Last photo prompt flash fiction of the year! And just got an email from author Kris Norris saying she might get her submission in after hockey. To some that might indicate, “Yup, it’s December.” For other’s that just simply, “Yup… Canada.”
At any rate, below are the participating ladies. Don’t forget to pay them a visit and enjoy the last photo prompt flash fiction of 2015.
The employee entrance still smelled like cigarettes from the night shift breaks. It was against company policy to smoke on the property but when you work nights, no one really cares. As long as you are smart enough not to leave your butts right next to the door. After a few warnings and write ups, people learn. Not to stop smoking, no, just to better hide the physical evidence. Inside the building the machines were roaring. The web presses with their slow, steady hums. Book binders clunking loudly as workers load logs of signatures onto the collator belts. The first shift people were slowly arriving and adding a new sense of life to the building while the night shift was covered in paper dust and wore heavy faces. Everyone bearing the weight of dissatisfaction and routine.
The coffee cup brigade was already making their rounds this morning. They always arrived early, ties tucked in their shirts to avoid any lose clothing around the equipment. Each carrying a coffee mug with a vendor logo emblazoned on the side. Most likely received as Christmas gifts with a bag of caramel corn and a generic “Happy Holidays” thank you for your business, seasonal greeting card signed in haste by a busy salesman. They were the “Erry’s” as we called them. Jerry, Kerry, and Terry. There was also Gary, Larry, and a sister, Mary. Brothers, cousins, in-laws, you name it. And it didn’t stop there either. Pressman married bindery woman who gave birth to the summer student help. Everyone knew every one, whether they liked it or not. In the case of the coffee cup brigade, they were the owners, and of course, the brothers. All of them looked alike with large sloping foreheads and no muscle mass to speak of, thin and wiry in expensive, dry cleaner pressed shirts. It wasn’t worth the time to learn which one was which. Just say “Hi, Erry” with a slight slur and no mater who you are talking to, they will answer.
On this faithful morning, the coffee cup brigade is right in my path. “Morning, Erry, Erry, and Erry.”
“Quick question while I’ve got you guys here. Customer called me last night before close looking for some deckle edge book samples. I know we’ve been outsourcing that for years now but, do you know if we keep any vendor samples around?” I decide to ask right then and there. Might as well take advantage of the situation. It could be the only real work related moment the Erry’s address all day.
“Hmm.” Erry number one sips his coffee with a pensive frown.
Erry number two looks at Erry number one mouth open as if the answer is on the tip of his tongue but, no sound emerges.
“Try the mezzanine.” Answers Erry number three who I’m pretty sure is actually Gary but at this point, I’m too afraid to ask. “There are a lot of book samples up there. Most are unorganized but I’m sure you can dig up something.”
“Thank you. I’ll head up there on my way to the front office.” Because every morning I am so excited to be part of a sea of cubicles. A thought I keep to myself of course. Lucky to have a job in this economy. The Erry’s carry on, sipping coffee, and muttering about who knows what while making their way through the plant. I erry on.
A few more feet ahead and I spot the metal stair case to the mezzanine. Up top is a mess of boxes, metal adjustable shelving units that every single business seems to own, and a few pieces of old office furniture. Wood desks designed and purchased before the rise of the computer age rendered them too small to be a useful work space. Accompanying the desks are a few office chairs with broken backs or missing wheels. I set my bag down on one of the chairs and begin to move through the mess, digging through any box labeled “samples” as well as poking around in old filing cabinets and scanning the shelves as I pass by.
I would say the books “called to me” but really they fell in top of me while digging through some shelving I probably wasn’t suppose to be digging through. Initial reaction was to swear loudly and push the books aside because hell or high water, I was going to find a godforsaken deckle edge sample. Then I took a closer look at them. No, they still weren’t what I was looking for but, they had a sense that no one was really looking for them or had been for quite a long time. Three books of varying size and aging but all were from the same author. Fairy Tales by the Garden, Fairy Tales by the Mountain, and Fairy Tales by the Sea all written by Irene Godspeed. A closer look at the Fairy Tales by the Sea and the cover was embossed with different items and animals all relevant to water. Ships, birds, fish, seals, and a line of interlacing sailors knots creating a decorative boarder. I let my fingers walk over the pages until they settled on a story.
Princess and the Waves
On an island lived a young maiden who only knew the island and nothing more. She knew the smell of the salt, the taste of the sea creatures, and the breath of the wind. With her on her island lived an old crone. The crone helped maintain their home but she did not speak more words than necessary and had no stories to tell. Lost to her thoughts, the young maiden dreamed of leaving the island to discover what was beyond. Whenever the young maiden asked the old crone what was pass the sea the crone would only say, “We will never leave.”
One day the young maiden stole away to a secret part of the island where she had built a small boat from pieces of palm. As she parted away on her voyage, the wind picked up and crashed her back to shore. The young maiden was not harmed but while searching the beach for the wreckage of her boat she found hidden in the pieces of palm a hair pin. On her return to her dwelling, the crone asked no questions and the young maiden hid the hair pin under her bed.
Several more moons had passed and the young maiden had repaired her boat. She tried once more to cross the sea but again, the wind picked up and she was crashed to shore. Again, the maiden was not harmed but while searching her wreckage, she discovered a wooden chest, bound by rope. With the chest in hand, the young maiden hid under the cover of a palm and carefully worked free the rope only to discover the chest was empty. At her dwelling, she hid the chest under her bed but while doing so, was discovered by the old crone. “We will never leave.” The crones weathered voice cracked with her words. But the young maiden would not be convinced.
Time passed and once more, with her boat repaired, the maiden entered the water. She fought the wind as best she could but, without success, the waves crashed her to shore. In the wreckage a small cry could be heard and the young maiden searched wildly to discover a basket and inside, swaddled tightly, was a small child. Basket in hand, the young maiden ran to the dwelling. The old crone however, could not be found. That night the young maiden held the child in her arms and hugged it tightly and whispered, “We will never leave,” knowing, she could not risk the safety of a small child with an unforgiving sea. Her fate had been sealed.
The child grew and became herself, a young maiden while her caregiver turned into nothing more than a dweller keeper and an old crone. Just as the crone had once been young, she understood when the day had come for the grown child she had cared for, returned looking worse for wear holding in her hand something small and silver. Wordlessly the crone took the young maidens hand and opened it to find a hair pin, much like the one she had found many years before. In disbelief she closed the maidens hand and turned away but not before catching a glimpse of the maiden hiding the hair pin under her bed. The same bed that had once hid the crones treasures.
Just as before, days later the maiden returned with a chest bound in rope. The crone stopped the grown child and heard the words in her past repeat themselves in her mind. But those words never passed her lips. Rather, the crone pulled the maiden toward the bed and began to pull. Hidden under the bed was a door and with great strength, the maiden and the crone together were able to open it. To the surprise of both, was a great storage of pins, chests, ropes, baskets, and blankets. The crone then understood and turned to the maiden, telling her, “You will leave.”
Together a vessel was build from pins, wood and rope from the chests, and a sail was fashioned from the blankets. The crone packed the baskets with what she could for the maidens journey with confidence. One last time she stood on the edge of the island smelling the salt, remembering the taste of the sea, and feeling the breath of the wind as it filled the maiden’s sails. With the wind, the maiden was pushed over the waves and out to the sea, the curse broken of the princess and the waves.
The production bell rang, bringing me back to reality, and first shift was now officially on the clock. Hastily, and without question, I took the books and put them in my bag. Stealing isn’t normally my thing but, today just felt like a new day and perhaps I could find these books a good home. At my desk, I hurried into my seat and began stuffing my bag into my drawer when I heard a throat clear behind me.
“Excuse me but what do you think you are doing?” I froze with my bag half in and half out of my drawer to the sound of Mary’s voice.
“Oh, well, actually I’m not. I was up looking for a deckle edge sample. Gary…” I really hope that’s right “can confirm. I ran into him in production and told me where I might find some.”
Mary took a sip from a cup she had in her hand, displaying the red and orange logo of Source One Paper, “Regardless. I need you at your desk and ready to be on the phones by 8:00.”
“Yes, no problem.” I held on for a moment until Mary rounded the corner and shoved my bag with the books inside out of sight. And though it was officially time to work, Mary had already come by and most likely would not be returning right away. I quickly pulled up the internet with curiosity getting the best of me and typed in the search: