Category Archives: Short Stories (300+ Words)

Saved by the Bells

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Painting by Gabriel von Max

There is a saying, “every time a bell rings an angel gets its wings”.

Once there was an evil King who hated angels. He blamed them for not protecting him from the horrors of his troubled childhood. Every child in his day learned from fairy tales told to them from cradle to school, that it is the angels who are charged with protecting children from harm, seeing them through to adulthood. The King fumed with anger over what he believed to be utter neglect by his angel. (In truth, he was a spoiled, dark-tempered child who was never satisfied.)

Hoping to eliminate all angels from the land, on the first day of his reign as King, he commanded every bell far and wide silenced forevermore. There would be no lauds or vespers tolled from church steeples, no hourly reminders in the town squares or dinner bell calls in the farmers’ fields.

The people feared him, so just as he had ordered, all bells were muted. The deafening silence had an unintentional consequence. Instead of gaining wings, every single angel lost their feathers until they were grounded. This pleased the evil King very much, until he learned that they retained all of their special powers of prophecy, wisdom, healing and the like. He was infuriated and ordered every angel killed, sending his armies out across the land to carry out the deed.

When the compassionate people near and far heard about the King’s plan to kill the angels, they opened up the cellars of their humble homes offering them sanctuary. In return for their kindness the angels prepared special oil lamps for their gracious hosts. To receive an angel lamp was a considered a great blessing and promised that your life would be charmed with good fortune for eternity – even after your soul left this realm and moved on to the next.

As more and more townsfolk harbored the poor angels in their midst, more and more light filled their dark villages. The blessings of the lamps also gave the people wisdom, strength and determination, the likes of which no one had ever seen. They realized that their selfish, overbearing King was in fact, selfish and overbearing and they started to grumble, “If they wished to ring their bells from the town squares, church steeples and farm fields, who was he to stop them!”  Who was he indeed!

So the people made a plan to ring every bell in the land at the very same moment and on every hour henceforth. When at last the bells began to sing and gong and ding-a-ling dong, the land started to vibrate and the people cheered one and…almost all.

The King who had been lazing in dreary silence that fateful morning was startled to his feet by the clanging racket. He cupped his ears in rage and called for his commander to dispatch the army to quiet the blasted bells.  But no one could hear him above the cling-clanging cacophony and the castle that had languished in disrepair, began to shake and crumble and quake until it came tumbling down, silencing the King forever.

Never again were the bells kept from doing what bells are created to do. And the angels soon regained their wings, never forgetting the kindness of the poor and lowly, blessing them graciously with music, hope and true happiness forevermore.

~kat – 16 February 2017

For Jane Dougherty’s Sunday Strange Microfiction Challenge based on this Gabriel von Max painting.

 


Seasoning – Part 26 & Part 27

I’m afraid I’ve gotten behind on the installments of our story. So this week, two installments. Happy reading!

“Charles Dickens” a painting by William Powell Frith


Seasoning – Part 26

Henry could not get away quickly enough. He’d had his fill of his sister’s meddling. He hated leaving Hannah alone to fend for herself, but he had learned firsthand that she was quite capable speaking her mind when it was necessary. Still it troubled him, imagining Helen grilling her relentlessly as he knew she could and would.

“She’ll ruin everything,” he muttered to himself as he bounded the stairs to his office. “At least I have work to occupy my mind.”

Charles was waiting for him. In a small town it is impossible to maintain any sense of privacy. News of Helen’s early arrival was already buzzing through town. She rarely visited. Two times in a week was certainly something that required further investigation!

Charles glanced nonchalantly at Henry when he walked in the door; nodding with a smile. He noticed that Henry was clearly flustered and slightly disheveled, which was not at all like Henry who has impeccable taste when it comes to grooming and attire. 

“You look a bit bothered, Henry. Is everything alright?” Charles queried with all the concern he could muster, so as not to be found out for knowing the answer before he asked it. 

Henry never looked up as he rushed to his work station, but he growled in passing, “Helen.”

Taking the invitation to delve deeper, for a busybody like Charles a simple whimper was an open door, he followed Henry, “Oh, your sister, am I correct? I do hope…”

“Oh, she is very much alive and well. Save your worries, Charles, and she is in my house this morning as we speak.” Henry fumed.

“Not that I notice such things,” he lied, “but you have never mentioned her before this week and I thought you said she left to go back a home days ago. She’s back?”

“Oh yes! She is definitely back and meddling as usual. She infuriates me.”

“Hmmm, meddling, you say?” Charles couldn’t resist., “is everything working out with the housekeeper? I think I remember you mentioning it was Helen who hired her. What is her name again?”

Hannah, Hannah is her name,” Henry was growing impatient with Charles and his questions. “Hannah is perfect.” Henry stopped himself, refocusing, “What I meant to say is that she is doing a splendid job. There is absolutely no reason why Helen needed to barge in the way she did.”

Charles curiosity tweaked, “Barge in, you say?”

Henry glanced at Charles. He looked like a cat poised to pounce on a mouse. “Oh, never you mind Charles,” he brushed him off curtly, “Helen was just being Helen. Don’t let me keep you from your work.”

A deflated Charles turned to walk away, “I was just worried for you my friend. You looked…”

“Rushed is all. I have a full day ahead of me.” Henry countered as he picked up his pen and scribbled on a piece of paper on his desk. 

Normally counting the hours until the closing whistle, Henry hoped today would linger as long as it pleased. He dreaded facing what waited for him at home.

Image from fashion-era.com

Seasoning – Part 27

Helen patted Hannah’s hand. “What have you got planned for the rest of the day Hannah? I don’t know about you, but I could use a shopping trip to help all of this settle.”

Hannah thought for a moment. “Well, I have completed my household chores, and dinner is prepped and ready. I have been meaning to go into town to get a new dress. Henry arranged for me to go to Stephen’s Tailor Shop to find a replacement for the one that got ruined in the fire. Do you know the place?”

“Oh indeed I do. I love Jonathan. He is an artist with fabric and thread. It’s settled then. Go put yourself together. We shall have a shopping spree.”

Filled with excitement, Hannah giggled and hugged Helen before skipping happily out of the room. 

Helen smiled as she watched her leave. “I like her. I like her very much.” she thought. Then directing her comment to the vaulted ceiling, she spoke aloud, “Well Alice what a surprise this has all been. My my, you were right, my dear. She was out there somewhere just as you suspected. I do think you’d like her. She’ll be good for our Henry.” Helen blew a kiss into the air and gently tapped her chest over her heart before leaving to join Hannah in the parlor.

The market was bustling with activity when they arrived. Hannah couldn’t resist pausing at each shiny storefront dressed with a variety of wares. There was a bakery shop displaying stacks of crusty bread and pastries, a hat shop, with velvet, feathered wonders and an emporium with household odds and ends. 

Helen chuckled at her shopping companion, “Hurry along Hannah. We have a dress to find!”

When at last they had arrived, Hannah’s eyes grew wide as she gazed at the most beautiful gowns and dresses she had ever seen. 

Helen took the lead as a slim well-dressed man with a measuring tape draped over his shoulders met them at the door. He wore round black-rimmed spectacles and had a thin mustache and slicked back straight black hair. “Jonathan my dear! How very nice to see you. We’re looking for the perfect dinner dress for my friend here. Hannah, meet Jonathan, the best tailor in the region and our good friend for many years!”

Jonathan eyed Hannah from head to toe, as if calculating her measurements in his head. She extended her hand to shake his, “So nice to meet you,” she smiled.

Jonathan took her hand in his and gently cupped it with his other hand, “We meet at last Hannah. Henry mentioned you would be coming. Let’s see what we can find.”

Jonathan directed the ladies to a rack of wispy frilly dresses in silk, chiffon, crêpe, and satin. He slid hangers left to right, glancing frequently over his shoulder at Hannah. At last he stood back with a sigh and turned to present his find to Hannah and Helen. “Let’s try this one on you my dear,” he said with a wink and a smile directed at Helen.

“Oh Jonathan! You have outdone yourself. This one is exquisite.” Helen gushed. 

Hannah gingerly took the dress from Jonathan’s hands and turned, stopping for a moment. 

“The dressing room is just ahead to your left dear,” Jonathan instructed. “We’ll wait for you here. Don’t keep us in suspense too long!”

Hannah slipped the yellow silk chiffon dress over her head letting it cascade in a whoosh around her ankles. It fit perfectly. She gazed at herself in a full-length mirror feeling like a princess. 

Helen and Jonathan were waiting in a sitting area chatting and snickering over the latest gossip when Hannah appeared in the doorway.

“Oh my dear! You are stunning! Jonathan you are a genius! Of course we will take it!”

Jonathan beamed proudly. 

Hannah giggled, twirling full circle, “Really? Oh I do love this dress. Thank you. Thank you so very much!”

“Absolutely my dear. Now hurry along. We have an important dinner to prepare.” Helen turned to Jonathan, “As always it has been a pleasure my friend. You are a genius. I’ll say it again! You are a genius!”

“Thank you ladies. The pleasure has been all mine,” Jonathan called to them as they walked out the door. “Come back soon. And enjoy your evening!” 

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To read other installments of this fiction series click HERE and scroll down to the story entitled Seasoning.


Along the Selchie Shore

There was a legend told of old by fisherman who ought to know…

“To find yourself a bonnie bride, when the moon is full, high in the sky, get thee to the northern shore to spy the selchies sleeping on the rocky shoal. They lay their her heads upon soft beds of silky skin that they have shed. Choose the lass most beautiful and hide her pelt before she wakes. Forevermore she will be yours unable to return into the deep.”

Some townsfolk swear the legend is true. And if you doubt it they’ll tell you this tale.

One stormy evening at a local pub, a young lad named Benjamin overheard a few old salts prattling at the bar about this and that and the selchie legend. He decided to see if it was true. On the very next full moon night he set out for the selchie shore with a shovel and an empty satchel.

Glistening in the pale moonlight, not one but four maidens slept upon their silken hides. Benjamin crept silently from one to another to the next and the next, his heart racing with indecision. Each one was more radiant than the former and he feared the witching hour would pass before he chose his bonnie lass. 

So Benjamin did what any young lad would do when faced with a such a choice and nothing to lose. He gathered all four pelts, stuffed them in the satchel and rushed inland to bury them.

He returned to the shore, as the sun was rising with cloaks to cover his lovely maidens. One by one they stirred awake and when they set their eyes upon his face, each was overcome with pure devotion. 

It was a young man’s dream. Benjamin swelled with pride as he led his harem into town to his simple stick-built shack. Never was a man happier than Benjamin on that day and the many days that followed.

But as the blush of new love faded, each selchie maiden became jaded, not happy to share their Benjamin with the other. They came to see that being human was not at all what they dreamed it would be. Oh, how they longed to return home to the freedom of the sea.

Together they devised a plan to rise before the cockle doodle, while Benjamin was fast asleep, to search for their pelts along the selchie shore. They would never find their treasure, and Benjamin, who had become accustomed to having four-fold attention, never gave away his hiding place once he learned of their scheme. 

Alas, these poor selchie maidens four were immortal, yet cursed to a life of human misery. Benjamin eventually died an old man with a secret and they continued to scan the beach, some say, even to this very day. 

You might even catch a glimpse of them there,  by setting out before the dawn, just as the amber sun is cresting along the selchie shore.

-kat – 7 February 2017

A tale for Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge based on the painting above by Frederick Leighton.

 


Seasoning – Part 23

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Cup of Tea by Walter Granville Smith

“Well now! I got here just in time! I smell breakfast!” Helen announced as she removed her overcoat placing it over the back of a chair.

Hannah was mortified but relieved that Helen mentioned only breakfast. She rushed to the stove to prepare an extra plate.

“Bring me a cup of that coffee Henry. You know, our neighbor Marjorie called to tell me about the fire.”

“Oh yes, the fire and the storm. It was a bad one.” Henry handed her a cup of coffee adding, “Thank goodness for Marjorie and Joseph. They were here within minutes. The house might have been damaged if not for them!”

Helen patted the chairs on her left and right, motioning Henry and Hannah to join her at the table. She smiled at Hannah, “Oh yes…” she continued, a lilt in her voice, “Marjorie did mention that awful storm and the fire. Such good neighbors, don’t you think Hannah?

Hannah startled at the mention of her name, “Yes ma’am. They have been very helpful, especially Marjorie.

Helen continued, “Well, I must say I’m glad to be rid of those monstrous trees. The house looks much better from the street without them,” she paused eying the two of them while taking a sip of coffee, “But if you must know, it is the other fire smoldering under this roof that brought me here. I had to come see for myself. Tell me, how are you two getting on? When I left, I must say I was worried…”

Henry glanced at Hannah’s flushed face. Her eyes met his, pleadingly. Hoping to change the subject Henry asked, “And how is dear Aunt Millie? I hope she is doing well…”

“Oh, she’s fine Henry. She’ll outlive us all. You didn’t answer my question brother dear.”

”We’re getting on just fine Helen. I didn’t realize how badly I needed a housekeeper. Hannah has done a fine job. I should thank you for making the arrangements to bring her here.”

“And…?” Helen pried.

“I’m not sure what Marjorie told you, Helen. You know Marjorie. She’s a dear, but full of stories.”

“Yes, I do know Marjorie.” Helen looked at Hannah, “Tell, me Hannah, how are things going? Has my brother changed that dark attitude of his.”

Avoiding eye contact Hannah spoke softly, “Things are fine Helen. Henry has been very kind. A gentleman.” Looking directly at Helen, hoping to change the subject, Hannah added, “I was able to get the garden cleared and the soil turned and I’ve been working on a plan for planting come spring.”

Helen tapped her fingers on the table. These two were hiding something. She knew it. She felt it. Marjorie did have a tendency to exaggerate, but sitting her between the two of them allowed her to see things for herself. Not to mention that she found them locked in each other’s arms, laughing when she arrived. She was growing impatient. “Henry, a word with you…” she stood up and walked into the parlor.

Henry stood to follow her, pausing to squeeze Hannah’s hand reassuringly. “Yes, sister dear, I’m coming.”

Once in the parlor, Helen glared at her brother, “I need you to be honest with me Henry. I know what I saw when I came in the door. You had best not be taking advantage of that dear girl.”

Insulted and hurt Henry lashed back, “I can’t believe you think I would be such a scoundrel Helen. I can assure you that I have been a gentleman when it comes to Hannah.<

“People are talking Henry. I have eyes and ears here you know. And what I saw with my own eyes when I walked in this morning. Well…”

“Well nothing, Helen! Not that it is any of yours or anyone else’s business, I am quite fond of Hannah. This much is true. But let me be clear, nothing improper is happening under this roof. If this is the reason you came, to catch us in some scandal, I am afraid you wasted the trip. When are you leaving, by the way?”

“I’m planning to spend a few days Henry. I have business in town.”

“Well, of course, you are welcome, but I ask that you stop your prying and meddling, especially with Hannah. She has been extremely patient with our family spats. I don’t want to lose her.”

“I see.”

“You see nothing Helen. As I said, I didn’t realize how badly I needed a housekeeper before she came.”

“As you wish Henry,” Helen acquiesced, “I’m glad things are working out so well.” Helen knew to choose her battles with Henry. She decided then and there that she might need to extend her visit a bit longer.
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Part 23 of an ongoing fiction series. To read previous entries, click HERE.


Seasoning – Part 22

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“Reading the Letter” by Thomas Benjamin Kennington

Henry folded the letter and slipped it back into envelope. He would share it with Hannah tomorrow. How lovely Alice had been to him all those years knowing what she knew. He settled into bed feeling a peace he had never known, and he realized too, that Alice was finally at peace. He no longer felt her hovering presence. “She is really gone,” he thought.

Shades of warm of amber streamed into Hannah’s room gently rousing her as morning broke. She freshened up and dressed before going into the kitchen to start breakfast. To her surprise, Henry was standing at the stove stirring pot of something delicious. The aroma of toasting bread wafted from the oven and coffee was percolating on the stove.

“Good morning Hannah. I hope you’re hungry.”

“I’m sorry. Did I oversleep?”

“No, no, not at all. I was up early, craving coffee. Once I got here, I decided to start breakfast. I hope you don’t mind.”

“Of course not. I take it you slept well then?”

“Yes ma’am, I did. Now take a seat. I’ll bring you some coffee. I have something to show you.”

“Really, it’s not necessary for you to serve me Henry.”

“Sit!” Henry ordered playfully.

Hannah sat down at the small kitchen table nearby and watched him pour coffee. “What has gotten into him?” she wondered.

Henry set the cup on the table in front of her and reached into his pocket, removing a folded envelope. He leaned over kissing her gently on the top of her head as he handed it to her.

“This is for you, Hannah.”

Hannah crinkled her brow and flashed a questioning scowl toward Henry.

He smiled, “Drink your coffee and read it Hannah.”

“But…where…who is it from? I don’t recall a postal delivery this week.”

“That’s because it didn’t come by post.” Henry was clearly enjoying this. “It’s from Alice…”he paused to allow what he had just said to sink in, “…to you Hannah.”

“What? I don’t think I heard you correctly. Did you say the letter is from Alice? Your Alice?”

“I did indeed. I know it sounds crazy, and I wouldn’t believe it myself if it hadn’t happened to me, but I saw her in my room last night Hannah. I saw Alice. We talked, just like we are talking now. She told me about the letter. Told me where to find it. Please read it Hanna, while I finish making our breakfast. It will all make sense to you when you do.”

“I’m not sure about that. Nothing makes sense to me this morning.”

“You do trust me, don’t you Hannah?”

“Well…that toast smells a bit overly toasty…” Hannah grinned mischievously.

“Oh good god!” Henry rushed to the oven removing the toast in the nick of time.

Hannah burst into laughter, took a sip of coffee, and settled into her chair as she opened the envelope, removing the hand-written letter.

Dearest Lady,

You and I have not had the good fortune to meet, but I know you. If you are reading this, then I am certain that our beloved Henry is the common cord that binds our hearts. As impossible as it may sound, I sensed that my time in this life would be short, but I was comforted by the fact that you and he would find each other one day

Hannah looked up at Henry who was busy at the stove, his back to her. She returned to the letter.

I’m sure you must be wondering how I could possibly know you; know about you. Please let me explain. Over my years with Henry, there were little signs. Now you mustn’t think that I ever wanted for anything or felt unloved as his wife. Henry was a wonderful husband in every way. But he suffered from the most distressing dreams. As I lay next to him night after night, I would listen to him calling out for you. He promised to find you again. Sometimes he cried over his inability to save you.  

Eventually I came to the conclusion that you were real somewhere. It was the only thing that made sense.  I truly believe that you and Henry have been together in another lifetime. I dont know if you believe in such a thing, I didnt either. But the details Henry shared as he spoke in his sleep were so vivid; so heartbreaking. I gathered that there had been a flood and that you had been mortally injured. It always ended the same way, with you slipping away from him as he expressed his eternal love for you, crying out, “I will always love you.”

Hannah’s heart raced causing her face to flush. Tears welled in her eyes. How could Alice know this? She read on.

When we were first married, I felt jealous of you. But as the years passed I became accustomed to your presence in Henry’s dreams and occasionally, in deja-vu moments that would sweep him away to another place and time.

When I became ill, I knew I needed to write this letter to you to let you know that I am so happy that Henry has finally found you. I am convinced that you and he have traveled through eternity to find each other. 

Be happy my dear. Trust your instincts. Love Henry with all your heart and with my blessings. He has dreamed of you for a lifetime.

Yours truly,

Alice

The room grew silent. Henry had finished plating breakfast and turned to see Hannah clutching the letter, tears running down her cheeks. “Are you alright Hanna?”he asked softly.

“Oh Henry, this whole thing seems unbelievable and yet, a part of me knows that this…” she held the letter up, “…that all of this is true. It gives me hope that maybe I’m not crazy after all,” she sighed, “or maybe I am!”

“You’re not crazy Hannah. I had no idea Alice knew all of this, or even that she wrote the letter, until last night. When our conversation turned to my brother and Alice at dinner lat night a wave of guilt overtook me. That is why I left so abruptly. I was thinking about the past and about Alice. Please forgive me. The truth is, I love you Hannah and I believe I have loved you, and you have love me too, for a very long time.”

“I do Henry. I love you too.”

“But Hannah, the most important question at the moment is this: do you love me enough to eat my cooking?” Henry chuckled, placing a plate in front of her.

“Well, I’m afraid I may have to think about that…” Hannah burst into uproarious laughter, joined by Henry whose chuckle swelled into full snorting guffaws as he wrapped his arms around her.

From the entranceway a familiar, bellowing voice interrupted their gaiety. “Well now, what is this I’m hearing? Am I in the wrong house?”

Staring wide-eyed, in each others arms, at their uninvited guest as she bounded into the kitchen, Henry and Hannah blushed as they exclaimed in unison, “Helen!”

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This is installment 22 of an ongoing series. To read previous chapters click HERE and scroll to the series called Seasoning.  Thanks as always to Jane Dougherty for the initial inspiration for this story.


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