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Joined: 21 Jul 2012
Posts: 34

Posted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 10:19 pm    Post subject: Legacy  

"I have had to learn the simplest things
last. Which made for difficulties."-Charles Olson. (From 'Maximus, to Himself')

Chapter One: Daddy's Little Girl

March 14, 1926.
Somewhere in New England:

        The sky grumbled angrily as the rain spattered against the window. Vera sat in front of the fireplace, hugging her knees to herself.  She was a small, wispy child with neat braids and worried eyes; the kind that always cleaned up after herself and shied away from dogs. Despite her young age, she'd already learned to stay away from strangers, that her her father was something called 'retired', and that questions about her mother made everyone quiet. Another peal of thunder sounded outside, and the lights in the house flickered.  Vera yelped and buried her face in her arms.

        “Vera?  Darling, are you frightened?” she heard, and felt a gentile pressure on her shoulder.  She looked up, and saw her father kneeling in front of her.  Unlike her, he was solid and imposing; big enough that new acquaintances automatically addressed him as 'Sir', with a steady calm that won most of his arguments before they started.  Vera never felt safer than when he was around, but she always felt a twinge of shame in moments like these.  She was convinced that fear was something her Daddy couldn't even comprehend, and she believed in her childish heart that she failed him by understanding it herself.

“I don't like storms.” she said, trying to keep the tremor out of her voice.  Her father enveloped her in a hug and patted her head.

“I know.  But it will end soon enough.  How about we play a game to take our minds off it?”

Vera sniffled and nodded.  Daddy, or Wallace, as he was known to grown-ups, got up and rummaged through an old trunk by the window.  He came back a moment later holding two blank pieces of paper, a book, and several pencils.  Vera perked up immediately.  This was one of her favorite games.

“Alright now,” Wallace said, spreading the two sheets of paper in front of them.  “You know the rules. You pick a picture from the book, we get one minute to look at it, and two minutes to copy it down without peeking.  Then we'll see who won.  Ready?”

        Vera nodded and eagerly grabbed the book out of his hands.  She flipped through the pages, finally stopping on an illustration of a family visiting a circus.

“This one!”  she exclaimed, and plopped it on the rug in front of them.  Wallace solemnly pulled out his pocket watch and counted out a minute.  “Alright, now!”  he cried, and shut the book.  Vera grabbed a pencil and hastily began drawing.  A moment later, she looked sideways at her father and wrinkled her forehead.

“Yes, Vera?”  he asked without looking up.

“Daddy, why do you talk different?”

Wallace arched his eyebrows in mock surprise.  “What do you mean?”

“You say words funny, like this.” she said, changing her voice to match her father's accent.  “How come you're the only one who does that?”

“Because that's how people in London sound.  I lived there before you were born.”

“Back when you were a policeman?”

“Inspector, dear girl.  I was a police inspector.  Do you know what that means?”

Vera shook her head.

“Well, it was a little bit like the game we're playing.  I had to remember things, what they looked like, or where they were, or things people said.  The things I remembered helped me find people who did bad things.”

The little girl shuddered.  “Why did you want to find bad people?”

“So I could make them say they were sorry.”  he replied gravely.

“Oh.”  Vera stated, and happily went back to her picture.  “Did you find all of them?”  she asked.

        Wallace halted his artistic endeavors and stared thoughtfully into the fire.  “Yes, except for one. There was a man named Arthur Temple; I never did find him.”

“What bad thing did he do?”

To Vera's surprise, Wallace laughed.  “Oh, he was a clever ba-er, person. He told people how to do things.”

“You mean like a teacher does?”

“Huh, pretty close, actually. Only he told people how to do bad things so people like me had a harder time catching them.”

“How come you didn't find him?”

“Because I stopped looking.”

Vera frowned. It didn't sound like her Daddy to give up. She looked at him, bent over paper, scribbling intently. For the first time, Vera felt what all children feel when they truly realize that their parents had a life before them: confusion, tinged with anxiety.

“Why did you stop looking?” She asked; staring hard at her picture even though she'd stopped drawing.

Wallace looked at his little girl, and a smile spread over his face. Instead of answering, he set his pencil down and declared: “Time's up! Lets see how we did.”

Vera found the original page and held her drawing next to it. “I got the lady's hat wrong.” she said. “And I made the man too short.”

“You still got the important things, darling. You even remembered the little cub next to the lion.”

What Wallace noticed, but Vera didn't, was that the lion family in her picture was practically identical to the original. It was as if she'd considered the lion and cub, crouched together in the shadowy corner of the ring, the center of the picture instead of the human family. Vera stared at her creation, tracing the lion's bared teeth with her finger.

“Lion's look like big cats, but only when they're happy. When they're mad they look like monsters. They're extra scary then, because they can be nice if they want. Does a circus have real lions, daddy?”

“Good question. How about on your birthday, we go and see for ourselves?”

Vera's eyes sparkled. “We can go? You promise?”

Wallace grinned and scooped her up into a bear hug. “I promise.”
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Joined: 18 Apr 2011
Posts: 852
Location: sitting barefoot in a tree in the beautiful land of Ardara, writing my tales...

Posted: Fri Aug 03, 2012 10:40 am    Post subject:  

OH MAN!! this is really great!! I loved the style of writing. It's clean and clear. It's obvious you've been writing for a while as this was free of spelling and grammatical errors that I saw.

I love Vera's perspective on her father. I think it's one that a lot of little girls share. I know I did. I'm intrigued by the way she focused on the lion and cub. It will be interesting to see where you take this story.

I'm excited! Post more, please!!
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Joined: 21 Jul 2012
Posts: 34

Posted: Sun Aug 05, 2012 9:15 pm    Post subject:  

Chapter Two: Happy Birthday

Vera sat in the dimly lit tent, watching the tumblers in the ring as if enthralled.  The two men in matching black costumes leaped and threw each other into the air with seemingly reckless enthusiasm, their antics soliciting frequent gasps and astonished cries from the crowd.  Vera felt, rather than heard, the percussion-heavy music.  It gathered in the back of her skull and made a home there, coming back to her in dreams for years afterwords.  Her father held her tightly in his lap, offering her a shoulder to bury her face in when the scene below proved too much.

“Watch this, Vera,” he’d say every now and then, coaxing her to look forward “You’ll love this!”

After a breath-taking series of leaps from one precarious swing to the next, the tumblers were proceeded by a man with a mask and a lady wearing a deliciously scandalous dress.  The lady smiled and waved at the crowd, the few folds of her crimson outfit fluttering prettily.

Vera leaned forward, anxious to see what the pair would do.  The lady stretched herself in front of a large wooden board, decorated with balloons in odd places.  The masked man regarded her gravely, then slowly drew several small knives from the pouch at his side.  The light caught the blades and flashed in Vera’s eyes.  She clamped her hands over her mouth, feeling the tension of the moment form into a scream in her stomach.  The Lady nodded confidently at her partner, showing no sign of anxiety. The man selected a single blade, and quick as a flash threw it at his companion.  The balloon pined inches from the Lady’s face popped loudly, and the audience cheered.  Vera sighed with relief and settled again into Wallace’s arms.  The man repeated his stunt, bursting every balloon on the board with perfect precision.  Throughout the whole episode, the lady never flinched. When it was over, she stepped lightly from the board, kissed her hand, and waved at the crowd again.  The audience practically shrieked with delight and applauded, Vera and Wallace with them. “Do you think that Lady gets scared, daddy?”  she asked.  To her surprise, an odd expression passed over her father’s face.  He seemed not to have heard her.  Vera repeated her question, tugging on his sleeve.  He blinked like coming out of a trance and looked at her in confusion.

“What?  Oh.  No, I don’t think she gets scared.  I don’t think she’s scared of anything.”

Slightly disappointed, Vera returned her attention to the ring.  The Ring master had paraded into the center, and was bellowing at the crowd:

“Ladies and gentlemen!  Boys and girls!  Our next act is the newest, but bravest, addition to our family. He will amaze you, terrify you, and face what no other man in his senses would dare.  I give you the bold the brash, the brazen…BONAVENTURA!”

Answering the cheers from the crowd, a large man with impossible muscles swaggered into the ring.  He carried a whip in one hand, and, more curiously to Vera, a small chair in the other.  A deep and angry roar shook the tent.  The audience collectively fell silent with fear. Behind Bonaventura, a massive Lion sprung  from the shadows.  At the last possible moment, the man spun around and cracked the whip at the lion’s face.

“Down, Caesar! Behave!”

Vera slipped off her father's lap and leaned against the seat in front of her, straining to see better. The lion tamer compelled his pet to leap through hoops, stand on his hind legs, and finally, perch on a small platform. The drums began to pound frantically. Bonaventura issued a command, and the great beast yawned. The man slowly approached, murmuring soothing words.

“Vera,” Wallace whispered anxiously. “It's alright if you don't want to look.”

Vera shook her head. “He won't bite him.” she said calmly.

Sure enough, after a tense moment, the lion tamer withdrew his head from the animal's jaws and the crowd erupted into applause. The ring leader announced an intermission, causing a stamped for the concessions. Wallace scooped Vera up, strolled out to the ice cream stand, and presented her with a chocolate cone.

“Are you having a good birthday?” He asked.

“Oh! Yes, yes I am. This is the best birthday ever.”

Wallace kissed his little girl lightly on the forehead. “Splendid. What would you like to do next?”

“Lets play the games!” She cried, “I want to win the blue bear.”

Vera referenced to the dark blue teddy bear hanging in one of the stalls. She'd seen it on her way to the tent, and it had stuck in her mind. It was the only one of its brothers of it's particular hue, and it had the added attraction of a white scarf tired around it's neck. Wallace led Vera to the stall, and set her on top of the counter. A young man smiled at them, and asked if Wallace would like to try and knock down the all the bottles.

“Actually, my daughter would like to try for the prize.” he said. Vera didn't see him offer the man a wink, and slip him a five dollar bill.”

“Oh, of course Missy. I bet you're a regular champ!”

Vera accepted the baseball, and chucked it happily at the tower of milk bottles. A few toppled over, but left the topmost undisturbed. The man kept handing her balls, though, until she had finally demoliched both the tower and her ice cream

“Congratulations Missy, that's the best pitching I've seen all day. You get the grand prize!”

The man solemnly handed Vera the blue bear, which she hugged tightly. Wallace smiled and shook the gamekeeper's hand.

“Thank you sir.” he said.

“No problem fella,” he replied. “A good day to you and the little lady.”

Vera stared hard at her new friend's face. “I'm going to call him Arthur.” she said.

“Arthur?” Wallace asked, startled. “Why Arthur?”

“Because that's his name.” Vera answered, and held him up for Wallace to see. “Look at him, can't you tell?”

Wallace chuckled and squeezed her hand. “Come along, darling, the second show's about to start.”

Vera plodded along by Wallace's side, Arthur dangling from her other hand. A few feet from the tent, a large woman in tweed bumped into her, breaking Vera's fragile hold on her toy. Arthur dropped to the ground, and suffered a kick in the face from a careless teenager, sending him flying. Vera wriggled her hand out of her Father's grasp.

“Wait, I lost Arthur.” she said, and charged into the crowd before Wallace could respond. She found him several yards away, shaken, but otherwise unhurt. She picked him up, and wrapped both her arms around him so as not to drop him again.

“It's okay, I've got you." she said, then called out: "I found him Daddy!”

But Wallace didn't respond.

“Daddy?” Vera tried again, louder this time, “Where are you?” She pushed her way into the tent, but she didn't see him either in their seats or anywhere else inside. She trudged back out, and called a third time: “Daddy!”

By now, the crowd had mostly drained into the tent, leaving her a clear view of the area. But she still saw no sign of her father. He simply wasn't there.
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Joined: 21 Jul 2012
Posts: 34

Posted: Tue Aug 28, 2012 9:38 am    Post subject:  

OKay, I've been absent awhile. I'm having a bunch of trouble with my internet ruight now, so it'll be a bit before i post the next chapter. Appologies
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Joined: 25 Oct 2012
Posts: 503
Location: Penna, having a hot cup of tea

Posted: Thu Dec 13, 2012 9:36 am    Post subject:  

You, sir (or madam?), are a fantastic writer.

Like Prevention, this story is very well written with, what I think, is a near perfect amount of detail (maybe a bit more elaboration of the circus scene outside of the tent itself would be nice, just so we get a sense of how large and intimidating a place it can be to a lone little girl?). You also have a very masterful sense of subtle details/hints, which I see in some of Wallace's reactions and Vera's observations/innocent questions.

And, gosh darn it, if you haven't created another irresistble mystery! I have so many questions running through my head. Did Wallace stop searching for Arthur because he had Wallace's wife killed somehow? Did Wallace disappear, using the confusion/busyness/largeness of a circus to abandon his daughter (maybe she reminds him too much of her mother), or was he simply kidnapped for some reason? He seemed to recognize the lady that stood in front of the knives (or maybe she reminded him of someone) - so did he go to investigate that, leaving his daughter behind temporarily to return when he's finished? Is Wallace actually Arthur and he's in America because they were catching on that he might have had his wife killed (or done it himself)? If so, why wouldn't he kill his daughter too, and then made a run for it? Why do I have so many questions?! :?

Okay, I'm probably overthinking all this, A LOT (especially after only 2 chapters), but I can't help it - my mind is far too curious.

Great job! Can't wait to read more! :)
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