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The Wolf and the Three Wise Monkeys by Hal Duncan

 Issue 14 (December 2011)  Comments Off on The Wolf and the Three Wise Monkeys by Hal Duncan
Dec 152011
 
Scheherezade's Bequest 14

The Wolf and the Three Wise Monkeys
by Hal Duncan

Once upon a time, there was a Big Bad Wolf, a cultivated guy, top hat and tails, but a bit of a cad, a cur, a bounder, not a bad sort per se, but of dubious scruples and instatiable appetites, a propensity for exotic narcotics and avante garde Swedish art magazines featuring young male cyclists in sundry stages of undress. He came to me, he did, in the bathroom mirror one day, saying, Where the fuck’s my fairy story, scribbler?

Snickety-sharp teeth aglint in his grin, eyes of steel, he was switchblade, poetry, fury. What was I to do?

So I began: Twice upon a time, I said — since we’re starting again — there were three wise monkeys. Tom, Dick and Harry, Larry, Curly and Moe, what they were called… we dunno. Let’s call them See-No, Hear-No and Speak-No, the Brothers Evil, Esquire. A fraternity of swine, they were, unholy trinity of primal primate power-mongering, living lavish on their spoils of class war. They’d left their mother long ago, gone out into the world to make their fortune and fame, make a name to be spoken with awe. They built houses in the forests of Fantasia.

The first wise monkey built his house out of money, a papier-mache palace of five pound notes, no windows, so that everywhere he looked he saw the wonders of his wealth, blue notes layered and lacquered smooth to a mockery of marbling, balustraded balconies, broad steps sweeping down from a mezzanine to a ballroom with a bar fully stocked, bottles of every beverage you might name and then some. Blood of the indebted. Tears of the bereaved.

Alone in luxury, gaze caged in the grandeur of his greed, he drank.

It was beautiful. While he could still see it.

Enter the Big Bad Wolf.

— Let me in, let me in, he says. Or I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house down!

— Not by the hair on my chinny chin chin, says the monkey. Or chest and back, whole body really.

Couldn’t shave, you see, that monkey, lost his eyes in a game of Texas Hold ‘Em.

So the wolf he huffed and puffed, and that house of money caved, came crashing down on the sophisticated simian. The wolf hauled him from the ruins, ripped his throat out, tore open his soft underbelly, feasted on his innards.

Second wise monkey built his house out of bibles, thick leatherbound tomes of scripture inscribed on illuminated calf-skin. Closed and sealed, of course, the books mere building blocks of walls to muffle the sounds of the material world beyond. A vast cathedral of catechisms was mere vestibule to a mansion temple, a monastery tower of myth and morals.

— My father’s house has many rooms, he’d say, when visitors questioned the sheer scale of this city of the soul, when he still heard the questions. My father’s house has many rooms; I’ve got to measure up to him, you know.

Big Bad Wolf strides up, proud citizen of Sodom.

— Let me in, let me in, he says. Or I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house down!

— What? says the monkey.

— Fucking let me in, kiddy-fiddler, says the Big Bad Wolf. Or —

— I can’t hear you, says the monkey, eardrums sealed with candlewax to mute all dissent.

So the wolf he huffed and puffed, and that house of bibles fell as Babel, down upon the pious primate. The wolf hauled him from the ruins, ripped his throat out, tore open his soft underbelly, feasted on his innards.

Third wise monkey built his house out of bones, skulls of civilians slaughtered in airstrikes on foreign soil, fibias dug from mass graves of genocide, femurs of cannon-fodder carnage and collateral damage, vertebrae and ribs cemented in human glue, a fortress ossiary.

Squat and circular, the bunker of bone sat as a crypt, ash grey as concrete, filmed with the dust of death, only a few dark slits to let the light in, and a chimney belching black smoke, filling the forest with a stench of burning plastc, roast pork.

Many found it unspeakable. Not least the wise monkey.

Behold, the Big Bad Bhagavad Wolf, devourer of worlds.

— Let me in, let me in, he says. Or I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house down!

— Aaaa, says the monkey.

— What? says the wolf.

— Aaaa, says the monkey, his tongue hacked out so no tribunal could make him talk of terror and torture.

So the wolf he huffed and puffed, but that house of bones stood solid as a skull, the military monkey secure inside. He huffed and he puffed but that house stood steadfast and silent — monolith, monument, mausoleum.

— Fuck this, said the Big Bad Wolf.

So the Big Bad Wolf climbed onto the roof, to the chimney. Inside, the monkey was shovelling filleted flesh into the furnace when a stream of piss drenched the flames. And the wolf dropped down into sizzling, smoking embers.

Big Bad hauled that monkey from the ruins of flesh he hid in. Throat, soft underbelly, innards, you know the score. Found the monkey’s tongue, yanno, pickled in a jar on the mantelpiece, wears it round his neck to this day. Everywhere he goes it tells the atrocities it knows, to all who’ll listen.

And they all live happily ever after.

What’s the moral to this story? Is there a moral to this story? I don’t know. I just made it up one day, when the Big Bad Wolf came knocking at my door.

— Let me in, let me in, he said.

— Sure, I said, and there he was in the bathroom mirror, snickety-sharp teeth and eyes of silver. Tongue round his neck.

— Where the fuck’s my fairy story, scribbler?

So I gave him one.

— Cool yarn, said the wolf. Little preachy perhaps, but I liked it. Now… tell me the one about the Wolf and the Seven Little Archangels.


Hal Duncan was born in 1971, brought up in a small town in Ayrshire, and now lives in the West End of Glasgow. A member of the Glasgow SF Writers Circle, his first novel, VELLUM, won the Spectrum Award and was nominated for the Crawford, the BFS Award and the World Fantasy Award. As well as the sequel, INK, he has published a poetry collection, SONNETS FOR ORPHEUS, a stand-alone novella, ESCAPE FROM HELL!, and various short stories in magazines such as Fantasy, Strange Horizons and Interzone, and anthologies such as NOVA SCOTIA, LOGORRHEA, and PAPER CITIES. He also collaborated with Scottish band Aereogramme on the song “If You Love Me, You’d Destroy Me” for the Ballads of the Book album from Chemikal Underground. His current proudest achivement however is the upcoming staging of his “gay punk Orpheus” musical, NOWHERE TOWN by University of Chicago Theater Group. He blogs at Notes from the Geek Show.

 Posted by at 2:19 pm

Blood, Snow, Birch and Underworld by JoSelle Vanderhooft

 Issue 14 (December 2011)  Comments Off on Blood, Snow, Birch and Underworld by JoSelle Vanderhooft
Dec 152011
 

Scheherezade's Bequest 14

Blood, Snow, Birch and Underworld
by JoSelle Vanderhooft

I.
A daughter like a window:
full as glass
and just as empty.
The queen sucked her forefinger–the one
ever responsible for accidents,
and thought a canyon in her forehead.

Girls like blood and winter and bare branches.
All the rage, like hearts in strong boxes,
dolls in see-through coffins,
little dogs in little bags.
But what is popular is deadly as starvation,
just as catching.

A mother knows this,
when her own did not. Knows
the terror of monstrosity in miniature.

Three red drops on white,
the shellacked sill a perfect frame.
The glass between flawless,
Invisible.
Correct.

The finger circumnavigates her navel,
dips into its wishing well.
Such a daughter: beautiless as air,
No heart
and no guts.
Invisible
and safe.

Her own gut moved,
complicit.

II.

Cardinal on birch.
Snow between.

Ballet-balanced Cipher watches him
tilt head, shake wing–
twitch like the physick’s organs
electrified for the king’s curiosity.

“It’s like this, majesty–”
a flipped switch,
the heart’s veins hop.
“The blood travels on a circuit,
like the seasons.”

The Court applauded.
Unnoticed,
she closed her hand over her breast,
thought of living fruit.
Her own heart, certainly,
did no such thing.

The cardinal perks,
vanishes into December.
She watches, strokes her breast
again.

It doesn’t beat.
Not even when Mother died.

Not even when Father dismissed the doctor,
called for something
softer, more attractive.

It makes no noise at all.
Not even my footsteps do.

Sometimes,
sometimes
she thinks everyone
knows her emptiness,
looks through her like this windowpane
in search
of something red.

III.

Stepmother
is Mother’s reverse.

Skin like grave-loam,
hair curled
brown
as wasting ivy,
dry and thin-ribbed winter
for her predecessor’s hips and bounty,
for her pallor less snowfall than August sun.

Even the mouth is different:
Knife-gash, menses smear–
Obscene, titters the Court.
Not button-prim like their Lady
who ate only in nibbles
and touched no wine.

Cipher does not think it so.
It is the first that smiles.
“You’re Cipher, right?”
Not daughter, princess,
window.
Her lips draw into a seed. “Well,
my dear?
Don’t be afraid.”

Her smile
is the winter sun
between drives of schorl clouds.

A cardinal’s wing shadows the clerestory;
Cipher’s fingers flutter to her breasts.
Beneath her touch, a twist in hollowness.

Something is not there
that wants to be.

Stepmother’s tongue
tastes the corner of her lips.
“Interesting.”

IV.

The year’s wheel turns from snow
to colder snow.
Midwinter visits in her holly wreathes,
and crowns of candle fire.
It is a holiday, Stepmother says,
so let the balustrades wear evergreen;
the tables and ladies
moan with seedcakes and sweetmeats.
Her eyes reflect the hearth, amber
upon amber.
Cipher swirls a sugar cube, considers—the stars
of Tartarus must look the same.
At her left hand, Stepmother laughs a toast;
the stars turn to her
and burn.
Stepmother smiles a wealth of fire opal,
leans in for a secret–
“The birch when everyone’s abed.”–
clinks stein with Ladies and then Father,
choreography subtler than wind.

Cipher’s breath snags in her ribs–
the new sun ascends between her legs.

V.

The moon is full when dreams of emerald
and amber fall off like a sheet.
The air bites Cipher’s breasts beneath her gown.
The flagstones nip her heels,
snow bites her toes.

The sky’s unraveling quartz,
lapis, chalcedony. Snowflake
obsidian catches upon her lashes,
veils everything in air
and the moonstone winter-light of–

Stepmother
at the birch,
hair a wave of darkness,
smile like the sickle moon.
Empty calls to
Empty.
She waves benediction–
beckon: Come.
steps through the hanging trees.
Her gown is a tear of ruby
cardinal wing.

Cipher follows,
does not blink away the snow
that settles in her eyes.

Stepmother’s burning,
beacon through elder, oak
yew and prickle-pine.
Trees stranger, tall
and ragged. Twigs of diamond,
drusy, chrysocolla pull her skirts,
brush back her bangs,
won’t wait—Stepmother
moves like corpse candle light,
in mist direction,
but purposeful as plagues.

The darkness parts
upon another red–
tree bare as black pearl
spread ventrical

Fruit beating
each
a heart.

Stepmother
shifts like circulation,
cups one pomegranate,
brings it to her hands.
“Do you know
how you were planted?”

The wind whispers
in shades
In cautions.
Cipher does not listen,
hears only the beat
of living seeds.

She shakes her head, embarrassed.

Stepmother smiles,
like gold might smile.
“Carefully,” she says,
“like harvest grain,
like potash in fire:
for another’s purpose.”
“Tell me,”–
the pomegranate cradled in her hand–
“what need has either
soil or window
for a heart?”

The wind ripples their hair like sails
and there is a space beneath her ribs.
Cipher feels above it,
reaches–

“Hurt is in the taking.”
Stepmother strokes the red curve.
“Eat, and there will be hunger,
want, rejection.
Death, too–
For seeds must die to yield.
Eat not,
You will know the story of a window–
empty
as the world is full.”

The fruit is ice inside her palm,
heavy, cold–
familiar as the space
–that must be filled.
Cipher shuts her eyes
and plucks.

The seeds stick like stars
inside her.

VI.

Stepmother vanishes
like hoarfrost.
The palace forgets her like a dream.

The cardinal hops branch,
shakes snow from wings like waking.
Cipher smiles
like a window opened,
and a breath

Escaped.


JoSelle Vanderhooft is a poet and author whose works include The Tale of the Miller’s Daughter, The Memory Palace and the 2008 Bram Stoker Award finalist Ossuary. She regularly edits collections of lesbian fiction, which most recently include Steam-Powered: Lesbian Steampunk Stories and (with Catherine Lundoff) Hellebore & Rue: Tales of Lesbian Magic Users. She lives in Florida.

 Posted by at 2:17 pm

Bone Song by Sara Cleto

 Issue 14 (December 2011)  Comments Off on Bone Song by Sara Cleto
Dec 152011
 

Scheherezade's Bequest 14

Bone Song
by Sara Cleto

Once upon a time, you broke me into pieces. You took my voice, you cut my hair. You cast a spell, and I fell asleep.

I let you do these things.

I don’t know why. You were beautiful, yes, but not more beautiful than my song. My hair was brighter than yours, and my magic was stronger. I had a book of spells, thicker than a tree trunk, brimming with words that were so true, a human voice could never shape them. I had a wand of oak and maple, tipped with pure silver, crafted long ago by a grandmother’s grandmother and imbued with all the wisdom of a crone who had once been a maiden.

But my magic was white, white and unforgivably innocent, and I dropped my book and my wand when I fell into your arms.

Your touch was something hot that flared against my skin, shedding sparks and leaving tiny star-burns in its wake. Caught in your briar-arms, pinned by wolf-eyes, you were every tale ever told, conspiring against this most naïve of princesses.

I knew, even if I did not quite believe, what would happen if I lay down with the wolf. Even the prince of the wolves. But when you bared your fangs at me, I was overcome by a certain tender sentimentality, and I went to you.

You gobbled me up.

Bones, strewn in the dirt. Leaves, disintegrating under the acidity of spilled blood. You ran into the woods to lick your muzzle clean, to pick the fleshy fragments from your briar-arms.

I lay there for too long, watching sky bleed into darkness and grow anemic with light more times that I can count.

A goose-girl found me there. She swept my bones into a heap and sang to them. When they finally sang back, she seemed unsurprised. Joint by joint, piece by broken piece, my body knit itself to the rhythm of the music.

Skin grew across the bones like ivy, and midnight hair poured from my skull.

When I was whole once more, we rose and walked into the woods. We sang to the bones of the princesses. And to the bones of the wolves.


Sara Cleto graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a BA in English Literature and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Folklore and Literature at George Mason University. Among her interests are reading obsessively, plotting foreign travels, and drinking large amounts of coffee. Her work has appeared previously in Mirror Dance and Moon Drenched Fables.

 Posted by at 2:16 pm

Kytgy and Kunlelo by Rose Lemberg

 Issue 14 (December 2011)  Comments Off on Kytgy and Kunlelo by Rose Lemberg
Dec 152011
 

Scheherezade's Bequest 14

Kytgy and Kunlelo
by Rose Lemberg

Ancestors fill
all things. In the green-moss stones
the ancestors of riverdark live,
in the rivers — star-mothers,
in deer flesh — unborn children.

Kytgy, the little girl, sits
on the green-moss stones,
she smells roe in the riverwind,
reindeer in the tundra-wind,
blubber smell coming from the sea-people–
she doesn’t want to smell war.

“Forefathers — small
spirit-fires, mosquito swarm,
foremothers-mousebreath,
teach me to see
openings
in the five worlds,
the five-times five worlds,
so I too can become
mosquito-fire,
mousebreath — so I can
squeeze between worlds,
above us, below us,
so I can
hunt war.”

The ancestors teach her,

“It’s the same country,
this reindeer country
moss country, fast-flowering tundra country
everywhere, we ancestors
live in deerhide yarangas
above us, sun and moon live
in deerhide yarangas;
below, kele-spirits,
in deerhide yarangas;
and in this world, you,
Kytgy,
shaman-child,
wear this parka of stitched spirits
when you go to hunt war:
the war is nearing.”

Kytgy, the little girl, sits
on the green-moss stones.
She smells blood in the riverwind
bitter tears in the tundra-wind.
How will she defeat war?

Kytgy goes
stitched spirits buzzing,
to her father’s yaranga.

A spirit-hearted child she summons.
a spirit-hearted warrior is needed.

“Father, father, go you visit kin!
we need to birth Kunlelo.”

Kytgy’s father goes to summer-camp,
sable-parka shaking,
eyes crossed, mighty hunter,
beaded parka shaking.
Of all women
he doesn’t want to choose
embroidered women
in their kerker suits,
berry-sweet women
in their hunting furs.

“Give me that one, the one with matted hair,
fishbones for beads,
lice for ornament,
that one, the crooked-eye orphan
who sits close to the smoke,
away from the entrance.”

They comb out the orphan,
pop the lice with their fingernails,
make her bride
for Kytgy’s father,
that mighty shaman-child’s father.

Nine months Kytgy waits
talking to eider children,
lemming pups, wild children,

all the in-between children.

“No need,” they say,
to squeeze between worlds now,
Kytgy, you mighty shaman:
ancestor-work is coming,
war,
war,
war is coming here.”

The babe, boy-child, Kytgy holds in her arms.

“Now the world comes right.
Now we have birthed Kunlelo.”

Kunlelo goes,
mighty warrior, to fasten war,
to protect his land
from the white-smoke people,
to take blubber
from the walrus people,
to take elk-land
from the antlered people,
to take berry-land
from the pinecone people,
to protect his land
from the white-skin people.

How will the world come right now?
None can defeat Kunlelo.

Kytgy takes off
her parka of spirits,
puts on her best furs, embroidered furs,
bride furs, blood-bride furs,
follows the sea-wind to the walrus people
lies down in the ditch by the sealskin yaranga,
waits for the men to marry her,
that berry-bright sister, Kytgy,
to marry her there in the ditch.

Nine months — she gives birth,
leaves her child with the sealskin people,
to raise her child with the blubber people.

She walks
the world, fleeing from enemies,
goes to the antlered people, elk people,
pinecone people, deer people,
wind people, star people,
white-smoke people,
white-skin people,

Wherever she goes, she marries,
wherever she goes, she gives birth,
wherever she goes, she leaves children.

Kytgy, peace-bringer,
from whom the whole world descends,
Kytgy, peace-bringer,
became the ancestor in all things.


Rose Lemberg is an immigrant from three countries. She currently works as a professor of Nostalgic and Marginal Studies somewhere in the Midwest. Rose’s short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Fantasy Magazine, and other venues, and was recently reprinted in People of the Book: A decade of Jewish Science Fiction and Fantasy. Her poetry has appeared in Apex, Goblin Fruit, GUD, Jabberwocky, and Mythic Delirium, among other venues, and has been nominated for the Rhysling Award. She edits Stone Telling, a new magazine of boundary-crossing poetry. Rose can be found online at http://roselemberg.net.

 Posted by at 2:15 pm

Catherine Rémy: Where myth and landscape meet

 Featured, Interviews  Comments Off on Catherine Rémy: Where myth and landscape meet
Dec 152011
 
Catherine Rémy: Where myth and landscape meet
by Erzebet YellowBoy & Catherine Rémy

Sigyn Sataerie by Catherine RémyThe cover art for the 14th issue of Scheherezade’s Bequest was provided by Catherine Rémy, a visual artist who draws inspiration from landscape and myth. Her work has been exhibited at the Chatham Arts Centre, Covent Garden’s Jubillee Centre, the Medway Arts Centre, the Cornflower Gallery, in Stuckist shows and in a number of books and magazines. Born Rémy Noë, Catherine experienced gender dysphoria at an early age and escaped into art as a means of coping with her condition. In her own words: “As my paintings are such different styles, which confuses art galleries, I use two names for the two difrent styles. Rémy Noë for the landscape work, and Catherine Rémy for my mytholgical work.” So, while you can find Rémy Noë on Wikipedia, it is the mythological work of Catherine that interests us. The first question I posed to Catherine was the usual “how did you get started”. I’m always fascinated by what draws people to live a creative life, what inspires them, influenced them, and what obstacles, if any, they have encountered along the way — such as expulsion from school and threat of arrest.

“When I was five years old my mother left my family, leaving me with my sister and father who bought me up. I did not see much of my mother after this and she died only four years later. The only real solid memory I had of her was that she was obsessed with myths and fantasy stories. I always remember she had a huge old copy of Lord of the Rings on her bedside table. As soon as I could read well enough I read this book and many others like it. As I grew older I exhausted the genre of fantasy and began to explore in depth the original myths, most of which were Anglo-Saxon, Northern European, Celtic and Finnish.

At the same time all of this was happening in my life I was always painting and drawing. My reaction to gender dysphoria was to escape into nature and paint; out in the countryside drawing and painting I found peace, and through many years of doing just this got my skills in the arts of drawing and painting. These two passions met when I went to art college and began to be taught in art history and more advanced ways of painting. I loved the idea of putting stories and narative into my paintings and drawings of the countryside.”

West Field Wood © Catherine Rémy 2007

West Field Wood © Catherine Rémy 2007

“My main influence in the devolpment of my style was Turner and his use of perspective, and the study of the way the human eye curves perspective. I exagerated this and began to put the stories and myths I loved so much into my work.

I discoved from my reading of Anglo-Saxon myths the history and culture that went with them, and how in the early period the culture was much more shamanic in feel than the later medivial time. I began to visit the location of many of the stories, to see the places and graves of long forgotton kings, sites where great battles were fought, doomed romances took place and to see how the myths in this close but also alien culture were heavily tied into uniting the people with the land and the seasons. I painted on site, hour after hour, creating many rough drawings and sketches, and then in my studio combining them into my now devolping style.”

Kingswood II © Catherine Rémy 2010

“Centre section of a painting carried out on site in kentish woods, part of a larger piece which will be three contained circles on wall with large circle on ground.” Kingswood II © Catherine Rémy 2010

I understand that you attended Canterbury College of Art from 1993 – 1998, but had some troubles there. What was going on back then?

“My career as I was devolping this way of painting had its ups and downs. I went on from doing a BTEC at Canterbury Kent instituite of Art and Design (now UCA) to a degree. Here I hit a wall — the modern art world. The college was almost entirly given over to conceptual art and drawing and painting were almost not allowed. I of couse did not stand for this and soon found myself expelled for several high profile arguments about the nature of art. I then discovered the Stuckist art movement which grew as a counter reaction to this way of thinking.”

You were a founding member of the Maidstone Stuckists. Can you tell us a little bit about that and about what drew you to Stuckism?

“The Maidstone stuckists came about as a result of a group of us in Maidstone talking about how much we admired the main group of stuckists in London and Chatham. There were quite a few artists in maidstone who always use to drink in the goth/punk/alternative pub in Maidstone called The Minstrel, we always talked about our ideas and how much we disliked the artistic establishment, most of us having been spat out of the system at one point or other. I talked to Charles Thompson (one of the two people who formed the main body of the Stuckists) and he invited us to form our own subgroup, christened the “Maidstone Stuckists”. We were mixed between artists and poets with an aim toward getting some sort of artistic comunity going in Maidstone. We all liked myths and the artwork, stories, poems influenced by them, so had a good comon grounding together and thought this would be a good base from which to grow. We started to hold twice-weekly meetings in different pubs in Maidstone, put on shows wherever we could, and often had other Stuckist artists from other groups showing their work with us.”

Stuckist Turner demonstration, 2000

Rémy Noë (dark glasses, background right) at the first Stuckist demonstration against the Turner Prize, 2000.

“Sadly over time we all started to get hit by life, the meetings and shows happened less often, untill they faded out all together. After the movement died down, I went back to art college again. This one was also in Canterbury, but this time I attended Christ Church University’s very good art department, also known as Slade by the Sea. Here I found myself getting lots of new ideas, and really learnt how to do life drawing very well. I studied anthroplogy and ancient art, especially Anglo-Saxon and Sami art. I wrote my dissertation on the art of the Sami, falling in love with their culture after making a very good Sami freind on a walking holiday in Sweden. For my reseach I travelled around the arctic circle area of Norway, Sweden and Finland, looking at art from 10,000 years ago to the present day in remote but very friendly villages.

I’ve now finished and have a B.A and M.A in fine art, and am introducing the ideas and ways of working I’ve learnt into my mytholgical paintings, as well begining to explore China, and learning about the culture there.”

Why do you think you’re drawn to working with myths and old stories?

“This is a tricky one to put into words. One of the things that attracts me is their closeness, yet at the same time alien nature, to our culture. The whole Wade/Weyland cycle of myths, for example, feels so alien to our modern sense of morals, especially the central piece of the Weyland story where he gets vengeance on those who wronged him. I know there are vengeance stories in our modern times, but Weyland’s revenge is shown as a positive as opposed to, say, a modern tale where unless one is a psycopath, one feels guilt for taking revenge, even if one is justified.

The story of Weyland’s father Wade goes further into my area of interest than his son’s tales which, although a good read, doesn’t really tie the people and the landscape together. Wade is scattered all over Kent — for example Watling street, which goes from one end of the county to the other, bears his name (‘Wat’ being another version of Wade). I also strongly suspect — but haven’t fully delved into the idea yet — that St. Nicholas and Wade have some connection. These tales — where the very essence of the land has been reborn into heroes, gods and monsters — are what inspire me. The landscape we live in can possess us to such an extent that we need the myths and stories to become one with it.”

Which of these stories do you love best?

“I would say, without doubt, that even though not an old mytholgy but a re-imagined one, the tales from Tolkein’s “Silmarillion” (especially the tale of Lúthien and Beren), have had a lasting influence on me. I’ve found many versions of this tale from “real” myth, but still the Tolkein version is the one that moves me inside. That conquering of death and giving your all to the one you love, the way it is written, the depth in the echoing of older stories it’s built on — everything about that story from the moment I first read it has capitaved me.”

The White Lady © Catherine Rémy 1996

The White Lady © Catherine Rémy 1996

This can be a difficult question for artists to answer, but which of your own paintings do you love best?

“My favorite painting is Sundeomma. The place where I based it on is a very (for Kent) remote valley in the heart of the North Downs, which always seems to me like it has the real feel of nature and myth in it. The story for that painting I sort of made myself; I was inspired while walking the Downs — nothing complex, just the meeting of the day and night. I plan to paint from there again one day, this time using the shadow-like stories I am begining to read about from the Bronze age, stories that only seem to exist as ghosts within other tales and the strange rock art from this time.”

Sundeomma © Catherine Rémy 2001

And finally, what do you hope to achieve with your work?

I see my mytholoical paintings as in many ways forming the third part of this triangle between the landscape where we live and die, the stories and myths that tie us to the land and visual images uniting the two. I want to give people a new way of seeing what at first glance might be just a small wood, an isolated hill.”

 Posted by at 2:15 pm

An Interview with Kirsty Greenwood

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Dec 152011
 

Fighting FaeriesKirsty Greenwood, the artist whose “Fighting Faeries” was featured on the cover of Scheherezade’s Bequest 13, has a talent for expressing the unworldly and transient nature of her subject. Describing herself as “a quixotic painter, illustrator, sculptor and seamstress”, she engages with paint and pencil, with wood and fabric, and with her own dreaming self to create a range of work that is both whimsical and strangely eerie. She described “Fighting Faeries” as a picture about “fighting your inner daemons, being lost amongst one’s own obsessions and ensuing madness; a basis for many Folk and Fairy tales.” Fairy tales and myth inform much of her work, as can be seen in the painting “Shoggoth” and the natural media sculpture “Draco”. We wanted to dig a little deeper into Kirsty’s dreamscapes, so CdF co-​​editor Virginia M. Mohlere spoke with Kirsty about her influences and inspirations.

Virginia: You described the image we used for Scheherezade’s Bequest 13 as different layers — photos and drawings, and your CV mentions your interest in “visual misunderstanding” and “ocular strangeness.” Where does this interest spring from? Are you a fan of optical illusions, or does “ocular strangeness” mean something entirely different to you? Does the “visual misunderstanding” in your art spring from your experience of seeing the world?

Study of a Gug II © 2001

Study of a Gug II © 2001

Kirsty: My interest in visual misunderstanding comes from an addiction to dreams and nightmares/dreaming and having nightmares! During the night I am the main character in many strange and often horrific moving pictures, which are based on frequent glimpses of unreality, by which I mean that I feel confused or disorientated by everyday scenes; I see things that ‘aren’t there’ or misunderstand visual references that others seem to instantly get — image dyslexia or something! I’ve learnt to enjoy these ocular strangenesses, and use them as reference points for work. I believe it’s why I have such a strong affinity for myth, folklore, fantasy tales and stories, and why I like to produce illustrations for such.

I also love non-fiction, especially biographical writing — it’s reassuring that other people aren’t so different. I like to layer different media in my art, it produces images which are open to the dynamism of serendipity and halts the limits we often put on ourselves to make the thing we have in our ‘mind’s eye,’ which can often be repetitive or stylistic.     

So I find mixing things up makes it easier to create something fresh and original.

V: How many times have you sung “Sweet Child of Mine” at karaoke?

K: Ha Ha, brilliant! Not ever, but I sang “Paradise City” with my best friend Laura, at the Metro Center karaoke many years ago… she was much better than me! I’m quite shy, so that and singing Free’s “Alright now” are the only times I’ve ever done karaoke… plus I have an awful voice.

V: You work in lots of media, and even within a medium, your styles really vary. I was interested by the paintings on your website, and that some are totally abstract, some are pretty psychedelic. It’s almost like your fantasy paintings are the most “realistic.” Is that a conscious decision/statement, or just how the work comes out?

Room of Roots © 1999

Room of Roots © 1999

“..It was certainly a room of roots. Not of a few simple, seperate formations, but of a thousand branching, writhing, coiling, intertwining, diverging, converging, interlacing limbs whose origin even Steerpike’s quick eyes were unable for some time to discover.” Titus Groan, Mervyn Peake.

K: I suppose it’s partly conscious, but mostly because I want to try new mediums and techniques in order to be proficient in as many as possible. It has at times been dependent on what I have to hand; through a lack of funds or the need to get something down before the muse flits!

I think I have so many styles because I’m inspired by countless things, whether the medium itself, Art, other Artists, music, literature, environment or dreams/nightmares, etc. To make fantasy believable (or more acceptable) it has to be based in reality, it has to be directly identifiable — then show its difference.

V: By moving among painting, drawing, sculpture, and textiles, do you teach yourself new techniques or seek out mentors? Do you find that the media are more a way to stave off artistic boredom, or do they feed one another?

Thomas Perez © 2010

Thomas Perez © 2010

K: I spent four years at college studying Art and Design and learnt a lot, but I generally teach myself new techniques. I learnt to sew from my brilliantly practical Mum, who used to make many of her own clothes. My Dad is a very gifted artist, who taught me to draw, paint and appreciate Art.

I particularly love drawing and mixing it with photography. I think they complement each other well; I can blend the styles to suit what I’m trying to achieve. Because I’m often inspired by disjointed views and weird feelings, it’s easier to recreate those by mixing mediums. It’s not necessarily to stave off artistic boredom, more a need to be original and non-repetitive. Yes the media often feed one another!

V: Erzebet and I are both CRAZY about your clothing. Is all of the fabric vintage, or do you manipulate the textiles? (I immediately assumed that you designed the fabrics yourself, until I read the “about” page.) Is sewing yet another branch of your art or a “brain rest”?

Green Poppy Clothing

K: Thank you! Most of the fabrics I use for clothing are vintage/second hand or from charity shops. I love old clothing and past fashions. At college I made several ‘garments’ using sculptural techniques, recycled materials and vintage apparel: a willow twig corset, feather corset, vintage fabrics patchwork, bone and old metal head wear to mention a few.

For me, sewing has sprung from a loathing of wearing clothing I know anyone else may own; its pure vanity really, so I sew in order to have outfits that are unique and made to fit. It used to be cheaper too, to buy old clothing/cloth and revamp it, not so much anymore with the current vintage trends.

Often wearing the clothing I’d made, people would want to know where I got it, and many a time their response would be “will you make me one?” or “you should make them to sell”, so I decided to set up my own clothing label (Green Poppy) to make one offs and very limited runs of attire using vintage or hard to find fabrics, cut from old patterns adapted to modern tastes. It certainly does give me a brain rest as you put it, though it hurts my back, and not something I feel I could do full time.

V: Describe a just-right day.

K: Well, if I had my way, this would happen:

A blustery autumn day, I’d get up late (11am-ish, because the later I sleep, the better dreams I have)… eat my weight in Marmite on toast and Yorkshire Tea for breakfast… open my emails to find a message from a book publishing house (The Folio Society would be my 1st choice) with a commission to illustrate Don Quixote, or Gormenghast (my favorite novels)… go for a long walk with my boyfriend, over the moors I grew up on… happen upon a pub, sitting with a pint in front of its roaring open fire, Patti Smith would walk in, sit down for a chat, discover my art, love it and commission something for her next novel or album cover (this would be heaven), home for a tea of chip butties, then to work through the night on those dream commissions…!  

(A girl can dream…)

 Posted by at 2:15 pm

Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale – review

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Dec 152011
 

Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale
By Carolyn Turgeon, 2011
Reviewed by Valentina Cano

MermaidA retelling of the classic “Little Mermaid” tale, this is an interesting, even darker take on the story.

The atmosphere is fantastic, Nordic and stark, a perfect setting for an ocean myth to take hold. There is a nice contrast between the lushness of the ocean kingdom where Lenia, the mermaid, lives. This place is full of colors and life, while the convent where Margrethe is hiding, or even the castle she later travels to, is bare and almost colorless. It makes for an interesting work.

The characters themselves are well crafted, and very different from the idea we might have acquired from the original tale. Lenia is complex character, not necessarily an easy one to love at first, but there is a power to her, a strength that earns her our respect if not our whole-hearted love. By the last page, we are cheering for her, breathless to see her end up safely where she needs to be. Margrethe is less complex, her actions clearer, but nonetheless important. Although we do find ourselves hoping for Lenia to be the victor, we also root paradoxically for Margrethe to have her happy-ever-after.

This is a wonderful story shaped into a wonderful, fresh novel. It is not for the younger teens, though, since there are some sexual moments, but for the older young adults and for adult themselves, it is a fabulous, magical book.

 Posted by at 2:14 pm

Salt by Joanna Hoyt

 Issue 14 (December 2011)  Comments Off on Salt by Joanna Hoyt
Dec 152011
 
Scheherezade's Bequest 14

Salt
by Joanna Hoyt

I.

This is how it was in the beginning, though they kept it se-cret even from me. This is the tale my mother never told me:

The fire roared. The thick curtains shut out wind and rain. The king and queen sat side by side, shivering, not touching, not speaking, staring at the door.

The old woman entered along with a gust of wind.

“Where is the child?”

“Here.”

Even by firelight the birthmark covering the baby’s left cheek and eye was dark and vivid.

“You see,” the king said heavily. “You know what they’ll say. To have a third daughter and no son is bad enough; but to have a daughter who’s witchmarked—they’ll talk of a curse. And some will do more than talk.”

“Might it not fade?” the queen asked. The old woman stared into the shadows.

“No, it will darken as she grows. She’ll have her health, though, and strength; her shoulders will be broader than her fa-ther’s. She’ll be short and broad and strong and dark.”

“Then they’ll think her a changeling, or think–”

“She’s yours,” the queen said sharply.

“I don’t doubt you, love. They may.”

The old woman turned, looked the king in the eyes. “What would you have me do?”

“Change her.”

“Take her away and steal some pretty child to lay in your cradle?”

“No. No, I mean change her. Make her what she must be.”

“I can’t change what she is. I can change what she seems, but the price will be high.”

“I will pay whatever you ask.”

“I will take nothing from you. But to be one thing and seem another, that always costs dearly. Your daughter will pay the worst of the price, but you’ll pay too, both of you.”

The queen raised her head.

“Every king pays that price, and every queen, and every royal child.”

“She need not be a royal child. You’ve two daughters al-ready. Tell the court that the child died. Let me take her, let me raise her to be what she is.”

“And the tongues would wag at that, too. The captain of the guard already murmurs about a sick king and a sonless throne—and he has three sons, damn him. There mustn’t be anything else to strengthen his claim that I’m cursed.”

“Well,” the old woman said, “you chose. I’ll do what you ask now. Later the choice will be hers to make.”

II.

By the time I was old enough to know anything of it my fa-ther’s throne was safe enough, though he was not always well enough to sit on it. The harvests were good, which made folk less disposed to think of curses. The guard captain had been publicly disgraced as a bribe-taker. My father had lords who were loyal to him, either for love of him or for fear of each other. And he had his celebrated daughters.

People praised my older sisters for their skill with lan-guages, their music, their courtesy. People called me, beautiful as the morning of the world, called me the blessed child, the luck-bringer; and they brought me their griefs as though I truly could bestow good fortune or blessing. Under the cover of my sis-ters’ music, ladies sat down beside me and murmured of what they had lost, or what they had always longed for and never found; when I walked in the garden alone, maids and gardeners bowed low to me and then lifted their heads and poured out their sorrows and fears. Their loss was past my mending, sometimes past my under-standing. I was only a child. It was my helplessness as much as their grief that started me weeping. Behind my eyes the tears were wet, but as they rolled down my cheeks they hardened and fell into my lap as pearls. Those at least I could give to comfort my people.

Only my parents looked warily at the pearls I shed. I learned to avoid my father in the sick spells which came more and more often as I grew older. He was ever gentle to me in health, but in fever he shrank from me in fear.

My sisters envied my fine bones, my smooth fair skin that never perspired, the pearls that fell from my eyes. Once the eld-est scolded me until she wept. I touched her face and felt her tears, still liquid, on my hand; I put my hand to my mouth, tasted salt and envied her.

Salt was dear even for a king’s household; most went to pre-serve our meat for winter, leaving little for the table. But my sisters could taste salt as often as they cried.

III.

My mother found me sitting alone under the rose arbor with a lap full of pearls.

“What ails you, love?’ she asked. She did not touch me. “Your father’s ill, but he’ll not die of it; and the doctors might find something yet to bring back his full strength..”

“I wasn’t crying for him,” I said, ashamed that it was so. “For myself.”

She tried to look past her fear for him and see me. “Your sister said you’d quarreled.”

“It isn’t fair,” I answered. My voice was husky, not the high clear tone in which she had carefully trained me to speak.

“When was life ever? But how do you think your sister has wronged you, love?”

“It’s not her. I don’t know who wronged me. I don’t know why I have to be like a statue instead of a girl. The young men talk and laugh with my sisters, and they stare at me. You hug my sisters and you stare at me. All people want from me is my beauty, which I can’t give them, and luck, which I don’t even have, and my tears, and there’s no salt in my tears, they’re not real…”

“Daughter, you’re luckier than you know.”

“I’m sick of being beautiful. I’d rather look like the gar-dener’s daughter and have people treat me as though I was human.”

“Have I taught you so little? Do you think royalty is ever free to do what it would rather? We do what we must.” Indeed she had taught me how to flatter a stupid ambassador from an important country and how to be cool toward a friend who might otherwise be accused of being a favorite–though I had few real friends in any case.

“What we must? And is a statue, a lovely doll, all that a queen must be?”

“Is that what you think I am?”

“No,” I admitted. “What you act like, maybe, but not what you are. You lie, you all lie, and you all know you’re being lied to, and I guess you like it that way. But you always lie for a rea-son, and you’re real–you cry, you sweat. You choose to tell lies, but you’re not one.”

She jerked her head back as though I had hit her; then she turned and walked away in silence.

I jumped when the voice spoke behind me.

“You can choose, too,” it said. I turned and saw a bent old woman with a straight clear gaze.

“You were listening?”

“So I was. I knew it would come to this; I knew, whatever your parents thought.”

“What do you mean?’ I asked her. And she told me the story my mother never told.

I believed the story; believed, too, that I could choose. Looking into her eyes I saw my reflection—not the familiar face I loved and hated, but a broad rawboned face whose left side was overspread with a cloudlike mark the color of dried blood.

“She would weep salt,” I said.

“You will,” the woman answered.

IV.

How was I to choose? It was easy enough to resent what I had when I thought I could not change it. Now that I could… I paced in the rose garden, thinking, while the sun slid down the sky. At sunset the chamberlain called me to my father’s side.

“Is he…?”

“No, lady, he’s no worse. But no better, either. He says he’d best put all in order.”

My father sat propped against the head of his bed, with my mother and his doctor at his right hand and two of his most trusted lords at his left. My sisters stood straight and silent at the foot of the bed; their faces were very still, but there were salt tracks on their cheeks.

“My daughters. My dear daughters.” He swallowed, pushed himself straighter in the bed. “My heirs.”

I had thought the kingdom would go to my eldest sister, or more likely to the man she wed; I thought perhaps it was the lat-ter likelihood that kept her from deigning to wed any. But my daughters, my heirs, he had said. I was torn between the desire to be a queen, and the shame of thinking such a thing while my father was ill, and the fear that I would be made a queen and never be free to go away with the old woman and wear my true face.

“The kingdom.” He licked his lips. “I wanted to hold it safe for you. I did my best…with these friends..” He gestured toward the lords, but his eyes were on us. “But how long can I hold it, like this? You…you’re all healthy and fine and fair and clever. You’ll find men to help you hold your own, once it is your own. Tomorrow I’ll proclaim you my heirs. To take possession in a year’s time. But tonight…tonight I make the divisions. Tonight you must understand what each of you will get. There must be no bitterness over this tomorrow in the hall. You must stand to-gether to hold the land I give you. You understand?”

We understood. The kingdom’s threefold division was ancient, obvious and unequal. There was the City with its guild-halls and sculpture-gardens, its library and its great houses; its mistress would be a lady of note. There was the lowland with its fertile grainfields and orchards; its mistress would be a woman of wealth. And there was the hill-country with its wild forests and its herdsmen; its mistress would not be landless, but there wouldn’t be much more to say for her. For me, as I was youngest.

“I am content,” I said.

“Wait,” my father answered. “You don’t know yet what you’re to have. I don’t know yet. But I must choose tonight.” He looked at each of us in turn. I thought he might question us to see how well we understood the laws, or how well we understood which courtiers and nobles could be trusted, or how wisely we might marry. Instead he asked us, “Do you love me?”

“Yes,” we all said together.

“How much do you love me?” he asked. “Speak in turn, so I can hear you.”

I hardly heard what my sisters said. My heart thumped dully. I must not wound him, nor lie to him, nor destroy my chance—only I did not know which chance to take. When he turned to me I an-swered “I love you like salt.” Like salt, which I craved, which was alien to me. Like salt, which I might yet choose at the cost of everything else.

He understood. His face paled; his hands clenched. “Is that all you have to say?’

I began to understand. He had meant to divide the kingdom between us, no doubt, for the reasons he had given. But he had done it tonight because my mother had gone to him, because he wanted me to see how much I would lose if I chose what he had not chosen for me.

No tears fell from my eyes, but my skin itched terribly; I couldn’t help scratching. Great patches of rose-and-cream skin fell to the ground. It hurt, but I didn’t bleed; I had another skin underneath, thicker and coarser, slick with sweat. I could feel my bones shifting, shortening, thickening. My sisters stared at me. My mother screamed. I turned my face away from them and from the queen I might have been.

“Then let salt be your portion,” said my father’s ragged voice behind me. He began to speak with his lords about dividing the kingdom in two parts instead of three, about coming up with a story to cover my disappearance. My mother called one of her maids. I followed the maid and let her take my gown from me and give me a coarse gown and cloak that would have chafed my old soft skin. When my father’s steward brought me a pack full of salt I took it up on my shoulder. When he took me to the castle gate and told me to go, saying that my mother said I might find a haven on the north road, I went, not looking back.

V.

I walked a long way that night, alone and nearly unafraid, under the starlight in the dark of the moon. A King’s daughter must fear kidnap, and a lovely girl must fear lawless men, but I was neither. The strength of my legs and the easy swing of my arms pleased me. My mother had struggled to teach me to dance and to walk with small delicate steps as a lady must. Now I strode manlike through the City and into the narrow belt of orchards on the edge of the hill-country. My body was tired, but not unpleas-antly so; my heart was a dull ache; my stomach was empty.

At sunup a woman came out to milk her cows and I asked food in exchange for a handful of salt. She looked doubtfully at my face, and gladly at the contents of my pack; she gave me a filling breakfast and sent me on my way with a loaf of bread and a pocket-ful of apples.

“And give my greetings to the saltweller,” she said as I de-parted. “I hadn’t heard she’d taken an apprentice.”

“Nor has she, for all I know. Where does she live?’

The woman gave me directions, blessed me, smiled at me as I walked away. I did not know whether I was more glad or sorry that there was no longing in her eyes as she watched me leaving.

The road narrowed to a footpath as it climbed into the hill-country. The bones of the hills grew starker. I recognized the great rowan tree that the farm wife had described, and the little path worn through the weeds on my right hand. In the clearing I found a small cottage, an apple orchard, a brown goat, a dozen great white geese who ran at me with necks outstretched, and a bent old woman who called them off and watched me with clear eyes.

“You chose, goddaughter, ” she said.

“Did I?’

She looked at me more closely.

“Not yet. But you’ve lost what you had, for all that. Well, well. There’s time yet.” She looked into the shadows of the ever-greens. “Three years you’ll have. Three years to be both. While the moon shines you’ll wear your pretty skin again, and the rest of the time you’ll have your strong body. But you can’t keep both gifts forever. Three years, and then you’ll have to choose, and there’ll be no going back.”

VI.

The years passed quickly over me. I was glad of the strength of my arms as I carried jars from the brine spring to the boiling pans, as I tipped the mother liquor from one pan to another, packed the dried salt into boxes and carried them down to the vil-lages. I learned to hold my head high when folk looked on me with pity or contempt, to laugh gently and reassure those who made the sign against the evil eye, to smile and sit eye to eye with the children who ran from me at first. In time their fear wore off: I was no longer the witchmarked stranger but the saltweller’s ap-prentice, a strong, ugly, good-natured girl with a ready answer for anything and a strong back for any burden. Sometimes they told me their griefs, as the courtiers had done when I was a child. My hearing seemed to comfort them. And sometimes I could lend a hand with the harvest or keep an eye on the babes.

Such were my days. Every afternoon before dusk I returned to the old woman’s house. At the first touch of moonlight I felt my skin softening, my arms and legs extending, my waist and shoulders narrowing, and looking in the well (the fresh spring we drank from, not the brine spring), I saw the king’s daughter’s pale lovely face. Sometimes I wept for the beauty I had lost, and some-times for fear of losing the strength I had won. Sometimes I laughed to think of the two gifts I held, one of them always se-cret.

News came slowly up into the hill-country, but it came. First there was the rumor that the king’s youngest daughter, the blessed child, in grief at her father’s illness and in fear of unrest among the nobles, had taken a vow to live in solitude and pray for the health of King and kingdom. “And may none of the lord-folk work against her prayers!” the merchant who brought the word added. So I served my family as well by my absence as I might have done by staying. Later word came of the crowning of my sis-ters. There was little word of how they ruled, but the taxes rose slowly, and the land had peace.

One day in the full of the moon, late in my third year at the brine spring, we had our first guest: the son of the king whose lands lay beyond my eldest sister’s eastern border. That day I had stayed to tend the brine-pans while my godmother went to meet the traders in the village. She shamed the prince into carrying her heavy trade-goods back. I came around the cottage with a bas-ket full of goose eggs and there he was, smiling like the sun. My godmother hurried into the house, pausing in the doorway to cau-tion the two of us to behave ourselves. He gaped; then he recov-ered himself, murmured some unmeaning gallantry, asked me about the work of the spring, never looking at my face. I thought how differently he would look and speak if he saw me by moonlight. My godmother came back out, gave me a look that was not without pity and called him into the house. I fled to the brine spring. When I came back he was gone. That night I sat beside the well from sunset until dawn and returned with my hands full of pearls.

VII.

I did not answer when my godmother asked if I wished to wear my beauty by sunlight again. I tried not to listen when she re-minded me that my three years were nearly through. I worked my-self to exhaustion during the days, and I sat by the well while the moonlight lasted. The moon waned, vanished, waxed again. When it was full again, and I had only two weeks left for choos-ing, I stood staring at my face in the well and at the pearls in the grass around my feet, and I heard a branch crack in the oak above my head. I stared up at the king’s son. He dropped to stand by me. I could see his face clearly in the moonlight, hand-some and gentle, longing; and I knew what he wanted from me, and I could give it. And how could I not want to give it? I held my hands out to him, and he took them, and then he stooped to kiss me. The moon rang like a bell.

He drew his head back and said “In tales it’s the maiden’s kiss that turns the monster to a handsome man; but you broke free of the spell yourself, and all I have to do is kiss you in cele-bration.”

“You know, then? You know I was the woman you saw before—the one with the mark.”

“No,” he answered, smiling. “You only looked like that woman while the spell was on you. This is who you are.”

“No. That was who I am. This is the spell.”

He frowned. “That’s what the beldame said, but not what your parents told me when I brought them the beldame’s message and the pearl.’

“They lied, then. They thought they had to, I suppose. But…How are they now? I haven’t gone beyond the village these three years.”

“Your mother’s well. Your father ails, but he lives. They have joy of their daughters, I think…I mean, of your sisters. They…they said that they were dismayed by your enchantment and they drove you away, and later they were terribly sorry, but they didn’t know where to find you. They hoped that you would come to them again before your wedding.”

“My wedding?’

“Our wedding,” he said, smiling. “If you’ll have me.” Plainly he hadn’t much doubt. Why should he? He was handsome, kind (for he had carried my godmother’s load), rich and royal. And marrying him would allow me to be a queen without threatening my sisters’ inheritance.

“And you’d have an enchanted queen?”

“I would have you,’ he said, and my blood ran hot in me. “And—whatever your life has been here, you were raised a lady, it will come back to you.”

An owl called in the wood behind me. I turned and saw, not the owl, but the pattern of my life as it would be there; the graceful compliments, the polite evasions, my saltless tears. And he—would he be satisfied once he really knew me? And who would know me as the farmers knew me? Who would tease me, or hug me, or ask me to bring in another load of firewood? And would he be able to bear it if I was not satisfied with him?

I turned back. “If you would have me,” I said, “you’ll have to have me as I truly am. As I look by day, not as I look now.”

“But even the beldame said…”

“Yes, I could change back—or I could have, once. I can’t now. I’ve chosen.”

I saw the hurt in his eyes, and the pearl tears rolled down my cheeks; and once again I felt my soft skin peeling away, my bones thickening, and I knew that he saw my true face in the moon-light. He recoiled; he couldn’t help it.

I held a handful of pearls out to him. “Here,” I said. “Take these for yourself. And a basket of salt for my father’s table. Tell them where to find me, if ever they want to. Give them my love. And you—you, go find someone you can love. It won’t be hard. My blessing goes with you.”

“How can it?’ he asked.

“Because you showed me what I chose.” I said. “You set me free.”

He blinked at me, bowed low and turned away. I walked back to my house, to my work.

Years later in the marketplace I heard a minstrel sing of the King’s fair and virtuous daughter who wept pearls, who was the joy of her kingdom until her father banished her for failing to flat-ter him and a jealous enemy cast a spell of ugliness on her, which endured until another King’s son found her in her exile and saw her true and lovely face by moonlight.

The minstrel put his lute aside.

“That’s never the ending!” called a farmer in the crowd.

“Well, I had the tale from a strange fellow who broke it off there. But who can doubt the ending? He broke the spell on her, and they wed, and they live in bliss until the sun shrivels.”

I laughed until the salt tears streaked my face.


Joanna Hoyt lives on a Catholic Worker farm in upstate NY with her mother and brother and various guests, goats and chickens. She also has stories published by Mindflights and Daily Science Fiction.

 Posted by at 2:14 pm

The Silence of Trees – review

 Featured, Reviews  Comments Off on The Silence of Trees – review
Dec 152011
 

The Silence of Trees
By Valya Dudycz Lupescu, 2010
Reviewed by Donna Quattrone

“I eagerly went onto the unknown, looking for magic, for mystery, for adventure. But sometimes magic finds you. Sometimes it comes in the least likely of forms: in a small black river rock, a deck of hand-painted cards, a sprig of purple herb, or an envelope from home…”

The Silence of TreesFairy tales are fantastical journeys; full of treacherous twists and turns, shadowed forests, unlikely helpers and often unlooked for opportunities. There is always magic of course, and usually love as well.

The Silence of Trees is a tale that contains all of those things. Often billed as historical fiction, the story revolves around a Ukrainian woman named Nadya who, as a girl, sets out into the woods against her mother’s wishes to have her fortune told. The music that entices her to the gypsy camp is as mysterious as the destiny that is described for her there and, from that night forward, Nadya’s life is forever changed.

The brunt of The Silence of Trees is told from the perspective of the immigrant grandmother Nadya has become. She looks back upon her experiences and the choices she has made from the security of her family home in Chicago, a dwelling where cultural traditions still reign, myriad secrets abound and ghosts that are far from silent linger on.

Nadya’s anecdotes bring history to life and also serve to chronicle her attempts to come to terms with her past, a quest that is fundamentally necessary for both herself and her family. The move to integrate the old and the new into her current life is presented in a way that is utterly personal and universal all at once, cumulating in a tale that is poignantly engaging.

The Silence of Trees is Valya Dudycz Lupescu’s first novel, and it clearly exemplifies the author’s sheer joy in spinning tales. Her writing style is eloquent and wonderfully atmospheric; it weaves a web that draws the reader in, right from the beginning of the book. The prose echoes with honest emotion viewed through the lens of wisdom and then competently transposed in the voice of one who readily acknowledges the impact that stories can have upon our lives.

The narrative is richly informed by folklore and deeply imbued with fairy tales and the stuff they are made of. House spirits are appeased and old women are honored, even meals are rife with meaningful rituals. In The Silence of Trees, traditional tales are more than simple gifts handed down from from one generation to the other; they become the breadcrumbs that can lead one home. They are utilized not just to entertain, but also to illuminate the path to transformation and, perhaps most importantly, to remind us of the possibility of a happily ever after.

 Posted by at 2:14 pm

Skellig – review

 Reviews  Comments Off on Skellig – review
Dec 152011
 

Skellig
By David Almond, 1998
Reviewed by Virginia M. Mohlere

SkelligHere are the bones of David Almond’s Skellig:

• Michael’s family recently moved into a ramshackle house with a crumbling garage
• Michael’s infant sister is desperately ill
• Michael and his parents are trying to keep up their spirits and routine
• Mina, the girl across the street, is a home-schooler with a passion for birds, William Blake, and secrets
• There is a being in the garage who seems to have wings

I read this book in the Cleveland International Airport and on a flight from Cleveland to Houston. In the middle of the terminal noise, the plane engines’ shriek, the book made a bubble of quiet that I could inhabit. Skellig is about uncertainty, about fear and hope, without one bit of hyperbole.

Do you know any toddlers? I love people that age, as they realize that they are separate beings with a small measure of control over their environment. Part of that process includes feeling things for which they as-yet have no language, and you can watch them get buffeted by their own rogue waves of unnameable emotion that busts out of them all at once.

Michael is a little like that, in that he is a young boy (I’m getting in the 10-12 range) with a fear he can’t find the words for underlying the possibility that his new baby sister might die. The actions that he takes are beautiful illuminations of grief: creeping into her room at night to lay his hand on her back, playing poorly on the soccer field, fighting with his friends.

He retreats and creates his own bubble, consisting of the crumbling house, the strange girl Mina, and Skellig, the thing in the garage. Mina has her own secrets — a dead father, a boarded-up house — but she anchors Michael into the place of his new home, the birds that surround them, and an idea of poetry.

Michael doesn’t waste time brooding over things. Like many boys his age, he is mostly action. Unable to take action to help his sister, he helps Skellig even when it protests, because he must do something to help. That stubbornness becomes a gift that lifts Michael up from his own fear and in so doing lifts those around him.

 Posted by at 2:14 pm

Bradie Law and the Grumpenmire by John Patrick Pazdziora

 Issue 14 (December 2011)  Comments Off on Bradie Law and the Grumpenmire by John Patrick Pazdziora
Dec 152011
 
Scheherezade's Bequest 14

Bradie Law and the Grumpenmire
by John Patrick Pazdziora

This happened so long ago, it might have happened somewhere else. It happened on a farm just over the hill on the crooked path from the village. But that’s not news to anyone, because everyone knew something would happen someday to Bradie Law. He’d come to a bad end, they’d say, sure and certain.

If ever there was a worthless fellow, he wasn’t half so worthless as Bradie Law. If ever a ploughman was idle, he wasn’t half so idle as Bradie Law. And if ever a fishwife were tiresome, she wasn’t even a third as tiresome as no-good Bradie Law.

On market days, you couldn’t hardly sneeze for fear Bradie Law would pop up behind you, asking about your health, whether you needed a handkerchief, and wouldn’t you want to buy this bottle of Sneeze Remedy he’d brewed?

That was all Bradie Law was good for. He spent his days fussing with bottles and chemicals and herbs and incantations, blowing things up and trying to make something — trying to make anything — that would make his fortune. Bradie Law had a dream, and made no secret of it. He would someday be so rich that he would never need to work again.

The villagers agreed he would come to a bad end.

On a week with three Tuesdays, Bradie Law got up on Tuesday morning and swung down the crooked lane to the village. It was such a rare thing even then for a week to have three Tuesdays that the burgomaster had announced a special Tuesday Market Festival to honour the occasion.

“Why, here it is and this is it,” thought Bradie Law. “If I’m not a rich man by the third Tuesday, I’ll come to a bad end sure enough.” So off he went with a bag full of tonic for shakes and mallender. It smelled like eggs, he reasoned, so it must be good.

Now, no one told Bradie Law because no one remembered, but there’s nothing so unlucky as a week with three Tuesdays. The wall between worlds grows thin. Things slip through the cracks, and shadows creep by unnoticed.

Bradie Law didn’t know. He didn’t notice the raven screaming from his chimney pot, or the one-eyed black cat that darted across his path. But he noticed, sure as thinking, when he came round the bend and met the Grumpenmire.

It sat on a stone and leered at him. “Hallo, hideous,” it said.

Bradie Law thought this was a bit much from a Grumpenmire. “Hallo yourself, prune-head.”

“What’s in the bag, skeleton nose?” said the Grumpenmire.

“It’s your old mum, an’t it?” said Bradie Law.

“No, it an’t,” said the Grumpenmire. “I ate me old mum years ago.” It waved its fingers and shouted, “Smatterwrack!

Bradie Law’s bag began to shiver and shake. The bottles inside rattled together, and squeaked, “Law’s Tonic for Shakes and Mallender! Law’s Tonic for Shakes and Mallender!”

“Well, badness me.” The Grumpenmire grinned evilly. “That sounds like a bad end if ever I heard one.”

“No it ain’t,” said Bradie Law. “It’s me fortune, that’s what it is. I’ll be getting a bag of gold for this lot, you’ll see.”

“A bag of gold, eh? Well, well. I think not. Can I just say a poem for the love of me foul old mum?”

“What?” said Bradie Law.

The Grumpenmire cracked its knuckles three times, and muttered,

“In the bag go
Smatterwrack
shake and shudder,
headstone crack.”

Bradie Law shivered. “Well, thanks very much and all, but I’ve got to get to market.”

“Oh, it’s to market you’re going,” said the Grumpenmire. “But it ain’t gold you’ll come back with.”

Bradie Law hurried down the road to get away from the horrible sound of the Grumpenmire’s horrifying cackle. As he climbed up over the hill, he shivered and shook, chattering his teeth even though it was midsummer. He thought this odd, but didn’t think to look in his bag.

The village square was decked for a festival, with brightly coloured booths and gaudy decorations. Even the monument to the village founder, Sir Rolford Graves, was wrapped in wreaths and garland. People were singing and dancing, vending wares and buying them, eating and drinking, and having a grand old time.

Bradie Law swung into town with a skip and a dance, and perched on the monument to the long late Sir Graves. “Now then!” he shouted. “Have you got a shake? Have you got a shiver? Have you got a shudder in your side? Mallenders got you down? Then step up, friends, step right up. Law’s Tonic for Shakes and Mallenders is what you need! Finest scientifical chemications bring back that spring in your ear and the song in your eye. A spoonful here, a spoonful there, and the ladies will beat you away with sticks!”

A crowd had gathered for a laugh. “What’s it this time, Bradie?” shouted someone. “Pickled cat guts?”

“Dog sick?”

“Old Mother Shrewsbury’s piccalilli?”

“You cads!” shouted Bradie Law above the laughter. “Finest scientifical research has proven that a spoonful here and there of Law’s Tonic will cure the worst mallenders known to medical types.”

The burgomaster shouldered his way through the crowd, resplendent in robes and jewels. He waggled his head and laughed, moustache billowing. “You’ve not got a cure for anything Bradie! I’d stake a guinea your tonic is just trouble!”

“I’d stake my hat it’ll cure shakes and mallenders,” said Bradie Law recklessly. “Boundless energy in five minutes. In fact, I take it myself every day. Watch!” Amid raucous laughter, he pulled a bottle of tonic out of the bag.

It was frozen solid.

Bradie Law gaped, looked at the bag. Steam curled off its coating of frost. Long tendrils of ice crept round the monument. He dropped the tonic, shattering the bottle. “Run, everybody run!” He jumped off the monument, ran into the crowd. “Something’s going to happen!”

Everyone was still laughing, jostling him good-naturedly. Then the sky went dark as night. It began to snow, deep drifts swirling in a deathly gale. The monument shuddered. Ice frosted and cracked round it. The very stones of the marketplace trembled. With a noise like grinding hinges, the monument broke, opening a gaping hole into nowhere.

Out of nowhere echoed a long rising moan. Something glowed terribly blue. A translucent old man hopped out of the monument, swinging a sword cane. “Curses! Trespassers and varlets! Where’s the Grey Duke and his vengeful army with iron shoes as thin as a whisper, eh? Where’s me noble steed, what?” He glared about severely. “Who’s the ruddy sorcerer mucking about with me eternal rest, what, what? Out with you!”

The villagers didn’t answer, or even hear, as they were too busy screaming around the marketplace and back to their homes, knocking over booths and destroying decorations. Bradie Law hid under an overturned apple cart.

The spectral old man noticed the bag of tonic. He prodded it savagely with his sword cane.

“Peddlars,” he snorted. “Miserable hawkers, eh? Bah!” He ground the bag derisively beneath his heel. “I’m going back to bed.” He climbed back into nowhere, pulled the monument upright behind him with a snap.

Bradie Law scrambled to grab his bag. He turned to rush out of the village and nearly collided with the burgomaster.

“Well, Bradie.” The burgomaster waved his hand toward the wreckage of the marketplace. “Trouble. I think you’d agree?” He snatched the hat off Bradie Law’s head. “You’ll come to a bad end, Bradie Law, sure and certain.”

The next morning, Bradie Law woke with a terrible headache that did nothing to help him forget the day before. He noticed with some disgust that, apparently while trying to forget, he’d botched the labels he’d been writing. But he shoved the re-labelled bottles into his bag and set out. A raven perched on the chimney worried him. A one-eyed black cat darting across his path worried him further.

The Grumpenmire sat on the rock as before, picking feathers out of his teeth. “Hallo, horrid.”

Bradie Law winced. “Hallo yourself, muck-nose.”

“What’s in the bag, pear-face?”

“Four little kittens I’ve been roasting on the fire,” said Bradie Law wearily.

“If I didn’t know you were lying, I’d begin to think we might get on quite well.” The Grumpenmire waved its fingers. “Smatterwrack!

The bag began to shiver and shake. The bottles clinked together, and squeaked, “Law’s Enchantum Magicalllly Cure Alls! Scribble Smudge! Blot!”

“The pen leaked,” said Braidie Law defensively.

“Well, badness me,” said the Grumpenmire. “You haven’t been brewing unlicensed potions have you? Naughty, naughty!”

“Not brewing nothing,” said Bradie Law. “This is genuine ghost-trod tonic, it is. Authentic spirits. I’ll come back with a bag of gold.”

The Grumpenmire cackled. “Trying to get rich off your ghostly friend, eh? I think not. How’d you like to get a raven’s view of things? Get a little undead wisdom.”

“No thanks,” said Braidie Law.

“Oh, it’s no trouble!” The Grumpenmire smirked. “It can be my bad deed for the day.” It cracked its knuckles three times, and muttered,

“In the bag go
Smatterwrack
load of feathers
break his back!”

Bradie Law was already running up the hill as fast as he could run. The Grumpenmire watched him go, and whistled a revolting tune. The one-eyed black cat rubbed round its knees.

When Bradie Law reached the top of the hill, he was running so fast he didn’t even think to stop. The ground swept away beneath him as if his feet were hardly touching it. He clattered into the village. The villagers had redecorated everything. But the festive air was dampened, partly by large drifts of snow still melting here and there. A high fence wrapped round the monument now. The burgomaster was nailing up a sign that read, “KEEP OFF.”

Bradie Law was used to people staring at him in horror when he entered the village, so he didn’t think anything of it. “Morning, folks!” he shouted as he ran. “Happy Tuesday Two, everyone! Step right this way to see a wonder of the ancient world, enchanted tonic touched by ghosties, guaranteed to magically cure all your magical mallenders!”

He stopped for the very good reason that no one was listening. They were just staring at him. And, he realized with sickening dread, they were staring up.

He looked down. The ground floated happily some distance below. The bag at his back ballooned gently, swaying here and there in the wind. He was promptly sick. The crowd of villagers scattered.

“Bradie Law!” bawled the burgomaster. “Come out of the sky this instant!”

“Proves my point!” shouted Bradie Law. “How can mallenders get you down when you’re already up? This stuff is magic!”

“Magic be bothered and be blowed!” bellowed the burgomaster. “Come down!”

Bradie Law perched on top of the monument. “Anyone for six coppers a bottle? Six coppers only!”

“Bradie Law!” said the burgomaster. “I’ll stake six gold coins you won’t get half a copper for your wretched tonic.”

“And I’ll stake my coat I’ll get a bag of gold.”

The burgomaster laughed. “A bag of gold? You can’t even get down.” He walked away into the crowd. The crowd started laughing, and walked back to the booths and the festivals. Bradie Law clung miserably to the top of the monument. There didn’t seem much else to do.

He’d spent the morning watching the festivities below. Now that he was a safe distance away, the villagers seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely. Occasionally someone glared at him in relief, but that was all. He could nearly taste the sizzle of hot butter and sugar, the crisp sweetness of midsummer ale. He heard the singing and saw the dancing, and watched the merchants do brisk trade, the clink and clatter of gold dancing round the market.

He wondered how he could get down.

The wind tugged at the bag, still floating beside him. Bradie Law looked at it. It seemed to be straining to fly again. Well, that would be absurd, he told himself. All sorts of nasty things could happen — wind, rain, fire, losing one’s way —

He jumped.

The villagers screamed as Bradie Law swooped overhead, hanging from his bag and laughing wildly. He spun the bag in circles. The wind was in his hair and in his face. Higher and higher he went until the village was a dwindling blot of colour on the wide world below.

Then he clung to the bag and dove, rushing down round the monument and away out over the crooked path through the endless hills. He snagged his feet carefully on the thatch of his cottage, and sat beside the chimney pot.

He carefully opened the bag the tiniest bit. A handful of sleek, black feathers burst out. He sneezed, gagged, and sneezed again. The feathers floated away.

Bradie Law climbed down from the roof with the bag of raven feathers, feeling thoughtful. The burgomaster was waiting at the cottage door. Bradie Law sighed, handed him his jacket.

The burgomaster folded it up, chuckling. “Bradie Law, Bradie Law. You’ll come to a bad end, sure and certain.”

The next day was Tuesday. Bradie Law swung along the path with the bag of feathers under his arm, jumping over the one-eyed black cat as it scuttled past. The Grumpenmire was waiting for him.

“Hallo, stupid-head.” It thumbed its nose at him. “Had a nice flight?”

“Wonderful, thanks,” said Bradie Law. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get a bag of gold.”

“Oho!” sneered the Grumpenmire. “Badness me! Earth got you down? Put a feather in your shoe! Law’s Do-it-at-Home Seven League Boots! Coveted by kings and countrymen! I think not.”

Bradie Law stared at the Grumpenmire in horror. “How did you know what I was thinking?”

“Your old mum told me.” The Grumpenmire caught a passing sparrow in its teeth. “Funny things, feathers. Amazing how they can make — make people — make — a — ah-CHOO!” It rubbed his nose, grinned viciously. “The Seven League Boots to Make You Sneeze, eh?” It cracked its knuckles and muttered,

“In the bag go
Smatterwrack,
snoff and sneezle
wheeze and hack.”

Bradie Law sprinted up the hill. As he reached the hilltop, he felt the bag grow heavier. He opened the bag in horror. The feathers were gone. The bag was full of fine black dust. He poked it dismally. A cloud of it whiffed round him. He sneezed and sneezed till he couldn’t see from sneezing.

Furious, eyes streaming, he shook his fist at the Grumpenmire. “I’ll still come home with a bag of gold!”

“Ha, haaa!” called the Grumpenmire.

Bradie Law trudged down to the village, his bag over his shoulder. An idea grew in his mind — impossible, really — absurd — but, he thought, wasn’t that the point? As he reached the village, he started to shout.

“Now then, now then! Right this way, boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen! Law’s Original Guaranteed Sneezes! Sneezes for sale, sneezes for sale! Buy them in bunches or purchase in pairs! Sneezes for sale, sneezes for sale! Who’ll buy from me bag of sneezes?”

A crowd began to form in spite of itself. Dancers stopped dancing and singers stopped singing. Vendors stopped vending and buyers stopped buying. Everyone started to follow Bradie Law through the village, pointing and laughing, hooting and catcalling. Dogs and children ran yapping alongside. By the time Bradie Law reached the monument, the whole village was at his heels.

He leapt onto the fence beside the sign that said KEEP OFF. “Sneezes for sale!” he called. “Who’ll buy from my bag of sneezes?”

Everyone laughed and shouted, but no one offered to buy anything. The burgomaster shouldered his way to the crowd. “Bradie Law, you harebrained fool! Get off of that this instant!”

“I’m selling sneezes, burgomaster,” said Bradie Law. “Would you care for a dozen or so?”

The burgomaster laughed till his face was twice as red. “Sneezes? Sneezes? You can’t sell sneezes in a bag!”

Bradie Law held up his bag. “I have here a bag of sneezes. I’ll stake my cottage that Law’s Original Guaranteed Sneeze will be the finest sneeze you’ve ever sneezed.”

The burgomaster guffawed. “You’ll come to a bad end, Bradie Law, I’ve always said so, sure and certain. So I’ll stake a hundred gold pieces to say you don’t have any sneezes in your bag, Bradie Law.” He turned gleefully to the crowd. “Anyone else care to say he don’t have a sneeze in the bag?”

Everyone did. The burgomaster jotted notes and sums, chortling, as people called out copper and silver and goods and gold. He turned back to Bradie Law, still laughing. “Are you ready to leave town, Bradie Law?”

“I’m ready,” said Bradie Law, “to show you my bag of sneezes.”

He shook the bag of dust over the crowd.

Everyone sneezed. The burgomaster sneezed. The vendors sneezed and the buyers sneezed. The children sneezed and the dogs sneezed. The dancers sneezed and the singers sneezed. They sneezed till they couldn’t sneeze for sneezing. The sneezing was so strong that a scientist who was looking for earthquakes on the other side of the world suddenly found one.

The dust settled. The sneezing stopped. The villagers stared at each other glumly. Bradie Law sat on the fence and whistled.

Bradie Law could hardly drag his bag down the crooked path, it was so full of gold. He saw the Grumpenmire waiting on the stone. “Hey beautiful!” he shouted. “Happy Tuesday! Thanks for the bag of gold!”

The Grumpenmire gibbered. “Gold? Thanks?

Bradie Law pulled out a handful of coins and threw them at the Grumpenmire. “Keep this! My thanks for your help and kindness!”

“Help?” spluttered the Grumpenmire. “Kindness! Smatterwrack! Gah!”

It burst in a cloud of putrid smoke. Bradie Law never saw it again.

Bradie Law kicked the one-eyed black cat, threw a stone at the raven, and went home a rich man. But he died of happiness a hundred years later, so the villagers agreed he came to a bad end anyway.


John Patrick Pazdziora (PGDip, Belfast Bible College) is a doctoral candidate at the University of St Andrews, and a freelance writer and editor. His poetry and fiction have been featured in New Fairy Tales, Enchanted Conversation, and Scheherazade’s Bequest. His articles have appeared in various academic publications, including Anti-Tales: The Uses of Disenchantment (Cambridge Scholars, 2011) and Harry Potter for Nerds: Essays for Lit Geeks, Academics, and Fans (Unlocking, 2012). He lives in Scotland with his wife and daughter.

 Posted by at 2:13 pm

Little Ginger Bread Man by Jamie Wasserman

 Issue 14 (December 2011)  Comments Off on Little Ginger Bread Man by Jamie Wasserman
Dec 152011
 

Scheherezade's Bequest 14

Little Ginger Bread Man
by Jamie Wasserman

Your father travels all the way
from Boston just to see you
on your birthday. Your mother
tells you, “Be grateful.”

The old man pounded the dough, touched
his fingers around the edges.
The old woman kept watch
at the oven, sniffing the gas,
rubbing her empty stomach.

He brings tightly wrapped
presents and a silver dollar that he slips
into your hand like a golden key.
He winks at you, musses your hair,
says “We’ll play later.”

Before he was your dessert, your
after-dinner mint, remember
he was once unfinished and too hot
to hold on your tongue. You fumbled
with him in your hands, waited
for him to cool, to give up
this fantastic heat.

Your mother makes you wear
a shirt for dinner two sizes too big,
says you’ll grow into it. She tightens
your tie, tells you to hold still,
stop crying.

The old couple decorated him
with licorice and icing and peppermint
and he was their tiara, their sweet
little victory, but before they could
show him off to the neighbors
or bite him in two, he ran
straight out the open door.

You poke your food, ask to go
to bed early. Your mother says
you’re selfish, you never appreciate
anything. Your father calms her,
says you deserve a rest, smiles.
You feel betrayed, misled,
like you jumped down
the wrong rabbit hole.

“I ran from the woman,
I ran from the man.
I’ll run from you, see if I can.”

You pretend to be asleep
when he comes into the room.
He laughs, calls you sleeping beauty,
Says you could nap through anything.

Little Ginger Bread Man,
motionless, you never forget
the old man’s hands fingering the dough,
tearing the edges. You wait
for him to look away.

Even after he leaves, you don’t move.
You lay there motionless
as if under glass.

“You can’t catch me,
I’m the gingerbread man.”


Jamie Wasserman‘s poetry has appeared in multiple volumes of the Rhysling Anthology, received numerous honorable mentions from the Year’s Best Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, and was nominated for a Pushcart. His first novel Blood and Sunlight: A Maryland Vampire Story was released in August 2010 by Penumbra Publishing and he is an active member of the Horror Writer’s Association.

 Posted by at 2:12 pm
Dec 152011
 
Scheherezade's Bequest 14

An Ifrit in San Francisco
by Andrea Blythe

One day, when the fog stretches and settles into the city, you will stand at a bus stop, watching cars appear and disappear like wandering ghosts. You will shiver, because the cold has crawled in through your wet jacket, seeped in to your soggy sneakers, and snaked along your skin. There will be nothing for it, but to stand in the shifty mist and shiver and wait.

You won’t know he’s beside you until he’s beside you. You will hear a soft hiss like something sputtering on a spit, and turn your head. You will see him in segments. First, his black, creaking cowboy boots, then his faded jeans, his white cotton tee shirt, his sunglasses blacker than midnight.

The crisp sound of sizzling will be the drizzle of rain rolling off his skin, and you will know the desert in his white sun smile. You will smell the red sand baking, feel your mouth grow scorched and dry, run your sandpaper tongue across your cracked lips, and desperately thirst for the water hanging useless in the air around you.

His smile will collapse in on itself like the burnt husk of a building. Face sharp as wind scoured rock, he will slowly lower his glasses and gaze at you with eyes of napalm, of roiling lava, of fire splitting the hearts of trees, of peppery days filled sweaty sex in ugly backrooms under low, swinging lamps.

It will be too hot in your jacket, too hot inside your skin, too hot with the marrow of your bones boiling, with a flash fire suddenly in your solar plexus, with lightening buzzing about your veins like a conflagration of tiny bees.

Then the slow screech of the bus pulling to a stop, and he will take his blazing gaze and turn away, one slow step up and then another onto the bus. Steam will still be rising around you, mingling with the mist, and the heat will melt into fuming fog with him.

Alone, you will never know a world so cold, so bitter, as devoid of color and substance as the ice fields of Antarctica. As you breathe into your chilled fingertips, you will realize that you’ve missed your bus, and there will be nothing for it but to stand there, shivering and aching, and wait.


Andrea Blythe graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a BA in Modern Literature. Her poetry has appeared in several publications, including Chiaroscuro (Chizine), Perigee, Bear Creek Haiku, and Chinquapin. Read more about her at http://www.andreablythe.com/

 Posted by at 2:11 pm

Kiran-Katha: Tongue Memories by Nandini Dhar

 Issue 14 (December 2011)  Comments Off on Kiran-Katha: Tongue Memories by Nandini Dhar
Dec 152011
 
Scheherezade's Bequest 14

Kiran-Katha: Tongue Memories
by Nandini Dhar

(This is a Kiranmala Poems, after the classic Bengali fairytale Arun-Barun-Kiranmala compiled by Dakshinaranjan Mitra Majumder in his Thakumar Jhuli (Tales from Granny’s Bag). Kiranmala or Kiran is one of the protagonists of the tale, who, in order to take care of herself and her brothers, Arun and Barun, dresses up as a man and defeats the demons successfully.)

I heard many more stories than those contained in the following pages; but I rejected a great many, as they appeared to me to contain spurious additions to the original stories which I had heard when a boy. I have reason to believe that the stories given in this book are a genuine sample of the old old stories told by old Bengali women from age to age through a hundred generations.
— Lal Behari Dey, Preface to Folktales of Bengal

Kiran-Katha- Tongue Memories © Nandini Dhar


Author’s Note: The language referenced in this poem is Sanskrit. It was forbidden for men of lower castes and women of all castes to learn Sanskrit in ancient India. In the original fairy-tale, Kiran and her brothers — the daughter and sons of a king — were thrown into the water soon after their birth by their “evil” aunts. They were eventually rescued by a childless Brahmin, who brought them up as his own. It is to this adoptive Brahmin father the poem refers. Brahmin men, according to the traditional norms of Hindu patriarchy, were the custodians of most (if not all) forms of knowledge produced in Sanskrit.


Nandini Dhar‘s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Muse India, Kritya, Mascara Literary Review, Off the Coast, Pratilipi, tinfoildresses, First Literary Review, Hawaii Review, Prick of the Spindle, Penwood Review and Asia Writes. A Pushcart nominee, Nandini grew up in Kolkata, India, and received an M.A. in Comparative Literature from Jadavpur University, Calcutta and another M.A. in Comparative Literature from the University of Oregon. Currently, she is a Ph.D. Candidate in Comparative Literature at University of Texas at Austin.

 Posted by at 2:10 pm

Scheherezade’s Bequest 14

 Our Grim(m)oire  Comments Off on Scheherezade’s Bequest 14
Dec 152011
 

SB14Finally! The latest issue of Scheherezade’s Bequest and its companion non-fiction articles are online. This issue was a long time in coming: due in September, posted in December — somewhere along the way we got lost in the woods and for that, we apologise. First let’s talk about the fiction. This 14th issue of Scheherezade’s Bequest is dark like the longest night, humorous and difficult and full of everything that makes a fairy tale real. These stories and poems hearken back to the original tales, and this issue is not for the faint of heart.

Nandini Dhar opens with a Kiranmala poem, “after the classic Bengali fairytale Arun-Barun-Kiranmala compiled by Dakshinaranjan Mitra Majumder in his Thakumar Jhuli (Tales from Granny’s Bag)”. In “Kiran-Katha: Tongue Memories” we see young Kiranmala, or Kiran, reflect upon her place in Brahmin society. From there we meet “An Ifrit in San Francisco” in a haunting short story by Andrea Blythe. “Little Ginger Bread Man” by Jamie Wasserman is a truly heart-breaking interpretation of AT 2025. John Patrick Pazdziora returns to Scheherezade’s Bequest with the delightful “Bradie Law and the Grumpenmire”, a trickster tale in the snake oil tradition. “Salt” by Joanna Hoyt takes us back to the traditional fairy tale with her retelling of “The Goose-Girl at the Well”, in which the heroine must deal with the terrible cost of great beauty. Rose Lemberg’s loving long-poem “Kytgy and Kunlelo” reinterprets a Chukchi folktale cycle about these two heroes, telling the story of the shaman-child Kytgy and how she births the world. Sara Cleto gives us a “Bone Song”, a cautionary tale about what can happen if we ignore the fact that a beast is a beast. JoSelle Vanderhooft weaves a fairy tale poem of mothers, step-mothers and daughters in “Blood, Snow, Birch and Underworld”, a coming of age of a girl named Cipher. “The Witch of the Third Night” by Alexandra Seidel describes the making of a witch; with familiar tones of Baba Yaga and Rumpelstiltskin, Seidel spins a poem all her own. Next is an original fable by Hal Duncan, “The Wolf and the Three Wise Monkeys”, a very timely tale told with scathing wit and charm. Finally Brittany Warman closes with “Grateful”, a short poem that concisely sums up what women have been wondering for a long time.

On the non-fiction side we’ve got essays and articles that tackle difficult social dilemmas from various points of view, as well as reviews of fiction, non-fiction and music. Scheherezade’s Bequest co-editor Virginia M. Mohlere interviews Kirsty Greenwood, the multimedia artist whose work was featured in the cover of our previous issue, while Erzebet speaks with artist Catherine Rémy, whose work graces the cover of the 14th. Tanya B. Avakian has reviewed Blue Hour by Carolyn Forché, A Life in Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Lost Agents of SOE by Sarah Helm, and Let England Shake by PJ Harvey. Virginia M. Mohlere reviews Skellig by David Almond while co-editor Donna Quattrone looks at The Silence of Trees by Valya Dudycz Lupescu, and review contributor Valentina Cano offers her thoughts about Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale by Carolyn Turgeon.

In an essay that is both fiction and non-fiction, Lyz Reblin suggests what extra-terrestrial life might think should it encounter some of our beloved fairy tales in No Happily Ever After for XX: The Obligation for the Feminine Gender of the Human Species in the Western Region of the Planet Earth. Elizabeth Hopkinson discusses a much-overlooked aspect of human nature in her revealing “The Glass Coffin” and “The Ensorceled Prince”: An Asexual Reading, while author Sophie Masson delves deep into fairyland with Captive in Fairyland: The Strange Case of Robert Kirk of Aberfoyle.

So while this issue is late, we here at Cabinet des Fées believe it was very much worth waiting for. We hope you enjoy our offerings, and wish you all a joyous holiday season, wherever and whoever you are.

With love,

Donna Quattrone, Virgina M. Mohlere, and Erzebet YellowBoy

 Posted by at 2:07 pm