A Time to Reap – Another Writing Contest Entry

I am once again attempting to hone my writing skills by entering a short story contest hosted by Theresa Oliver’s Short Story Page.  I hope you like it!

The basis for my story.

A TIME TO REAP

Eilain hated her job. It was bad enough that she had to partner with that lech, Thanatos, on the occasional unusual reaping call. But recently, the number of cases had been growing, resulting in her having to spend more and more time rebuking Death’s sexual advances. The guy just wouldn’t give up. It was exhausting.

“Knock knock!” a jaunty masculine voice chimed through the closed – and locked – door.

Eilain rolled her eyes. Speak of the devil.

“I’ll be ready in a second, Than,” she called. “I have a few things to finish up.”

“Just don’t take too long, beautiful,” he replied, his voice heated. “This one’s special. I’m getting a chubby just thinking about it.”

She sighed heavily, her hands resting on the heavy mahogany desk, and bowed her head in helpless disgust. A moment later, the off-key rendition of Nelly’s Hot in Here assailing her senses from the far side of the door finally spurred her into action. With a resigned heave, Eilain pushed herself back and to her feet. She snagged her Hourglass off of the corner of the desk before padding across the room, throwing the bolt, and hurling open the door.

“Hey, baby!” Thanatos greeted her with a sleazy smirk, “Wanna touch my scythe?”

Eilain shouldered past him and gracefully descended the front stairs, grumbling loudly, “Let’s just get this over with, okay? I have a million things to do.”

“You know,” he leered, gliding up behind her and breathing into her ear, “there have been studies that prove that sex improves concentration. Maybe after this, I could help you -”

She cut him off. “Give it a rest, will you, Than?” His breath on her hair was making her stomach turn. She reached the portal and turned to face him. “I am not in the mood.”

A spark of anger flashed in his sockets. He sneered, “What the matter? Is it that time of the month again? I would think you had better control of that, being the Mistress of Time, and all.” Predictably, he injected overt sexual tones into his pronunciation of her title.

Eilain rubbed her temple with her empty hand and spat, “Just shut up and do your job, Death. I know it’s hard for you to refrain from being a lecherous ass, but just this once, try. Try hard. This call is worse than the rest.”

“What’s eating you, Lainey?” he murmured, sounding like a whipped puppy, his anger doused by confusion.

She turned her back on him, effectively putting an end to his loathsome attempt at conversation, and activated the portal. Holding her Hourglass before her chest with both hands, she took the lead, and stepped decisively through the shimmering black membrane.

Thanatos followed, one hand on his scythe, the other gripping her right shoulder so they would not be separated in transit. Once they had arrived safely, he quickly removed his bony fingers before she could shrug them off, possibly aware that he was pushing his luck too far tonight.

They walked to a small cottage – alone in a misty, wildflower-laden field – in silence. Nothing moved but them. No birdsong reached their ears. No breeze ruffled their hair. A pregnant hush blanketed the surroundings, welcoming them with resigned, bated breath.

Entering the cottage, they glided unopposed to the bedside of an exceptionally beautiful woman. She reclined peacefully – her glossy hair artfully spread over silk linens, her lips full and red, her body curvy and voluptuous beneath the thin sheet, the thick lashes of her closed eyes fanning over her flush cheeks.

“Is it time already?” the beauty whispered, her voice heartrendingly weak, eyes still shut.

“I’m afraid it is, Venus,” Eilain answered gently. She watched the last grains of sand pour through her Hourglass rather than Venus’ perfect face, unable to bear witnessing the death of Love.

Thanatos shattered the somber mood by proclaiming gleefully, “Look at the jugs on this one! JACKPOT, baby!”

Eilain closed her eyes. I hate this job.

A Passion for Princesses

Some of my daughter's princesses on the bridge of their space ship.

My 3-year-old daughter is crazy about princesses. Since I did not have the same affliction as a child, I am now forced to watch all the Disney Princess movies with her to keep her happy and me partially sane. They’re not as bad as I imagined, though. Here are a few of the points that I picked up from the movies that make me feel better about indulging her princess obsession:

* Cinderella wanted to escape the tyranny of her family to go to the ball. And what girl doesn’t want to dress up and go out and have a good time after slaving away all day? She didn’t even know the man with whom she fell in love was the prince until he sent his underlings to return her shoe.

* Sleeping Beauty didn’t even want to be a princess. She only wanted to marry the man of her dreams. Even the prince spurned his betrothal to Princess Aurora in favor of Briar Rose, a peasant girl he met in the woods. Love rules, royal status drools.

* Belle went in search of her missing father and agreed to be a captive in his place. She fell in love with a beast, not a prince. And spurned the advances of the handsome (and hugely narcissistic) Gaston. This is actually one of my favorite princess movies to watch with my daughter since it shows the difference between inner beauty and outward appearances.

* Ariel actually rescued the prince! Twice! And Ariel’s sisters (also princesses) had horrible singing voices. Now, THAT’S something that no other princess movie has!

* Tiana worked like a dog to make her dreams come true while denying herself everything else. She actually turned a wayward playboy of a prince into a decent fellow before she fell in love with him. Note: my daughter is not a fan of The Princess and the Frog because Tiana spends most of the movie as a frog.

* Jasmine refused to marry anyone that she didn’t love, ran away, and then later used her feminine wiles to distract the bad guy and help Aladdin – who, by the way, wanted to be a prince so that he could marry HER!

* Snow White was the only one innocently dreaming of a prince to marry, but that didn’t stop her from making the forest animals clean the house and shaming the the Dwarfs into washing before dinner.

* Fiona married an ogre, and then chose him again over Prince Charming. (I had to throw this one in. I LOVE Shrek!)

None of these women – Snow White, in my opinion, was just a girl – dreamed of marrying a prince. Most fell in love with someone that they didn’t even know was a prince. They did not want fame, fortune, pretty dresses, servants, or even a crown. All they wanted was love. And who doesn’t want that?

Fly with me

I cannot name the day when I first fell helplessly in love with flying.  My parents must have somehow recognized my natural inclinations before I did, for their gifts of an aerobatic glider ride for my 16th birthday and my first flight lesson the following year exposed me to the virulent devotion that would define my initial education as a pilot.   The pristine joy of directing my little airplane to leap into the brilliantly crisp air and quixotically soar as an ungainly metal raptor still haunts my most pleasant dreams.  It was as if my very soul was released from it’s fleshy prison to leap jubilantly into the effervescent cosmos, surf the glowing tails of comets, and dance among the silently spinning galaxies.

But like any pearl of simple pleasure, it eventually became lost among the detritus and trappings of life.  Not only is aviation an expensive pursuit, but it is further tarnished by demands of man.  Oppressive regulations often favor monetary interests rather than the beleaguered pilot, who, at least initially, is so enamored with the joy of flying that a duty day of 14 hours and a starting salary well below the poverty level is foolishly and wholeheartedly accepted without question.  Such a demanding schedule is also detrimental to the “normalcy” of having a family, and many pilots have sacrificed their dreams of a spouse and children at the altar of their career.

My passion was further dimmed by the neolithic beliefs unabashedly proclaimed by some of my male acquaintances about the proper place of a woman.  A man with whom I worked once said that he would never ride in an aircraft with a woman in the cockpit.  He even boasted of refusing a seat on a commercial airliner whose crew included a female copilot.  My disbelief and shock at this sentiment grew exponentially upon discovering that there were even some male pilots who shared the belief that women were somehow subordinate to them in ability simply due to their gender.

Things such as these have weighed upon my love of flying in much the same way clear ice coats the wings of the unwary.  And while I have since chosen another path, nothing will ever change the fact that my heart was first captured by the giddy sense of bright freedom offered by even the smallest of aircraft.  I have been blessed with experiences and accomplishments in my short career as a pilot that reduce the petty chauvinistic attitudes and callous greed of others to puffs of lukewarm air beneath my wings.

I can fly.  Never doubt that you can, too.

Grief is the price of Love

I have recently become more and more aware of my emotional ineptitude.  It’s not that I don’t feel emotions, quite the opposite, in fact.  It’s that, for some bizarre reason, I have an incredibly difficult time expressing them (aloud or in print), almost as if allowing one tiny feeling to escape will provide the means for the dam to burst and drown me in the resulting deluge.  Or I’ll look stupid.  Or both.

During the memorial service of a dear friend, I found myself almost wildly seeking an escape from the emotionally charged atmosphere and the resonance within my own psyche which made me feel so exposed and vulnerable.  I stumbled through condolences, simply unable to put into words how I felt and unwilling to expose the chink in the armor protecting my heart for fear of becoming completely lost.  And because of this, I feel like I cheated my friend’s family out of any consolation, however slight, that I may have been able to provide.  It wasn’t intentional, but it still wasn’t right, and I’m hoping to remedy my lapse, at least a little bit, right now.

My friend had once said, “grief is the price of love,” and although he did not speak these words to me personally, this sentiment is exactly the sort of thing I can hear him say in my memories.  He was very intense and passionate about every aspect of life and was always quick to share his enthusiasm with his friends and family, from mischievous adventures in his youth to his love of aviation and his grief when his health prevented him from flying his beloved Arrow.

At his memorial service, I saw a picture of him which truly captured how I always envisioned him.   He was on a roller-coaster on the initial steep descent with his arms held high and a look of complete joy radiating from his face.  It struck me as the perfect metaphor for his life as he faced every up and down courageously, without fear or hesitation, and with a passion plainly evident to anyone who cared to look, just as the depth of his love, pride and joy for his family was boundless and evident to anyone who knew him.

My life is better for having known Jack, and if my grief is immeasurable, than my love must have been the same.  Fly free, my friend.  You will be missed.