some late errand, the youths thought their fate’s certain – and, with the column of animated corpses at her heels, it was as if every tale they’d heard of her occult powers must be true.

“Heard, but unseen by the youngest, the hound lept then, hurdling the vandals – but it was a dusky moose that stood under the light of the moon when the girl uncovered her eyes. Without pause, the beast ran its racks into the column of shuddering cadavers.

“It was clear then, to the aghast onlookers, that they had become caught betwixt magics beyond their comprehension.

“She with the dagger also joined the fray, and for a moment the three siblings were held fast. As the tide of the battle appeared to turn, however, a second old woman was suddenly amongst the combatants, even as the spectral antlers vanished. The newcomer’s hair was tawny, and her face haggard – fitting perfectly the murmured accounts of the sorceress.

“”Run!” she shouted to the children from beneath the press of rotting flesh.

““Run!” cried the eldest.

““Run!” shouted the middle brother.

““Run!” repeated the youngest sister.

“The speed, and panic, of their return home, was such that they had no notice of the scratches each accumulated from unregarded obstructing branches. It was these telltales that led to a further thrashing from their father – but it was no longer necessary, their lesson had already been kenned.”

Gran’s audience nodded her head, seeming to take the meaning of the tale.

After a span of consideration, she raised a question.

“I take your meaning, certainly, but what of the witches?”

“So far as I know, the defense of the vandals was the last story to be told of the woman and her cottage,” replied Gran. “No night thereafter was the hound heard, nor seen to roam.”

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

Flash Pulp 105 – The Murder Of Eustace Norton, and his wife, Matilda: A Mother Gran Story, Part 1 of 1

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and five.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present The Murder Of Eustace Norton, and his wife, Matilda: A Mother Gran Story, Part 1 of 1
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This week’s episodes are brought to you by Flash Pulp on iTunes.

It’s where the leprechauns store their pots of gold.

Find a link it here.

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight we discover the truth of a murder in the small town of Hearse.

 

Flash Pulp 105 – The Murder Of Eustace Norton, and his wife, Matilda: A Mother Gran Story, Part 1 of 1

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

On a damp Saturday morning, the majority of the population of Bigelow county found itself at the gravesides of Eustace and Matilda Norton.

“It’s a shame to see such an upstanding man come to such an untimely end. A murderer in our midst? It seems unthinkable,” whispered Mrs. Tupper to Mrs. Wills, hoping, as always, that some tantalizing nugget of information might drop from the Constable’s wife’s lips.

“Mayhaps it was Matilda herself who killed him?” was the best reply Mrs. Wills could make.

“Slip him a poisoned drink then turned his musket on her own person? It seems improbable. Why wouldn’t she have simply saved some of the elixir for herself? More plausible is that she discovered his body and, overwhelmed with her grief, she did herself in,” interjected Mrs. Pilfer.

“Who knows what a mental defective might do? It is well known she was a bedlamite. I certainly do not believe it beyond her to have done exactly that. Likely she poisoned the man in a fit of passion, then, realizing there was no other who might take the blame, brought her crazed hand to his weapon and ended her life.” As often happened when defending her gossip-strung theories, Buppy Tupper’s voice had crept into a volume unsuitable for a solemn event, such as a funeral.

Father Burke stifled the conversation with a targeted gaze, his practiced lips never stumbling on the conjoined eulogy.

At the furthest edge of the crowd, from beneath the rough blanket she held aloft to guard against the drizzle, Mother Gran made her single statement of the service, heard only by her grandchild, Ella.

“I cannot abide a murderer.”

* * *

Mother GranGran had been summoned to an emergency at the Norton homestead on more than one occasion, and, at times, Matilda had made her own way to the large spread of land that three generations of Gran’s family worked and shared, so it was not without familiarity of subject that Ella eavesdropped upon the conversation of the chatterers who’d gathered on The Loyalist’s veranda the following Monday.

“The Lord has no love for a suicide,” continued Buppy, the solemnity of the burial having worn away. “That woman was never right. Do you recall the afternoon, perhaps three months ago, in which she stumbled through town weeping and screeching? Covered in mud and screaming – she was a madwoman, like as not.”

The prattler nodded as Ella motioned the tea-spout towards her emptied cup.

“- and her poor husband, attempting to make what he could of her. It’s only luck that she never bore children,” replied Mrs. Madison, eager as always to support her friend’s position. “It’s a surprise he was not driven to turn the weapon on himself.”

“Oh, come now,” replied Mrs. Pilfer, “I understand it does not reflect well to speak ill of the righteous dead, but you’ll have sainted that booze-hound before long. It seems to me you were not so enthused at his character little more than two-weeks ago, when he saw fit to lay his foot to your little Putser.”

Putser, the Tupper’s beloved terrier, had had the misfortune to stray within range of Eustace’s boots as the man was exiting Hearse’s general store. He’d let out three sharp yaps, then a whining squeal.

“Every man has his moments,” said Mrs. Madison.

Buppy was quick to find a new topic upon which to expound.

* * *

Later, as her duties at the Loyalist ended and she walked home with her brother Alvin, also returning from his position of apprentice to the town’s cobbler, Mr. Tupper, Ella began to carry with her a nagging concern. She made her best effort to remain merry, and even as they supped some hours later, she took pains to hold her smile.

She could not help but notice, however, how silently Mother Gran maintained her position at the head of the table, un-joking even as little Rory was caught with his fingers amongst the biscuits for his fourth serving. It had never entered her mind to doubt her grandmother, or to ask after what business the old woman chose to engage in during the late hours, but her cryptic comment at the burial had left a rattling guilt in the girl’s mind.

As the time ticked away and the first round of good-nights were said, Ella slipped into the little backroom which her grandparents shared.

Gran sat upon the edge of her bed, and for the first time that evening, a smirk came to her face.

“You seemed too quiet at dinner,” she said.

“I was of a mind to say the same thing to you,” Ella replied. She repeated some of what she had heard earlier in the day, then, as she completed her recitation, she paused, eager for some explanation that might absolve her increasingly heavy conscience regarding the death of Mr. Norton.

Gran smiled once again, but there was no happiness in it.

“You stop short of asking the question I can hear silently echoing from your words, and I wish I could provide some answer which would lighten your heart, but, in truth, I suspect one day you may take up my role, and it is important you understand the balance of things.

“Matilda had come to me on a baker’s dozen of occasions, seven times to seek my council on birthing, and six times to seek my council on burying. I know not the number before the pair found themselves at the edges of our county, but it is telling that it was me to whom Matilda came, and not the physician, Boyle.

“On the third conception I asked her what might be occasioning her miscarriages, as if the bruising bout her torso did not make it clear enough. The monster’s hands seemed to double in fury at the sight of her rounding, she said, but nothing more. She worked hard when the sixth was imminent, strapping down her belly and servicing her drunken lout only in the dark. She overslept one morning and he saw the evidence pushing at her stomach. By the time she woke he’d drank through what gin remained in the house, and it was only my hard night’s labour with needle and herbs that kept her in our world. The babe, at a seven month count, was not so lucky. It’s departure was bloody work, and a pitiful interment.”

Gran, who Ella had never seen as anything less than stalwart, now seemed to grey and shrink with her age. She continued.

“On the seventh she ran crying when I confirmed her condition, and it nagged at me so that I felt compelled to visit her upon the following day. I knew that even Eustace would have found his way to his labour in the mine by noon, so I expected little trouble. I found the door ajar, a gin bottle open on the table, and the majority of her cranium spread along the back-wall.

“How many more lives would he end? If not Matilda, then some such as the Lindsay girl, who’ll bend for any kindly murmur. I spent the rest of the daylight picking what I needed from amongst the surrounding foliage.

“By the time of Eustace’s return, I’d laid out the tableau. The door was fully open, despite the chill, and a single of Matilda’s shoes was laid askance on the lip of the porch. Upon a rock, along, but some ways away from, his path to the door, I set the remainder of the gin, having topped it up with my own concoction. I myself awaited behind a tree near the spirits.

“If his concern had outweighed his thirst, he might still be alive.”

Ella nodded, and, after a moment, set herself down on the bed, wrapping her arms around the old woman.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Flash Pulp 065 – The Weebinax: A Mother Gran Story, Part 1 of 1

Flash PulpWelcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Sixty-Five.

Tonight, we present The Weebinax: A Mother Gran Story, Part 1 of 1

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Flash Pulp page on Facebook.

It’s sort of like Eat Pray Love, but with more Flash Pulp news, and less Eating or Praying.

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Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight we pre-empt our scheduled Thomas Blackhall story to instead present a short fairy tale, as told by Mother Gran.

This Friday’s episode brings us the return of Joe Monk, and Blackhall will appear next week in a three-part serial entitled “Koyle’s Ferry”.

Flash Pulp 065 – The Weebinax: A Mother Gran Story, Part 1 of 1

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

One crisp evening, as the fallen leaves smothered the last of the summer grasses, Mother Gran gathered her children’s children, and her children’s children’s children, about the warmth of the cast iron stove.

As the eldest of the spectators shushed the youngest, Gran, with a sly smile, stated the yarn to be truth.

Her quiet words brought silence, and she began her fairytale.

This is the story she told.

* * *

At the edge of The Great Forest lived a farmer, his wife, and their child, a boy of five.

They lived a happy life together: each morning the lad would tell an imagined tale of a far off land, to bring a smile to his parents’ faces; each afternoon his mother would teach the mountainous farm hound a new trick to delight her family; and each evening the tired farmer would whistle a tune as he created a feast from the yield of his labours.

One autumn day, as the farmer prodded his bull on through the field, there came a figure from the tall oaks of the wildwood.

The farmer had a moment of concern, as many unpleasant things were known to live amongst the branches of The Great Forest, but as the shape moved from the shadows of the trees, he saw it to be the form of a running woman, a child in her arms.

At the sight of her anxious brow, he quickly invited the tired mother to his table, and returned his bull to its pen.

As the farmer whistled his tune and set about creating a feast, this time for two more, his wife talked at length with the visitor, and her daughter, a girl of five.

The guest spoke of a beast in the woods, the Weebinax, who had approached her many years previous, as she worked the fields of her parents’ farm. The creature had appeared in the guise of a man, whispering promises of a happy life amongst the oaks. She’d known little of the dangers beyond her parents’ land, and she soon found herself seduced by the sugared words of the Weebinax.

It was not long after she’d run away to the forest that she bore the beast, whom she still believed a man, a child.

Soon after, the thing no longer made effort to maintain its disguise: its barbed claws split its sheath of skin, its gnarled legs burst from fleshy foot. In a few short days it had cast off its covering entirely, leaving but an empty husk of skin amongst the fallen leaves.

Still, the woman, bound by a sense of duty impressed upon her by her parents, attempted to make do. She spent her days foraging for nourishing acorns, and thick mosses to set in her babe’s rough cradle – but often her labours were met by the clutching hand of the Weebinax, which was happier to fill its own belly while resting on its lush mat of green.

In the second year of her child’s life, with winter nigh and the results of whatever efforts she might make under the wrathful eye of the Weebinax self-evident, she announced her intention to depart.

Popping an acorn into its mouth, the beast waved away her statements and nestled deeper amongst its bedding.

Taking up her daughter, she left and, for three years, wandered the forest. It was not an easy life for mother, nor child, but what nourishment she might collect was her own, and the little girl at her side soon grew bright and strong.

She was a normal child in all aspects but one. What little blood of the Weebinax flowed through her, allowed the beast to locate the child no matter what the distance, as if she were a beacon upon the horizon.

For the most part, it had little interest in the woman and her daughter, but, twice or thrice a year, he would appear before them, making no effort in disguise, and demand that the woman return to his side, to which she always refused.

It was a recent such appearance that had set her running from the forest, and onto the homestead of the farmer and his wife.

At the woman’s recounting, the farmer’s wife quickly offered up a bed and a place by the fire. It was little time before all became as if one family.

Upon the mornings, as the boy-child finished his imagined tales of far-off lands, the girl-child would take up her hems and dance a step of her own devising, based upon the nature of the fabulous characters.

At noon, as the farmer’s wife set about teaching the hound new skills, the woman of the forest would sit at the fire and stitch, so that soon the family was well appointed with garments of her hand.

In the evenings, the farmer still whistled his tune, happy to hear the babble of a full house as he prepared his feast, now almost twice the size.

It was during one such evening meal that the combined family first heard the long scratches of the Weebinax upon their door.

The woman of the forest was first to answer, and the beast made his demands.

Returning to the table, her face was downcast.

“Realizing I will no longer travel with him, he wishes for his daughter to join him amongst the oaks,” she said.

Unwilling to part with the girl, whom she now also considered her own daughter, the farmer’s wife asked if it might accept the meal that was laid before them in her stead.

After a moment of discussion, the beast strode into the house, snatched up the chicken leg that was held, mid-bite, at the boy’s mouth, and collected together the hot food, using the table cloth as a sack.

The family slept on their hunger, content that the Weebinax had been satisfied.

It was with no little concern then that, no more than a season later, the sound of scratching upon the door once again reached their ears as they supped.

This time, it was the farmer who answered. The Weebinax repeated the demand of his daughter, although he could no longer recall her name, and on this occasion he refused the offering of their meal.

With fear for his family wracking his heart, the farmer told his wife, and the woman, of the situation.

“Offer him up our wardrobe,” his wife suggested.

Returning to the door, the farmer did.

Again the Weebinax accepted the offering in stead, striding into the house to empty every trunk and dresser, including those of the children. What it could not make use of, it ran its claws through.

After it had departed, the family warmed themselves with the rags that remained, content that they had once again satisfied the beast and retained the girl.

Life turned another season: the farmer brought home fresh food of the earth; the woman of the forest stitched new clothing; the children devised greater entertainments; and the farmer’s wife taught the lumbering farm dog new skills.

It was spring when the now familiar scratching began again upon the door.

This time it was the farmer’s wife who stood to answer the summons, the eyes of her family heavy at her back.

With a rotting scowl, the Weebinax once again demanded the girl, all the while peeking about the edges of the doorway, in hopes of catching sight of some item he would be pleased to take in exchange.

The wife answered not, but instead whistled low and long.

The hound had been well taught at her hand: the Weebinax’s yowling, as the canine set about chasing him again into the forest, was the last they would hear of the monster of the woods.

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Flash Pulp 051 – The Boot Brigand, A Mother Gran Story, Part 1 of 1

Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Fifty-One.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Boot Brigand, A Mother Gran Story, Part 1 of 1

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This week’s stories are brought to you by OpopanaxFeathers.wordpress.com

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Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight we open on the small community of Hearse, home of Mother Gran, already in the midst of a puzzling crime wave.

Flash Pulp 051 – The Boot Brigand, A Mother Gran Story, Part 1 of 1

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

The rural town of Hearse, lying within the boundaries of Bigelow County, on the banks of Lake Winipekw, was well populated, but poorly planned. Each spring its streets worked their way into a gooey muck under horse hoof, cartwheel and human heel.

This gave Lawrence Tupper a special role in the community, as he was the only cordwainer, cobbler and shoe-importer in the area. His shop’s stock was largely of his own creation, but he was happy to maintain a corner at the rear of the store for those who felt the need to emulate the fashions of the south and east.

It was well understood, although largely by Buppy Tupper, Lawrence’s wife, and her cadre of chatterers, that those who did chase such fashions either did little walking in Hearse, or had foolish notions regarding the condition of the local roadways.

So it was that the first incident of theft largely gained notoriety in its discussion on the Loyalist’s Veranda, as the gathered turned to Mrs. Tupper, and her expertise in footwear, to shed some light on such an odd occasion.

She was happy to share her views.

“Mr Bellham is one of Tupper polish’s earliest devotees!”

Mrs. Pilfer, Buppy’s perennial rival, took a hard sip of her pekoe.

“Are not Mr. Bellham’s boots imported from the eastern districts?” she asked.

“Why, you know, the polish is derived from a formula of my husband’s own creation,” Buppy said, “His genius is so great he could make even those shoddily made Eastern fashions look as if they were worth risking a stay under Constable Wills’ hospitality.”

The gathered women nodded.

* * *

On the occasion of the seventh reported theft, Mrs. Tupper was less inclined to discuss her husband’s relation to the crimes.

“I maintain that it is only an indicator of the quality of my husband’s work,” she said, in response to a pointed question from Mrs. Pilfer. “I also find it likely to be the work of a monomaniac. It is an utter disgrace that the Constable has conducted so little action on the matter.”

Mrs. Madison, who was always willing to raise a hand against Mrs. Pilfer, and who also sat as Buppy’s current favoured euchre partner, spoke over her cup.

“Mayhaps it’s crazy old Mother Gran who has been wandering again in the night.”

Gran was one of Mrs. Tupper’s choice topics, and her eyes lit up at the opportunity to entwine the subjects.

“I’d say it’s likely – very likely, in fact. Mayhaps the old woman is making a stew of them, or sewing them together to form a dress.”

The gathered ladies tittered.

“Heh, yes, or possibly it is Mr Tupper himself, in an attempt to stir up a demand for business,” said Mrs. Pilfer.

The ladies quieted, suddenly intent on their tea.

* * *

Ella entered the front room, taking a seat alongside the silent form watching the window. The old woman’s eyes were cast towards the setting sun, gathering in the dusk, and through the silence, Mother Gran stretched out a hand, which the girl met with her own. As the expanse of red drained into black, Gran turned to face her daughter’s daughter.

“Wilemina Pilfer told me today that Mrs. Pilfer heard Mrs. Tupper accuse you in connection with the recent outbreak of stolen footwear,” said Ella.

“Indeed?”

Gran smiled.

“Yes.” Ella’s face was overrun with the concern a girl of sixteen maintains over social matters.

The elder woman turned once again to the window, squinting against the growing shadows.

After a moment she smacked her toothless gums together, her attention returning to her granddaughter.

“If you should encounter Wilemina Pifler upon the morrow, it might be worth a moment to give the girl the idea of tying bells about many of the boots rubbed down in Tupper’s new blackened sugar coating.”

“Won’t the thief simply remove the bells before absconding with the shoes?”

Gran smiled again, and the girl knew to question the wisdom of her elder no further.

“Can I help you with the drying this evening?” Ella asked instead.

The old woman rose from her chair.

* * *

It was a day before Ella might transmit the suggestion, and another before it had found its way to Mrs. Pifler’s ear, to be presented to her compatriots as if it had been a plan of her own conception. The women were split upon the wisdom of the ploy, but after discovering the following morning that the few boots that had been belled had gone untouched, while Mrs. Madison’s own husband’s had gone missing, the chimes gained a reputation for being a ward against theft.

It was shortly after midnight on that third day that the truth began to come clear. Horace Madison, with a hunger to match the thirst he’d demonstrated at Sarah Melbain’s Inn, was selecting a plate from amongst the evening’s dinner scraps. His hands refused to hold steady after his night’s activities however, and it was with some effort that he finally managed to lay down a thick layer of butter over his raggedly sliced bread.

There came a tinkling from his porch.

Two weeks previous, he’d flagged down the train and taken a journey south, returning with a fine pair of thick-soled black leather boots. Intent on displaying his purchase, he’d had his second youngest daughter, Jessica, shine them to a bright sheen before that evening’s expedition to the ale house. Upon his return home, however, he’d found the soles to be muck covered, and rather than risk his own balance in an effort to clean them, he’d set them upon his secluded veranda to dry.

Still, he was mindful of his sister-in-law’s words regarding the loss of his brother’s boots, and was sure to affix a bell about the laces.

After a brief entanglement with the furniture, he exited the house.

From his steps he could see nothing, but his prized footwear had disappeared, and the sound of bells drifted to him from amongst the trees to the south.

“It’s a ghost!” he shouted.

The thudding involved in his hastened departure had roused Horace’s eldest, Michael, who stepped down from the entrance.

His father turned to him.

“My boots! It’s a ghost! Go get Wills!”

With that, the man went stumbling into the tall grass, and the boy ran for his pony.

* * *

Despite his lead, it was easy enough for the Constable to follow the trail left by the inebriated elder Madison. As he pushed through the wilderness, Wills was not alone; he had allowed Michael to follow along, but only once he’d dissuaded the boy from retrieving his father’s shotgun by pointing out that it would be of little use against a spirit.

The route often pushed through heavy brush, and the pair found themselves occasionally forced to break a new trail reasonable enough for sober men. It was an hour’s prickly work before they finally came within range of Horace’s profanity-laden shouting.

Following the noise, they stepped into a clearing dominated by a thick dead oak, standing eighty feet high. At its base raged Michael’s father, his arms outstretched to the sky, his cussing unbroken by his realization of the arrival of his offspring.

As he approached, Wills made out the source of the man’s agitation: although any leaves had long abandoned the oak, its foliage had been replaced with a dozen pairs of soles, each set on a jagged branch-end. High above his head, clinging close to the trunk, two fat raccoons chittered at the intruders.

“They almost ate my face!” Horace said when Wills drew close. The elder Madison pointed at a broken tree-limb stretched upon the ground, and the constable inferred that the beasts must have turned hostile upon the man’s initial attempt to climb the oak to retrieve his shoes.

Noting the downed branch was not entirely barren, Wills plucked the boot from its end. Holding it against the moonlight for inspection, he could see that its surface had been licked clean to the leather.

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Flash Pulp 030 – Missing, A Mother Gran Story, Part 3 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Thirty.

Flash PulpTonight’s tale: Missing, A Mother Gran Story, Part 3 of 3

(Part 1 – Part 2Part 3)

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This evening’s episode is brought to you by Mexican Wrestling.

Seriously, how awesome are those masks?

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – 400 to 600 words brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight we present another chapter of our current Mother Gran serial. In this final installment, we are provided a glimpse into the motivations of our elderly, baby-snatching heroine.

Flash Pulp 030 – Missing, A Mother Gran Story, Part 3 of 3

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

The sun was slipping behind the hills to the west, when an excited Mickey Spokes pulled his buggy up short at the gate. Joren had seen the boy’s dusty plume approaching, and had altered his path back from the fields while fishing in his pocket for a handful of loose oats. As the farmhand stepped onto the lowest of the gate’s rungs, Thunder snuffled up the offered grains with flapping lips.

“I haven’t seen you this excited since your Ma found Old Man Pilfer and Dame Madison in the middle of misusing her outhouse.”

Mickey smiled.

“Nor since your senile Gran was found standing naked in the Humphrey’s kitchen, smiling and mumbling after crumb cakes.”

“Neither senility or hunger were at fault when it was your Father standing-”

“One of the Turner girls has gone missing.” Mickey said, his sudden interjection bringing a laugh out of Joren before the seriousness of the matter had settled into his ears. “Three-Leg Turner says a coyote must have come and snatched her in the night, right from her bed – but, Jeanie told the gathered women on The Loyalists’s veranda that she thought it more likely the babe awoke in the night, and wandered off on its own.”

“A picky coyote to have selected from such a menu, but aye, babes will walk,” Joren said, his fingers once again digging into his pocket.

“Ma says a woman ought to at least cry while telling such a tale, but given the unseasonably warm days and the long sleeves Jeanie has been seen to wear, Ma also thinks it may be the case that she’s already had reason enough to cry herself dry.”

“What of a search?”

“Constable Wills has gathered as many upright citizens as he might, and they pound the thickets as we speak – I myself am part of the effort, having ranged ahead with Thunder here, to see if the child might not be walking some back lane.”

“More like you’ve been wandering up and down the roads telling tales. At least if any you leave in your wake should see the girl, they’ll know not to take it for a forest-ling,” Jory told the truth with a smile, a trait Mickey had always found hard to anger at.

“I should be about my business,” the boy said, taking hold of the reins.

He stopped short, placing a hand above his brow with exaggeration. “Hark, could yonder form be the missing girl? Nay, wait, it seems to me to be the lovely form of your cousin Ella.”

Joren threw the remaining oats at Mickey as the boy cracked the leads with a laugh.

* * *

Amongst the silent hay, the two women sat on either side of the serving tray, their legs crossed.

Gran had waited until the Spokes boy had roared from the gate before making her way down the long cow path to the barn. Balancing the platter with teapot, a bowl of honey, and two cups, she’d used her free hand to climb the steep rungs to the loft, all with such silence that her guest was startled to see the steaming service rising up from the ladder’s gap.

The tray itself was a finely crafted slab of maple, its edges flourished with a motif on each side: Dragon, Fish, Monkey and Goat.

Mother Gran served as the mousy woman fussed at the sleeping child in her arms.

“The same hands that coaxed her into that bed will eventually knock her out of it, mark my words. It may not be long afore its Jeanie herself lying up in this hayloft.” The old woman dipped a spoonful of honey into the steaming cup, stirring slowly. “Still, his fourth wife, and yet you’re the first I’ve heard to ask of her babe – and lucky in your case that it was but one. Return now to your dentist in the north, and speak not of this unless the need be true.”

The women talked a while longer, until, as night settled, Joren left the gate, turning his mules northward. From amongst his load of hay came the sigh and hush of a mother’s love reclaimed.

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Flash Pulp 029 – Missing, A Mother Gran Story, Part 2 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Twenty-Nine.

Flash PulpTonight’s tale: Missing, A Mother Gran Story, Part 2 of 3

(Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3)

[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp029.mp3](Click play to listen or subscribe via libsyn RSS or iTunes)

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This episode is brought to you by Maytunes.com.

Come and join Jessica May on her musical expedition to tame the primal c-chord, and master the mystic arts of the digital audio workstation.

That’s Maytunes.com

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – 400 to 600 words brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight we present the second entry in our current Mother Gran serial. In this chapter, we learn how it is Gran came to her canine predicament.

Flash Pulp 029 – Missing, A Mother Gran Story, Part 2 of 3

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

The night before the long run from Turner’s hounds, Mother Gran had slowly come awake, a well timed pint of apple cider, and her aging bladder, ensuring her the early alarm.

She dressed by the moonlight that filtered through the window, bent low to kiss Henry, and slipped from their room.

Gran had spent the better part of sunset collecting fireflies from the wheat fields and ditches, entrapping them in a glass bottle, the exterior of which was rounded, to emulate the form of a raspberry. Tipping up the edge of the cheesecloth she’d laid across the container’s opening, she cast her breath into the jar, the breeze stirring the gathered bugs within. Amongst the loose grasses she’d sprinkled inside, a multitude of pinpoint stars began to pulse and glow.

With a quick hand she exchanged the cloth for a lid, atop which, a worn wooden rod projected. After tightening down the cover, she gave the bottle a gentle turn, righting it so that she now held a torch with a berry-bulb in place of flame.

The walk was a slow one, as Gran reckoned it better to risk only when necessary, and never before. She held to the animal tracks and hunt trails, occasionally leaving the broken paths entirely, her sixty-eight years of memory calling up routes long overgrown.

It was no small distance, and her shadow had drifted through the tall grasses of many meadows before she reached her goal.

When she’d finally intersected Puddle Lane, she took her bearings and began to tread south – time was becoming short and she knew there was little chance of encountering even the most drag-heeled of Sarah Melbain’s tavern patrons.

She came to a gap in the windbreak of trees, and spent a time observing the shuttered cabin nestled within.

Shucking her muck covered dress, she hung it upon a branch at the head of the cart-path marking the homestead’s entrance. Eying the dipping moon, she separated her torch’s halves, the captives within eagerly taking wing into the night air.

Gran was no longer as muscled as she’d been at forty, but even at sixty-eight she could give her youngest grandchild, Joren, a tough arm-wrestling – no small feat given that the lad was sixteen, and a dervish during the harvest.

Without the rustle of her hems to betray her, she crept through the shadowed dooryard, her passage as silent as a sparrow’s wings.

With a damp finger she’d taken the breeze, ensuring she would stay downwind of the pair of mountainous wolf hounds that slept noisily by the shack, yet still her flesh prickled with each dream twitch and wheezing yowl.

With an eye on the snoring guards, she pushed gently upon the wooden planks of the shanty’s entry, steeling herself against any encounter.

Luck was with her, and the door swung silently under the hum of nocturnal insects.

What she found within was a darkened interior, not unlike many such of the area. A large central room housed a dozen sleepers. In a far corner stood a rough hewn table, and opposite, a wood stove whose fuel had run empty for the evening.

She’d carried ten babes of her own, an even count of five of each, and in her final days of pregnancy, she’d been old enough that no schoolboy would mistake to call her anything but Ma’am. She doubted that the slight frame of Mrs. Jeanie Turner could have lied her age up to ten-and-eight, yet there the girl slept at the center of the room, in the marriage bed of William Turner, a sea of mattresses and makeshift cots snoring about her.

Gran’s feet had trained at the cradles of her own brood, and without noise they carried her through a closer inspection of the room – a blond baby who snorted with each breath; a brown-haired girl in pigtails, her arms wrapped about a doll carrying the scars of many a hasty mending; the sunburned face of the eldest, Burton, who she knew to scrap with any Sunday School classmate that dared to speak against his family.

With patience and a steady nerve, the old woman’s search led her to her prize. She lifted the toddler from the dresser drawer that acted as his crib, her bird-hands tightening his gray blanket against the cold.

There was an anxious moment as she opened the door to a steadily brightening horizon, but she found the dogs still prone at their station.

Her feet were wet with dew by the time she re-took the road. Locating a plush mat of grass, she set the infant down and quickly re-dressed.

She’d covered a country mile before the bundle stirred, its eyes fluttering open to meet her own.

“No?” the boy asked.

“Shush now,” Gran replied, smiling down at him.

“No!” the boy said, his eyes filling with panic.

He began to wail.

Reflex told her free hand to take up her hem, even as her head turned to scrutinize the road behind.

In the dawn light, two dirty-gray points came streaking from amongst the trees, turning to trace her route without slowing.

Lowering the child’s blanket across its face, she brought the sobbing infant to her chest and began to run.

As she gathered speed, the bawling ceased, and her feet were lightened to hear her burden begin to coo.

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Flash Pulp 028 – Missing, A Mother Gran Story, Part 1 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Twenty-Eight.

Flash PulpTonight’s tale: Missing, A Mother Gran Story, Part 1 of 3

(Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3)

[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp028.mp3](Click play to listen or subscribe via libsyn RSS or iTunes)

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This episode is brought to you by Opopanaxfeathers.wordpress.com

Privately owned and operated, opopanax feathers uses only the finest pixels, guaranteed.

That’s opopanaxfeathers.wordpress.com

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – 400 to 600 words brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

This evening we introduce a new recurring character, Mother Gran, who, in this opening chapter, we find mid-stride.

Flash Pulp 028 – Missing, A Mother Gran Story, Part 1 of 3

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

Puddle Lane was more than a wagon path, but less than a road. At it’s southern end, it came to a loose three-way corner: Puddle Lane, Soggy Bend and Gallagher. At its northern tip, the lane merged into Strawberry Road, a moniker Mother Gran had always appreciated for the attempt to maintain some of its neighbour’s whimsy.

“Old Man Gallagher never did have much of a sense of humour,” she thought, her knobby knees pumping.

She took the corner at full speed, tilting from Puddle onto Soggy.

She’d had a good head start, but the bundle in her arms was getting heavy, and she could hear the gallop of Turner’s wolf hounds as they closed the distance.

It was another half-mile to the blossoming white flowers of the crab apple tree, but, even in her dusk, her legs were well muscled from a lifetime of papoose toting and field work.

Still, she knew it would be a race.

The slapping paws of the dogs rounded the corner – she could hear the dampness in their hot breath.

A quarter mile, and she could feel the tightness in her lungs.

She began to sing:

“O where are ye gaun?
Says the false knight upon the road.”

A laugh caught in her throat, cutting the song short. She hadn’t run this hard in many a year.

She adjusted her grip on the gray rag.

“O where are ye gaun?
Says the false knight upon the road.

I am gaun to the schule,
Says the wee boy, and still he stood”

Reaching the tree, she broke from the roadway, grinning. The deer path was narrow and grass covered, but she’d known the route since childhood, and her feet were sure.

“What’s augh the sheep on yonder hill?
Says the false knight upon the road.”

She could see the mound now, its northern face piled high with John MacMillan’s transplanted field stones.

“They are my pap’s and mine.
Says the wee boy, and still he stood””

Her heart’s pounding, and the approach of the dogs, merged into thunder in her ears.

“How many of them’s mine?
Says the false knight upon the road.”

Finally, she could hear expectant chittering, and the familiar sound gave her legs new wind.

“A’ them that has blue tails.
Says the wee boy, and still he stood”

It had been the same song since winter’s first thaw – although she usually came with bucket in hand, not such a frail load.

The entire brood had gathered to meet her approach, and at their sight, she knew she would make it.

“I wish you were in yonder well.
Says the false knight upon the road.”

The lead hound recognized its error in the final moment, but its companion wasn’t prepared for the sudden loss of speed.

The old woman had breezed passed the malodorous family without slowing. Her passage, however, had set the matriarch skunk, plump from Gran’s table scraps, on edge.

The collision was cause enough to outrage the nervous mother.

“And you were down in hell
Says the wee boy, and still he stood.”

The dogs reversed course, beginning the long run home to carry the stink to their master.

Gran slowed to a stop, resting against the white trunk of a downed spruce.

As she adjusted her skirt, her palm came away sticky with froth from the hounds’ jaws.

She wiped her hand clean, and with spider-fingers, plucked the wrappings away, revealing the contents of her parcel.

She smiled to see the toothless grin of the babe within.

The lyrical portions of tonight’s story were derived from Child ballad #3, as collected by Francis James Child.

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.