Mark of the Greedy

The beggars were marked. Not all of them, of course. There were a few souls who remained honest. Some old women huddled together around a fire. The Laws were not so cruel as to force the fire out. A few children scrounged in corners and begged for coins. Of course, only the little ones could remain whole. Mostly, though, the destitute of the city were punished for their actions summarily. A pinky ring or two missing, a pointer, the worst crimes earned the loss of a thumb. The worst and the unluckiest.

It was fair. Some cities took whole hands for the theft of a wormy apple. Fairness, though was relative. When it was not your hand forced on the block, it was only just to be punished. When the gnawing in your belly got to you, and you were a poor thief and an unlucky bastard in every way that’s true, the strong arms of Laws forcing you still was harder to bear.

It was a small number watching. Nowhere near the excitement of a beheading, but still. Entertainment was entertainment. Mothers forced their children to watch as a warning that one should always keep one’s hands to oneself.
“For the theft of money and goods from an honest merchant, the sentenced shall lose their middle finger, mark of the greedy,” announced one of the Laws not holding down the man’s hand. There was no fighting it. His eyes closed tight, his fist curled save his middle finger, and the Laws held his hand in place. A thump was overshadowed by a much louder pain that raced down his arms, up his throat, forcing out a howl. A Law wrapped his hand loosely in bandages and sent him on his way. He was marked. He would not find work. He was a beggar.

“Now, now,” said an old women, through gummy jaws that made the words sound more like ‘no’. “Don’t be rude, young one.”

“Nanna, I have the mark of the greedy. I couldn’t be rude if I wanted to.”
She smiled, flashing her few yellowed teeth. “Greedy you are still, if those honey words mean anything. Well, no matter. Hmm. Yes, well, in that forest there was all manner of beast that hollered and moaned at every minute. I’d sit and listen to them all, wondering what they said. You know they’re talking to each other, don’t you?”

“Of course,” he said, as you do when you don’t believe something an elder says.

“Hm. One day, this big, and I mean big – I was a little thing back then too – mother bear comes into that clearing, and she knew I was there up in that tree. And she started stomping and roaring and I nearly wet myself, I did, but then I thought – well I thought I might know what she was saying. Do you know what that was?”

“She was hungry?”

Nanna cackled. “If she was hungry, she’d have climbed right up and eaten me then. No, no. The next day, I come right back. I’m very brave you see. And there comes momma again, this time with two cubs in tow. And she says the same thing again, and I don’t look at her at all this time. And I don’t look at her cubs neither. And then they start playing on that grassy knoll. So, now do you know what she was saying to me?”

“Don’t touch my babies?”

“Well, no, not quite. You don’t listen do you?”

“Not very well, Nanna.”

“No, she was saying that this was her knoll. Her babies got to play there, and I did not. She got to lay there, and I did not. But so long as we kept it that way, we’d be just fine. You’ve got to wait and listen, you see?”

“I see.”

“No you don’t.”

There was some quiet. Nanna pulled her blankets closer around her, warming her hands on a steaming cup of water that had been sitting near the fire.

“Nanna?”

“Hm?”

“You have all these stories of the forest. What brought you to a city like this? Surely not the sounds of nature’s beasts.”

“Oh, well that’s something else. That’s another story for another day. No, I’m not telling that now. Not until I know you can listen. So, why don’t you tell me a story, eh?”

“Alright,” he said, scratching his furred jaw. “Let’s see, let’s see. Hm. Well, here’s one. It’s about a boy. Now this boy had a great momma and poppa. Momma was the greatest one there could be. She told wonderful stories and made lovely food. She knew just the right thing to say. Poppa worked hard. He owned docks, and he spent all day there, making sure they were the best they could be.

“The boy’s name was Swery, and he was always bored. One day, when he was growing to be a young man, he decided to go on an adventure like all the sailors his father would talk about. He decided to sign up to be a cabin boy on a merchant’s vessel that was going far, far away. But the merchant did not make very much, and he couldn’t afford to keep Swery. Instead of going on an adventure to tell Momma and Poppa about, he was stuck in a faraway place with no way of finding home.

“He looked for work, but he was young and the town was pour. He got the odd job when he could, and the kindness of strangers kept him going long enough to reach the next town. And the cycle continued. Just enough coin to reach one town over. Swery was lonely. And after years, he could not bring himself to keep trying to reach home, and he settled in a great city, hoping one day he would reach his home again. But Swery had grown older, and he was thin. People did not want to pay him for work, and soon his stomach hurt. One day, he tried to steal some food and some money, the food for now, and the money so he would not have to steal again, but Swery was no thief, and he was caught, and as punishment he was marked so everyone would know what he had done without ever knowing why. Some say to this day, Swery still asks for work, hoping to reach a momma and poppa that he may never see again.”

Nanna sipped long from her cup when the story ended. “You should interact with your audience more. Ask questions.”

“I’ll keep it in mind.”

“I don’t know anyone hiring, though,” she cackled.

“No one ever does, somehow.”

“So you never waited and listened, did you?” asked Nanna.

“No, I suppose I never did.”

“Well, I’ll tell another story another day. Maybe you’ll be better then.

Goodnight, Swery.”

“Goodnight, Nanna.” With that, Swery left, wandering into the dark streets.

Nanna never had children, but she was the town’s Nanna. No one turned her away when she asked – though she rarely did – and people would give her food and coin. Swery had come to enjoy her stories, even if he never seemed to like them the way she wanted him to.

On his way ‘home’, Swery popped the back lock on his least favourite bakery. He used the key that was carefully hidden underneath the safe and opened it, stealing a few coins. Next he stopped at his favourite bakery, leaving a note and the coins on the counter before leaving again and relocking that door.

“Here’s your scones.”

“Thanks, much,” said Swery leaving Sweet’s Bakery. He bit into one of the warm treats, all buttery and just a little flaky. Once he was well away into the shit part of town, he started calling out. “Scones! Fresh baked scones! Can’t get them better, can’t get them cheaper!”

Yes, the beggars were marked, but there were still ways to make a living.

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Heather

Through art her gentle hands I did touch
In sharing what I know of little things we met,
And in her eyes was sight beyond mine
So her probing mind did share and explore what mine could show
And in the day of sharing did we exchange an idea of ideas
Her eyes could see what mine could not, my mind could think what hers did not
That idea of ideas swam and coalesced until more thoughts formed and explored
And I shared those thoughts once together they formed as one
Her kind words set at ease my beating heart as through art my hands did she touch

Time passed and her eyes saw many things, and she made them real for others too
As her hands worked my mind grew restless for new ideas, and inspiration through artistry struck
I would form these disparate thoughts into a piece, but without face the my mind could not be seen
I reached out for she could put a face to the strangest things
She could
Time passed
Through back and forth, ebb and flow her eyes revealed a face for my strange thoughts
A face that fit those strange things that did not fit themselves
And that face hangs proudly on my wall
Through that face I saw what words alone could not say
Her eyes saw not just the other but also herself and showed this to the world
On my wall hangs that piece she did share with me

Back and forth, ebb and flow
Young and new as I was, she showed what one could be
A vision with eyes through which no other ever could see
And no other will see again
Through art her gentle hands I did touch

I Don’t Know

I’m hungry
For someone who loves me
Loves everything they see
‘Cept I have that in spades
Been stuck on it for days
Can’t stop hearing the call for a change

Yeah that’s right. I know what I got
Brothers and sisters got my back, I see that, I’m smart
But the games my head plays
They smarter than me
Twist things up
Make it so hard to see
Least the things I’d like to be in front of me
Instead I just focus and hurt
Locusts that burden my brain
Drive me insane
Eating away every thought without pain
Making things worth smiling into things I cry at
Least if I could cry
If my eyes weren’t dry
If I could just pry open my heart
Feel more than think
Don’t let this stupid mental illness sink my ship

But I don’t know man
Don’t know how to play that game
All I know how to do is play that blame
Blame myself
Why ain’t I more sane?
Blame the world
Why ain’t everyone more tame?
I could blame the political climate
Environment I rise in
Way I grew up, way it blew up, way my age makes me more wildin’

I could blame a thousand things
Then name a million more then
I’d still be in this hole without escape
Like a third world orphan
Nah, that ain’t no game
No way to win you see?

So now I need you all to listen to me
I don’t know
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again
I don’t know
I don’t know how to make the pain stop
How to make the world seem less of a hate dot
But I want to

For all the dark words, I don’t want to give in
It’s just hard ‘cause of the pit I’m in
But I’ve been better before
I guess I’ll be better again
Just a minute now and I’ll be ris-in’

Kickstarter Post 2: The Stretch Goaling

Hello

I promise updates of stories will be coming again soon, but in the meantime, an update on my Kickstarter, The Short Story Mixtape!

I have just posted my stretch goal, The Short Story Mixtape Mixtape. No that’s not a type, it’s the title of a full EP by Zen Anton (whose wonderful music can be listened to here: https://soundcloud.com/zenanton). The music for this is based on the soundtrack for The Short Story Mixtape!

Please do check the project out here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2065125522/the-short-story-mixtape-mixing-mediums?ref=nav_search

Contribute, share, and talk about it!

Update! Kickstarter and The Short Story Mixtape

Hello readers. Any who have enjoyed my work may be interested to hear that I’ve launched a Kickstarter for a series of my short stories (none of which are published here), set to music, and narrated by myself! This project is called The Short Story Mixtape, and it’s been in the works for the better part of the year.

The Kickstarter can be found here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2065125522/the-short-story-mixtape-mixing-mediums/description

I’d be honored if you donated, shared, or otherwise helped this project that’s very near and dear to my heart. Thank you!

Go Boldly Into The Dark

Go boldly into the dark

Where sky and earth touch

A maze of nothing within to get lost.

The screech and creak from beach and beak

The quiet chirps that, together, create a mountainous burst

Of sound that echoes around the place

You have boldly gone

Where it is dark and not warm

 

But while you walk you look up

At the fingers of the ancient beings that surround you

The leafy hands intertwining in a quiet shush

Through those growing leaves and brush,

Still light penetrates that place which you have boldly gone

 

The silver dots like needles stabbing the dark sheet to reveal the brilliant sun

Each twinkling as its rays rain down to greet you

And if the stars are pinpricks

That orb in the sky is a spear of beauty.

Its mottled white reflecting that light

Which in the day warms us

And in the night gives us fright

 

But it need not for all those shadows do

Is prove that there is always a light if one looks

It may not be always warm or brilliant

But it is of no less worth as it struggles towards you

That gentle reminder that the sun is still there

On the other side of the horizon

And each dot in the sky

A beautiful map of wonder that there are billions yet to find

 

Yes go boldly into the dark

But not because the dark is against you

Or the light has gone away ‘til the morning dew.

Go boldly into the dark because therein lies mystery

And in mystery

One shall find you

Update! Not dead!

It’s been a few weeks since my last update, and I assure any interested, I haven’t forgotten or abandoned the blog. I’ve got several stories and poems I’m excited to share, just as soon as they’re done.

At the moment, I’m in London. I’ve spent the day exploring Kew Gardens, which was beautiful, and I felt at peace for the first time in weeks among the trees. I even stepped barefoot on the earth overseas for the first time. Shockingly… it feels the same. But I like being barefoot anyway 😀

I imagine I’ll write a few things while here, and I’m going to try to get at least one post out while I’m here, hopefully I’ll finish editing one of my stories. No need to drag things out here.

Hope you are all having a wonderful time wherever you may be!