Saturday, December 13, 2014

hiram and hermione - 5. the minstrel

by florine di fabrizzi

illustrated by danny delacroix and eddie el greco

editorial consultant: Prof. Dan Leo

click here for previous chapter of hiram and hermione

click here to begin hiram and hermione

click here to begin the 14th princess

"now , where were we?" asked harriet, after the unfortunate cook had been sent packing.

hiram cleared his throat. “you had just mentioned, mother, that doctor wilson had told you that you had only a short time to live. “

“oh yes. and i had also got to the point of telling you that you were pitiful fools and must do as i say.”

“yes,” agreed hiram. “you had mentioned that.”

“and do you understand?”

hiram hesitated. “i understand that that is your opinion.”

“my opinion! but surely you do not dispute what you are pleased to call my opinion?”

“you are certainly entitled to your opinion as to my abilities, mother. i do not think, however, that i am going to be amenable to the suggestions you are going to make as to my future.”

“what!! do you defy me?”

“i am not sure that i will agree with you.”

harriet was speechless. she could not have been more astonished if hiram had turned into a chicken or a rattlesnake before her eyes.

“and in what way - and in what way, you pathetic ninny -, “ she finally managed to articulate - “do you presume to not agree with me?”

hiram sat up a little straighter in his chair. “have you ever wondered, mother, what i have been doing all these years when i was at the factory?’

“i assume you were doing nothing, while bud riley and the other foremen ran the place.”

“that is true enough in its way, but i was doing something the whole time i was doing nothing.”

harriet’s eyes narrowed. “get to the point, hiram. what was this something you were doing - and, more importantly, what can it possibly have to do with my instructtions - my dying instructions - to you.”

“i was writing poetry.”

harriet laughed. “you were writing poetry? poetry?


harriet laughed harder, clearly relieved. she looked around the room, but there was no one to meet her amused gaze. hermione’s eyes, still filled with tears, were cast on the floor.

“and how is writing this precious poetry going to detract from your continuing to go to the factory every day, which, among other things, is what i had envisioned? bud riley will continue to run the factory, as he always has, and you can do whatever you please.”

hiram leaned forward. he twisted his hands together. “up until now i have been concentrating on epic poetry.”

“hiram has showed me some of his poetry, mother,” hermione blurted out. “i think it is really quite excellent. he should be proud. and - and - “

“i am not interested in what you think,” harriet interrupted her. “i do not see what any of this has to do with anything. “ she stated at hiram. “why, exactly, can you not continue to go to the factory every day, poetry or no poetry?”

“because, mother, i feel that i have exhausted the possibilities of the epic form.”

“and what has that to do with the price of grapes?”

“because, to get right right to the point - “

“yes, by all means, do.”

“ - i have decided to become a wandering minstrel.”

“a wandering minstrel?”


“and what does a wandering minstrel do when he is at home?”

“a wandering minstrel is never at home, mother. he lives on the open road, and the sky is his roof and the fields are his bed.”

“do you mean that you wish to become a beggar?”

hiram hesitated, but only for a moment. “if you put it that way, yes.”

“and give up your portion of my inheritance?”


harriet laughed, even louder than before. “i can not say that i did not know you were an idiot, but i never suspected you were such an idiot as this.” but even as she spoke, harriet’s brain, after its initial shock, was starting to process hiram’s words.

maybe this was not such a bad thing - assuming that he was serious and would go through with his nonsense. she had had a little more hope of making a good match for hermione. perhaps, with only one of them to worry about, and that the one with a better chance, it would all work out…

harriet held up her hand. “enough. enough of this for now. we - or you two - can take this foolishness up later. for now, i am going to explain to you the plans i have and that i will put into effect.”

both hiram and hermione nodded respectfully, and held their tongues.

“everything will be divided equally between you. hiram will inherit the house - “ harriet hesitated but neither of them spoke so she continued. “as it is to be hoped that hermione will marry sooner than later. a share of equal value from the capital twill be set aside for her dowry. stock in the factory, and the remaining capital will be split equally between you. do you have any questions?”

neither had questions. hermione continued to dab at her eyes with her handkerchief.

“here is the most important part, so listen carefully. both of your inheritances will be placed in trust until you marry. until then, of course, household expenses will be paid, the factory will hopefully pay its own way, and you will receive allowances - allowances not commensurate with any frivolity, to be sure.”

harriet paused, but neither hiram nor hermione spoke up. what a couple of milksops, she thought. not a millimeter of spine between them.

“do you have any questions?” she asked again.

hiram felt he had to say something. ““i assume mr cooper will handle the trust.” mr cooper was the family lawyer. much as she despised lawyers, harriet could not completely dispense with one.

“no, mister cooper will not handle the trust.”

hiram was surprised. “who, then?”

“madame smithwick.”

“madame smithwick! but, mother - “ it was hiram’s turn to laugh. “madame smithwick is a ridicuous charlatan. you laugh at me for writing poetry - and you entrust the family fortune to that ridiculous creature -“

harriet’s face reddened. “i will be the judge of madame smithwick’s competence. madame is in harmony with the universe, and i trust her to do what i will instruct her to do.”

“and what is that?” asked hiram.

“to arrange suitable matches for both of you.”

hiram laughed.

hermione began sobbing uncontrollably.

to be continued

Monday, December 8, 2014

gertrude - 6. the message of the woman in blue

by denise de santos

illustrated by danny delacroix and eddie el greco

editorial consultant: Prof. Dan Leo

click here for previous chapter of gertrude

click here to begin gertrude

click here to begin the 14th princess

“you are damned,” the woman in blue repeated to gertrude, “i suppose you are going to tell me you do not know what that means.”

“that is right,” gertrude replied.

“what is right?”

“you are right that i do not know what you are talking about.”

the young woman’s eyes narrowed. “and i suppose you do not know what it means to be saved, either.”

“i know what it is means to be saved,” gertrude told her.

“and what does it mean?”

“it means - if a sheep is wandering away, or looks like it is going to step over a ridge or somewhere it should not, you stop it .”

“ha, ha! so it is only sheep who need to be saved?”

gertrude considered this. “i have never seen a person needing to be saved, but i suppose one could be.”

“what a ninny! do you know nothing but sheep?”

“no. sheep is what i know.”

“that is about to change, “ the young woman told her.

gertrude did not know what to say. she remained silent.

the bright light in which the young woman in blue had appeared had now faded. but gertrude’s eyes had adjusted to the darkness.

gertrude stole another look at denise. she still appeared sound asleep.

“don’t look at her,” the woman told her, but in a softer voice than before. “go and look out the door.”

gertrude hesitated, but did as she was bade. the woman in blue seemed to drift rather than step away to let her pass.

gertrude pushed at the door. it opened easily.

the rain had stopped, but it was very dark.

there was something in front of gertrude’s feet and she almost stepped on it.

it was the dog denise had obtained for her - she had forgotten all about it.

the dog opened its eyes and looked at gertrude and made one little yip, but did not move.

gertrude stepped over at it. she could feel the young woman in blue following her.

she took a few steps down the path toward the pen where the sheep had been placed for the night. it was very dark, and she could not see them.

or hear them.

she moved further down the path. she still could not see the sheep.

they were gone!

with all the things that had happened to gertrude the previous day and now at night, this was the first one that shocked her.

she whirled on the young woman in blue. “the sheep are gone!”

the young woman smiled. “yes, they are.”

“but - but - where are they? who has taken them. are they all right?”

“yes, yes, they are all right. they will be well taken care of.”

gertrude had never been so confused, not even by the visions of the “saint” and the “angel”.

“but what am i to do? where am i to go? should i go back to the mountain - without my sheep?”

“no,” replied the young woman, “you will not go back to the mountain. when dawn comes, you will begin a journey. a long journey.”

“by myself?”

“no, denise will go with you. and the dog. denise is an even greater sinner than you, and more in need of the journey.”

“and the dog - is it a sinner too?”

“no, the dog is not a sinner,” the young woman answered, with a slight trace of exasperation. “it is just a dog.”

gertrude ran past the young woman back to the hut. the dog was awake and looked up at her but made no sound.

gertrude looked into the hut. denise was, or seemed to be, still sound asleep.

“why does she not wake?” gertrude cried. “are you sure she is not dead?”

“no.” the young woman was right behind her. “she is not dead. she is receiving the same message from me that you are. to her, it is you who are asleep.”

gertrude stood in the doorway, bewildered, looking at denise and then back at the young woman, who seemed to be fading into the night.

“do you have any questions?” the young woman asked.

“yes. where are we going, on this journey?”

“south. just go south.” the young woman disappeared.

gertrude sat up in the bed. she could see daylight under the door. she remembered everything that had happened and everything the young woman in blue had said.

she stepped over denise and went outside.

the day was bright and the sky was blue. the little dog was awake and sniffing around the walls of the hut.

gertrude ran down the path to the pen.

the sheep were gone.

to be continued