Barnaby

Prompt: Snippet


Hello Wednesday,

I am immersed in finishing NaNoWriMo before tomorrow (November 30) and so have drawn up a random snippet of the book to share. This is not a wonderful snippet, or representative of the book, but here you go. Cartoon to follow. 🙂

Ivy opened her eyes. Had she died, again?

No. While it hurt to breathe, she could smell leaves and mud, and hear birds arguing in the distance, and what she saw, straight ahead of her, was a cloudless blue sky.

She heard a snort. It was her horse, Barnaby, probably nearby, contentedly feasting on shoots of fescue and wildflowers, instead of returning back to the ranch riderless, thus alerting Sable and Mr Clarence and Dean and all the others that there had been an accident, that there was an emergency.

And there had been an accident. Ivy felt like she was hanging upside down, and while she couldn’t move, she could see that she lay on a steep slope, a rocky slope with persistent white flowers and creeping horsehairs that grew from every crevice and crack. She could move her right hand, and her fingers wrapped around a handful of gravel.

“Barnaby— shoo!” she cried, but her voice was ragged and raspy, and barely above a whisper. She heard him snort. He was a nice horse, a handsome horse— a glossy coat speckled with white, grey, and soft brown— and a good horse, but he wasn’t hers. They hadn’t bonded the way Dean had bonded with his working horse, or Clarence with his old mare, and even Sable and her lively stallion seemed to have a special connection.

She was Barnaby’s temporary burden, and Barnaby was her temporary mount, or he would have sensed that she was in grave danger, and raced back to the ranch instead of hanging about, taking a break, snacking on sweet grass, enjoying the sunshine, with no one pulling at him this way and that way— someone inexperienced, green, and who pulled too hard or not hard enough, jostled on his back like a sack of rocks, and almost strangled him when they dismounted.

Barnaby didn’t know she was injured, in trouble. For all he knew, she was taking a pleasant break in a rather harrowing ride, just as he was.

For she had ridden him hard, across the meadow and through the river, anxious to prove herself to Dean and Sable, because she wanted to enter the race. The race was all anyone talked about. Even Mrs Donovan’s pregnant ladies, when Ivy accompanied her on her rounds, talked about the Nettle River Cross County Race.

If you were underage, as Ivy was, you needed a sponsor. Mr Clarence, Dean, the ranch manager, and Sable agreed she wasn’t ready. She’d made good progress! She’d graduated from the corral to the trail quickly, and what she lacked in innate skill she made up for in determination.

Of course, neither Ivy nor Sable told Dean or anyone that she was learning to ride so she could go with the other Immortals on a grand, dangerous adventure. They were to join an army, Sable said, an army on horseback. They would travel across country, camp in tents, learn to protect themselves with swords and agility, defend the weak against the powerful. Sable said it was a lark for the ages. Sable said they would live on their horses, and Ivy needed to learn to ride, quickly and very well.

It was crazy that they wouldn’t let Ivy race. She could handle Barnaby. Barnaby was fast, when she let him. She was smart enough to give him free rein across the wide spaces, and to let him pick his way through a narrow path on the side of a mountain, and to let him choose the safest route down a steep incline— but wait.

The long meadow ended just beside Peggy’s Rock. They flew over the edge of the cliff, because that’s what all the riders did. The drop looked steeper than it was, and the horses gained their footing quickly. The trick then was to lean back, keep the reins loose, and let the mount fly down the hill, then take control again at the bottom.

Ivy got scared. Yes, that’s what happened. She knew the cliff was less fearsome than it appeared, but as she and Barnaby approached, she was reminded of the cliffs at the plateau, the ones that surrounded the cave, and how the drop from those ledges was a drop into nothingness, to mist, to death.

So she pulled up on Barnaby. In a panic, she pulled on the rough leather reins with both hands as they cleared the ledge and, for a few seconds, they seemed to float. Barnaby was off balance though, and instead of landing cleanly he faltered, tripped forward, and there were several moments of sheer panic as the horse tried to regain balance, before Ivy was thrown.

Then the blackness, then the awakening to a sky.

Ivy felt a sudden stab of pain in the back of her neck, then her left shoulder blade. She realized her left eye was closed, and there was something wet on her cheek and neck.

She could just make out Barnaby from the corner of her eye. He was not bothered by the steepness, he relaxed his legs and lowered his elegant neck and pulled vegetation from between the rocks with his teeth. His tail swished.

With all the strength she could muster, she lifted her right hand from the ground. It trembled, it resisted, but she heaved the handful of gravel as hard as she could at Barnaby’s rump.

“Go!” she tried to shout. “Shoo!”

The small rocks landed near Barnaby’s hind hooves, and he lifted one as if in acknowledgement of a small distraction, then continued to feed on the grasses.

Ivy couldn’t see her hand, so she opened it flat and groped and scratched blindly across the earth until her palm found a rock about the size of a ping pong ball. She gasped with a new pain as she raised her right forearm again, and taking as deep a breath as she could, flung the stone with all her might.

The rock found its target. Barnaby felt an intense sting on his rump, kicked, and if suddenly snapped from an idyll, he shook his head and started scrambling up over the ledge, where he disappeared.

Where there had been no pain, a blanket of agony slowly began to cover Ivy with its heavy warmth, and she started to cry like a child.



cartoon horse jumper

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Does It Move?

Prompt: Clutch

If you find yourself in a clutch (crisis) around the house, or even on the job, consider this foolproof problem-solving engineering graph:

chart does it move


Related to charts, if not to today’s prompt “clutch”, is this surprising statistic about a certain competition:

chart miss universe


Even simpler, this insightful graph (certainly true of me!):

chart lyrics start

Find Yourself

Prompt: Mercy

cartoon mercy

Recently, a lot of sexual harassment and abuse cases have come to light in the American and international media. Powerful men, some known scumbags, some respected allies of the women’s movement, have been exposed as serial creeps, harassers, abusers, and assaulters.

What is clear is that there is and has been an epidemic of mistreatment of women in almost all fields– something that is not surprising to women as individuals, but the scope and grim repercussions to women who have tried to speak up are probably surprising to many of us.

Many people denounce what is called “the court of public opinion”. Innocent until proven guilty, goes the cry. Present the evidence in a court of law before passing judgement.

The problem with that viewpoint is that the justice system has failed women (and men, and children, and other victims of sexual crime) time and time again. Roman Polanski, Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, Donald Trump all live freely despite the –stay with me here– absolute knowledge of their wrong-doing. Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis CK and others may never face their accusers in court, and if they did, what would be the outcome? Again, the system has let the victims of sexual abuse down over and over, because of a rule about the burden of proof that is arbitrary, unfair, ineffective, and vulnerable to manipulation and biased interpretation.

So if the courts fail us, then I am grateful to the so-called Court of Public Opinion, wherein we see serial abusers vilified, losing their jobs and prestige, and having to face their accusers without the benefit of automatic court protection.

The number of women who make false claims is infinitesimally small, because there is rarely a gain to be made that balances the public doubt and the humiliation of the legal system. So perpetrators go free and victims are silenced while their lives are altered forever.

So, welcome, Court of Public Opinion. You have done well this past month. You have doled out justice where none could be found in any other avenue.

Well done, public.

… And on a lighter note, because it is Wednesday, and unrelated to this topic or the prompt, may I present two of my favourite cartoons which have been dying to appear here at Fluffy Pool:

cartoon snoring


cartoon stick dog


Keep writing, keep paying attention. 🙂

~~FP

Think of the Ways

Prompt: Atmospheric

child poster pollution

Yes, children. Help the world. Think of the ways. Walk more. Don’t litter. Plant a tree. Recycle your pop cans. If you don’t, everything will die and we will all choke to death. Including puppies.

Something about the way we teach ecology to children rankles. They can be worked into a frenzy over juice boxes. Fear asphyxiation if parents idle their cars beside the school waiting for the final bell. Are willing to pick a square of cellophane out of a garbage bin for the sake of recycling.

Why so much pressure on the kids, when the reasons for life-threatening, world-ending pollution rest in the hands of the polluters and the politicians who bless them?

Certainly every little bit helps. It is important to recycle, to value trees and plants, to be aware that small changes add up.

But I don’t remember, as a child, being unable to sleep because the glaciers are melting, or having a panic attack when a juice box ends up in the trash can. Guilt and hopelessness make us panic and give us insomnia. Let’s stop loading the responsibility for a clean future, if we have a future, on six year olds.

Let’s teach them a little bit about ethics and civics. Give them relevant information that allows them to assess choices in the products they use. Let them understand the power of the consumer and of the vote and, yes, even of peaceful resistance.

Children aren’t stupid. I’ve worked with children and they constantly floored me with their wisdom and common sense. Let’s arm these children, sensibly and without terror, with the tools they need to face a real crisis and transform a future that is not as bright as it should be, or as bright as they deserve.

Try Honking Again

Prompt: Honk

cartoon cars honking


Dear Wednesday,

Here it is, Day 15 of National Novel Writing Month, when half of the novel in the challenge– 25,000 words– should be written by midnight tonight. I currently have just over 20,000 words counted, and this includes a narrative poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge that I put into a letter from one of my characters to his love interest, even though the poem had little to do with their relationship, which had not yet been established anyway.

Such are the twists and turns of Nanowrimo.

At the moment I have two of my characters in modern day Austria, looking for Nazi treasures, and by that I mean statues or busts of Hitler, adoring portraits, icons, mementos, alleged bits of his hair or a ring he wore or a letter he wrote. These are all to be secured and permanently locked away or destroyed, so that they never fall into the hands of the European alt-right or neo-Nazis. They are attempting this task for the money– even immortal storybook characters need cash to indulge their adventures.

How do I make break and enter exciting? For some reason, possibly the plethora of such scenes already saturating fiction and television and film, I am at a loss as to how to make it fresh. So here I sit, stumped at 20k words, while thinking about honking.

In tribute to today’s Daily Prompt, honk, and its success in distracting me from the blank page of my Scrivener program, may I present two more of my tangentially related favourite cartoons?

cartoon geese honking


csrtoon ducks paddling


What ever you are attempting this rainy Wednesday, may you find every success!

~~FP