Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Twenty-Nine.
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.
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
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.