Gnome Grown

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Sprig Gnome tends his woodland garden. Thistle shears help him prune raspberry canes. He mulches fungus shingles atop his den, waters moss, and collects dinner. Before his basket is full, a shadow darkens the glade. He ducks and dodges but all goes awry. Ida Owl grasps him in her talons, and she lowers her yellow eye.

“I’m done for!” Sprig howls. “Save me!” Will anyone hear him?

“Sprig, save it! I need your help.” Ida Owl grouches. “A splinter in my claw is driving me mad!”

“I see it.” Sprig extracts it with a yank of his thistle shears.

Ida hops side to side, flexing and gyrating. “Oh, what a relief. I must thank you properly. Hop on.”

Is she serious? Can he trust her? Sprig stows his basket. He climbs up her feathers like a ladder.

“That tickles!” Ida giggles. Then she flaps powerful wings. Sprig’s stomach bottoms out as they rise. Winds swirl and flow until Sprig worries that he’s seen his last night. He holds tight. They bank and loop. They hoot and holler. The air smells of crushed apples. He reaches toward stars as if they were snowflakes.

An owl and a gnome make the least-likely of friendships. News travels the meadow like a brush fire. A gnome is riding an owl! Unheard of! Unthinkable! Sequester Squirrel follows, swinging tree limb to ivy vine. Dentbottom Rabbit has to see it with his own rheumy eyes, and his great-granddaughter holds his arm. Dinwald Stag-King brings his large tribe to gape.

When Sprig lands, he feels as if the earth has stopped orbiting the sun. The air is too still. He waves good-bye to Ida, and follows fireflies into his den. His feet find each lump in the maple leaf carpet. His thistledown bed is squashed and untidy. He snips, clips and mixes until his forage stew bubbles and sings. The air fills with the scent of braising brined beetles. But he misses the scent of crushed apples and owl feathers.

Copyright 2016 Brenda Davis Harsham

Note: We’ve been enjoying a lovely thaw like spring is visiting February. It makes me wish I could fly. I hope your dreams take you on fun flights of fancy tonight. Warmly, Brenda

Penguin Patter

Penguins at New England Aquarium

January Jones met Mavis Jingle, and they nibbled salt herring. “My dear,” Mavis chirped, and January nodded. “Did you see Babseal out-swim Ozbrrr Orca?”

“I never did,” January exclaimed. “Tell all!”

“He did ten loop-de-loops, twenty corkscrews, forty hairpin turns then dropped like chum into an ice cave. Ozbrrr was so exhausted, he headed north with a terrible case of tail droop.”

“I would have loved to see that!” January sighed. “I saw Babseal out-swim a polar bear, an ice storm and an Antarctic ice crusher.”

“No you did not!”

“Indeed, I did, Ms. Mavis Know-it-all! Now I won’t tell you about it.”

“Oh, please, do tell. I’m sorry I doubted you.”

January nodded, looking most pleased. “Well, I would tell you, but I did make it up.” Then he dove into the water and swam away.

Copyright 2016 Brenda Davis Harsham

Note: Let tall tales commence in the new year. If you have some flash fiction you’d like to link up to me, please feel free. You can even copy my picture (just credit me) and try your own hand at writing some Penguin Patter. We can call it the Penguin Patter Prompt, maximum word count of 150. Anyone game? 🙂 Cheers, Brenda

The Moon and the Pooka

Zelda knew the shore was forbidden to her. She clomped through sand in her big brother’s boots. He’d be mad if he knew she’d borrowed them. She wanted to catch a wild pony. Her brother had a pony, and she didn’t. The pony dodged her, black withers gleaming. He kicked up his heels in the surf. She chased him, but he was too quick. She fell as he fled, tossing his head, mane flying.

Zelda somersaulted, and a current carried her to the deep. She sank past brain coral and seaweed. She struggled with the heavy boots that dragged her down toward spiky sea urchin. Light lay above her like a glass table, as if she’d hit her head on it and never breathe air again. She finally kicked off a boot, and stopped sinking. Her fingers bled from pulling at the remaining laces, pinking the water.

Her lungs ached, and part of her wanted to breathe so badly she was tempted to take water into her lungs. She blew out bubbles, and her panic rose with them. Then the moon swam past her, slow and solemn. He didn’t glance her way, but the second boot slipped free. She rose with the bubbles toward that window of light.

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Her head broke free, and she gulped air. She was far from shore. She swam until her arms felt like stone. Her legs were icy, and her teeth chattered. The pony returned to the shore, distant and dark as if fashioned of night sky. The surf flecked his mane with stars. He plunged into the sea.

Zelda weakened. A wave crashed over her, and she slipped under the glass table. The light receded. Then the smooth glass broke into shards of sky and ocean. The pony’s legs kicked above her. With her last strength, she reached for his streaming tail and held tight. When her feet touched sand, she stumbled behind the pony’s back to shore. She dropped to her knees and coughed up sea water.

“Foolish girl!” The pony spoke in a high, mocking voice. Its golden eyes rolled, glinting red at the edges. “Don’t chase the pooka, or you will find your way to the spirit world.”

Tears streamed from Zelda’s eyes, stinging with salt. Sighting a pooka was rare and dangerous. She wondered why he had saved her as she watched him race away. His hooves left no prints in the sand. She remembered the moon, swimming in the deep. And she realized she had lost her brother’s boots.

Copyright 2015 Brenda Davis Harsham

Note: A pooka is a fae spirit of Irish mythology. Often it takes the shape of a dog, a bird, or a horse, and it can be dangerous or a portent of doom.

East Tower

Mushroom growing from Tree knoll

The ad was enticing: “River view, private entrance, doorbug, generous acorn storage and no neighbors for several fae furlongs — a successful fairy’s dream residence.” Mister Fister the Fighting Fae was tired of ducking admirers and signing the wings of fluttering fans. The East Tower was perfect for a beleaguered celebrity. Much more salubrious than the Fungus Lloyd Wriggle Condopolis down below!

Tree lined with bracket fungus

In he moved, shouldering his thistle-woven boxing gloves, his collection of iridescent scarabs and a bevy of trophies. He wandered, room to room, looking for the perfect chair. The silence was louder than a roaring crowd. He missed his Russian Stag Beetle neighbor’s pine needle symphonium. He even missed the relentless creole creaking of the Louisiana crickets.

He moved back to the condopolis within a fortnight, and his fans welcomed him with a party that lasted a week. Noise complaints lodged with the FES (Fae Enforcement Squad) resulted in the deployment of several FES officers, but they joined the party. The Nectar Nippery was drank dry, the Buttery Bakery eaten empty, and the Pudding Palace was completely consumed. Several bankrupt fans fled the trolls, and Mister Fister lost his next match. He never regretted a moment.

Copyright 2015 Brenda Davis Harsham

Wild Elvish Missouri Dreams

Photograph used with Permission of Heather's Photography

Grey Hairstreak Butterfly by Heather’s Photography

Delft ended the morning with a thunderous sneeze. The force of his sneeze made him flicker into his Grey Hairstreak Butterfly form. He heard a gasp.

“That wasn’t there a minute ago! Where did that butterfly come from?” A little girl with blonde curls held out a finger. Delft fled.

Just his luck to flicker into his visible form when some big human was looking. Delft flittered and fluttered, his butterfly form much slower than his invisible fairy form. His tiny feet landed on a yellow butterfly bloom. The girl sidled closer, moving slowly, as if he would not notice her. She was as big as a house to him, and he chuckled at her attempt at sneaking.

“Annaleise!” A boy called. The second she looked away, Delft flickered back into fairy form, now invisible to any but a magical or fairy eye. He held a finger to his nose, he felt another sneeze coming.

The boy appeared from behind a huge boulder, panting from running up the hillside. His brown hair was sticking up in all directions, and his shirt was half-tucked.

“I’m here! Oh, where did it go?” Little Annaleise could not see the butterfly anymore, and she was downcast.

“Annaleise, don’t disappear like that! Mom told me to look after you, and how can I do that if I can’t find you?”

“A butterfly came out of thin air, and I followed it.”

“You mean that fairy right there?” The boy pointed right at Delft. Delft’s sneeze escaped with an explosion, and he flickered into a butterfly again.

“There it is again! It disappeared and reappeared! It’s magic!” Annaliese clapped her hands. “Why did you call it a fairy?”

“When it doesn’t look like a butterfly, it looks like a little man with wings, black hair and a red coat. Come on, Annaleise, let’s go home for lunch.” The boy laughed. “The fairy will still be here later. Mom will be worried.” The two children disappeared around the boulder, heading down the long slope.

Delft dove into the grasses, and zigzagged to a huge beech tree. His friend Barnor was atop a Rudbeckia. He blended into the patch of yellow in his Pearl Crescent form, partially covered in golden pollen.

Photograph by Heather's Photography

Pearl Crescent Butterfly by Heather’s Photography

“Even with invisibility and shapeshifting, you still almost got caught!” Barnor snickered. He had seen the girl following Delft, but he hadn’t been close enough to overhear.

“That boy is a mage!” Delft exclaimed.

“No!” Barnor disagreed, flicking into his wood elf shape, his red hair gleaming. He brushed pollen from his mossy coat. “Magic has died out of the human race!”

“He saw me in my fairy form! He told his sister I looked like a little man in a red coat!”

“Oh, no!” Barnor was horrified, gazing at Delft’s red coat. “We will have to tell the Horned King.” The Horned King lived deep in the wild Ozark Mountains.

The last golden rays of the setting sun bathed the Horned King where he towered over the elves, stately in his stag form.

“Something will have to be done about that boy,” the Horned King’s deep voice proclaimed. All the fairies nodded agreement.

“But what?” thought Delft, with another sneeze. The fairies all agreed to move farther from the humans. In his dreams that night, Delft fled from the boy endlessly over green Missouri mountainsides. Something had been started that day, that could not be undone.

Ozark Sunrise by Heather's Photography

Ozark Sunrise by Heather’s Photography

 

Copyright 2015 Brenda Davis Harsham

Note: This flash fiction is dedicated to the child in all of us, and to my grandfather, who was a math teacher, a school principal and a collector of butterflies. All three photographs were used with gratitude toward and kind permission of Heather’s Photography.

Silver Birch Grove

Shadows from silver birch in fall

Prince Silver crunched golden birch leaves on his way to the Gather.

In olden days, the sacred site had been a fairy mound, in the midst of an ancient oak and pine forest. The Sidhe elders held gatherings before a magic granite obelisk beneath the mound. Then humans cut away swaths of trees and leveled land for house sites. Houses turned backs to the site, and the magic stone hid behind glamours.

Ley lines remained, conduits of magic power, stretching from the new world to the old and to other secret places. At their intersection, none could deceive, either by telling lies or misleading by silence. Prophecy foretold that one day, the ley lines would call to one born to control the power, a Ley Channeler.

Humans became uncomfortable too close to the site. Dark clouds foretold storms or cold winds raised goose pimples. Humans fled the strange weather, they remembered urgent business elsewhere or felt frightened without knowing why, hurrying home. In time, the land healed from the human tumult, and a grove of silver birch sprang up where the fairy mound had been. A brook tinkled musically, separating the grove from the backyard of a blue house.

The Sidhe court approached at twilight for the Grand Gather. They protected themselves by glamour and spells. They were hushed, but a frisson of excitement underlay their slow movements.

Queen Calla Drythorn cast a circle, allowing the others to let slip their glamours. To the fae, the circle looked like a wall of fairy lights, separating them, meant to deceive human eyes and ears. Into the circle, Queen Calla brought her only son, Prince Silver. All the children of the court were tested in their sixteenth year. Each year, the young fae had failed to grasp the powers.

The circle was invisible to humans. Except for Rowan. She was drawn toward the starry lights, twinkling among the amber leaves. She felt the call of a power she did not understand.

She walked toward the circle, unnoticed by all but Prince Silver, who gasped. “Mother!”

“Do you feel the power?” Queen Calla was excited, and her gaze sharpened on him.

“No, Mother,” Prince Silver noticed how disappointed his mother looked. All the other courtiers also heaved sighs of disappointment. “But a human is watching us!”

Queen Calla raised her hand, turning swiftly toward Rowan with amazement….

Copyright 2014 Brenda Davis Harsham

Flash Fiction: Dogwood Manor

Pink dogwood blooms

“No, no, we cannot let in riffraff.” The countess was firm. “No exceptions. We have never taken a transfer student from a white dogwood school, and we never will.”

Petalline’s head drooped, hiding her defiant expression. Her wings fluttered angrily, though.

“We have empty places, my dear, and the young lady has no where else to go. She must go to school here near her Grand-maman.” Baron von Rimple-Dimple had a soft heart, but his sister was used to getting her way.

“Pink Dogwood Manor only takes the most select dogwood fairies. Pink Dogwood Fairies!”

“My dear she has studied at the renowned Paris École des Beaux Arts in the Cornouiller Blanc class. What can be more select than that?”

Petalline the Dogwood Fairy carefully did not meet the eye of the Baron, who was pink-washing her background. Cornouiller Blanc simply meant White Dogwood, but the Baron knew his sister well. Her snobbery was only exceeded by her ignorance of French. She would never admit to not knowing anything.

“Petalline, I am happy to say we have an opening.” The countess gushed, quite overlooking that she had called Petalline “riffraff” only moments before. “You may start your classes tomorrow. Welcome to Pink Dogwood Manor.”

Petalline however, did not forget having been called riffraff. Later that term, when someone turned the entire manor white, only the Baron guessed who was responsible. The Countess merely had hysterics until all the petals were returned to their pink glory. Petalline felt the books had been balanced, and she was a model student thereafter.

 

white dogwood

 

 

Flash Fiction: River Romance

Mallard Male and Female Ducks

The sun was setting, cherry blossoms perfumed the air, and Esme’s handsome boyfriend, Al, paddled at her side. His fine, green Mallard head feathers looked purple in the waning sunlight. She nibbled on bulrushes.

Sakura, Cherry Blossoms

Nosy daffodils crowded round taking selfies. You’d think it was an award ceremony.

Daffodils, river, fairy tale

Esme would let nothing lessen the magic of the evening. There on the riverfront, she and Al sipped water laden with tasty seeds. The silvery twilight faded, and fairies flickered like fireflies. Al offered Esme a tasty tuber under the Three Birches. She sighed with pleasure.

Birches on the river at sunset

Al raised his wings and drummed the water from happiness. Together they swam figures eights, intertwining their wakes, visible ripples of pleasure. Before Esme returned to her family’s nest on the far bank, her beak brushed Al’s farewell. A door had opened in her heart, perhaps Al would pass through one day.

sun sets on longings
solitary triangle of ripples
rushes bend in winds

Copyright 2014 Brenda Davis Harsham

Note: This is my farewell haibun dedicated to Al, but it’s fictional, so I called it a flash fiction in the title. Al has run the weekly Haibun Thinking prompt, which sadly has ended. I hope you don’t mind me making free with your moniker, Al! I am a bit late with my entry, but I was preparing for and attending a writer’s conference. I have to scale back my blogging in May. I will be rewriting my children’s chapter book. Wish me luck! My plan is to blog in the evenings if I have any energy. 🙂

References:

http://diet.yukozimo.com/what-do-mallard-ducks-eat/
http://www.ask.com/question/what-do-mallard-ducks-eat

Flash Fiction: Hedgehog High-Jinks

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High-Jinks the Hedgehog nosed a chestnut out of the mulch and bit into it, despite its age and moldy taste, munching it quickly, but careful to leave a piece for his buddy, Skimp the Shrew. The pickings in early spring are sparse. Skimp nodded gratefully at him: a moldy chestnut was better than none.

“The winter was a hard one. Not much forage is left.” Skimp chattered in his high voice, after finished the chestnut. He nosed through the mulch, looking for seeds.

High-Jinks nodded his head and climbed up on a rock to see if he could find any other chestnuts.

When Queen Drythorn of the Sidhe flashed past him, he was grumpy and refused to bow. Unfortunately for him, Queen Drythorn was even grumpier and turned him to stone on the spot. Skimp hid behind the rock and escaped notice. All of the flowers bowed their heads until the Queen swept past, headed for Mermaid Caves. Skimp ran off as soon as the Queen was out of sight.

The flowers whispered to each other. Was Skimp going for help? Would he summon the Mushroom Trolls of Safire Rock? Could the trolls reverse a spell of Queen Drythorn?

“Skimp is headed for his burrow and won’t be out for days,” one flower guessed, sadly.

“No!” asserted another, “He’ll be back!”

Copyright 2014 Brenda Davis Harsham

 

Flash Fiction: Dandelion the Boggle

Dandelion the Boggle

Dandelion was not like other Boggles. Boggles, when still, look like tree stumps. They are wider than they are tall, and have thick woody legs and arms. Their heads are flat on top. They can run fast, shaking the earth with their heavy feet. Some Boggles carry sticks, banging them on the ground to scare small animals from the underbrush for their dinner.

But Dandelion did not like to run, he preferred to ponder the flowers. Instead of eating fish, squirrels or shrews, he liked to nibble moss and chew the tender bark of baby sugar maple trees. One day, his twiggy fingers were wiggling out the pine nuts from a large cone when Fandang ran by, chasing a water rat and banging his Boggle stick. Dandelion froze in place, hoping Fandang would not notice him. Fandang always made fun of him.

Fandang dazed the rat with his stick, stuffed the limp rodent in a bark bag and turned to Dandelion with a sneer.

“You can unfreeze, Dandelion, I know you are not a stump!!” Fandang jeered. “Want some rat?” Fandang swung his bag near Dandelion’s head, which was home to several yellow dandelions. The bag knocked into a tall dandelion that had gone to seed, and the wind carried seeds up into the sunlight. Fandang struck at the seeds with his stick, but they floated easily away from it, bobbing higher in the turbulence.

“Fandang, why do you hunt rats? They don’t even taste good.” Dandelion asked his question softly, trying to make his question as light as dandelion fluff, but Fandang’s words still struck him heavily.

“Boggles eat meat.” Fandang thrust his flat head toward Dandelion. “Rats give me a fun run, and they don’t get away like those pesky river rats. You should eat meat!”

“Pine nuts are delicious, and I don’t miss meat.” Dandelion rubbed his bark nose.

Fandang gave a disgusted humIMG_6386ph. “You’re weird. Why did I have to have you for a brother?” Fandang ran off into the wetlands, squish-squashing as he neared Trickle Brook. Dandelion felt sad as he watched him go, but he munched a few pine nuts and contemplated some dwarf irises.

 To read more about Boggles, click here.

Copyright 2014 Brenda Davis Harsham

Inspired by Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie Fairy Tale Prompt #3.

Fae Flash Fiction: Banga

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Banga was looking for a place to hide. The Boggle, Fandang, had surprised him and his baby sister splashing in Trickle Brook. His sister, Ruby, had hid in the lee of a granite boulder. Banga darted below the waves in his fish shape, drawing the Boggle away from his sister, and the much bigger Boggle almost caught him in his fingers, which were like a tangled net.

Banga flipped up onto shore, and then changed in a flash to his elven shape. He ran as fast as he could toward the trees. The Boggle’s hairy feet thumped behind him, accompanied by the bing bang whack of his thick Boggle stick. A nearby sycamore looked young, but maybe old enough to be a bit hollow. Fandang was close behind him, and Banga could smell his hot, sour breath. The sycamore’s camouflage bark might confuse Fandang’s bad Boggle eyesight. Banga swarmed up it.

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Sure enough, Banga found a hollow, in the crook of the thickest branch. No leaves had broken from their buds yet to provide cover. He hid in the dark nook, holding his breath. He heard Fandang stomping around in last fall’s leaves. Boggles like to catch Dolphinis, but Banga was practiced at getting away. Dolphinis were the smallest of the Merfolk and the only ones to live in freshwater. Like their larger cousins, the Sea Merfolk, they could grant wished. Boggles always had plenty of wishes, many of which would cause Dophinis no end of trouble granting.

He held his sweet breath, afraid the scent would lead the Boggle straight to him, until Fandang’s last bing bang whack of his Boggle stick faded into the distance. Then Banga zipped back to his baby sister, Ruby, the youngest Dolphini of Trickle Brook, where she was pretending to be a tigerfish, leaping out of the water and eating mosquitoes. They would both be safe another day.

brook in early spring

Copyright 2014 Brenda Davis Harsham

References: http://www.nycgovparks.org/news/daily-plant?id=19242

Fae Flash Fiction: Catkin

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Early one spring, a wood elf named Jake darted here and there with warming sparkles. He nearly got caught by two humans and a beagle. The beagle spotted him, gave chase and barked. Jake flew up into a tall shrub.

Before the humans even turned their heads, quick as a wink, he swirled his dandelion coat in tight and held to the pussy willow branch. Just another catkin, hiding in plain sight. Which one is the bud and which the wood elf?

Only the beagle knows. Jake wiggled the branch when the humans passed by, and dropped some raindrops onto the waiting beagle’s nose. He hid again, and then peeked at the wagging tail of the beagle, happily walking away, christened by the wood elf. Jake grinned, then merrily went back to warming forsythia buds and catkins.

Copyright 2014 Brenda Davis Harsham