The hashtag says it all. An author has to write. One of the most distinguishing and definable qualities of professional writers? They write… a lot. They work on their craft. They engage in story. They think of world building details. But they write. They grind words into sentences, stack up paragraphs like Tetris pieces, and slowly form stories. I’ve been dabbling recently, but here is an excerpt from my story Once Upon a Two-Thirty Three:
In front of her, she saw a man like you sometimes see in fun-house mirrors. She watched his body twist and felt a sinking in her stomach like a ship coming nearer.
“Penny Palczynzki, I presume?”
She was surprised. Not by his costume, which was arrayed with thousands of jingling, silver bells. Nor by his little body that puffed out in great big swells. No, it was something else.
“You pronounced it correctly.”
He breathed a sigh of relief. “They don’t teach us much grammar in school. I wasn’t sure if it was ‘pre-zoom’ or ‘pre-suh-may’. Call it a lucky guess.”
Penny giggled. “Not that. My name. You pronounced my name correctly.”
His bells jingled in indignation. “Your name? I could hardly call myself a Knight of the In-Between Table if I didn’t know how to pronounce your name. I’ve been practicing it since the womb.”
For the first time, Penny looked around. Beyond the curious little fellow, hills of gold grass rolled in every direction. The sky looked like the inside of a plum and she thought she heard a violin playing. Penny looked back at the man, “I don’t mean to be rude, but who exactly are you?”
The man gave her an embarrassed look, but instead of blushing, his ears began to grow. They looked like little wings before they were done. “My sincerest apologies, Penny. I’m your Knight. Forty-three years ago, my mother divined that you would come to In-Between by means of Unexpected Adventure. I was born that night and I’ve been waiting for you ever since!”
Penny’s head spun a little bit. “Waiting for me?”
“Of course. I’m to escort you to Fancy.”
“Fancy,” Penny echoed. The sky had softened to just-ripe-peach. “So you know who I am?”
He promptly removed his jester cap. With one, little hand he swept silver hair from his forehead and leaned closer. Bright, red letters had been tattooed there.
Peg of the Palczynzkis at the twoest of thirty fours,
Will come through the puddliest puddle of doors,
Offer her your arm and escort her to the door,
By way of Hellohill and the Fourest Fore.
“You’ll have to pardon my mother,” he said. “She always liked to rhyme. The other Knights always have a good laugh about it.”
Penny shook her head. “Oh, I think it’s wonderful.”
His ears blossomed again as he held out an arm. “Well, shall we?”
Penny hesitated. Her mother had taught her a thing or two, and even here, under a scuppernong sky, she knew better than to simply wander off. “My mother told me not to go places with strangers.” The man looked taken aback, almost sad. Penny hurried to explain, “So maybe, if you could tell me your name, we could go to this… Fancy.”
The little man gave a not-so-little bow. “I’m Dexter, Dexter DuBrow.”
Once more, he held out his arm to her. It dangled like a piece of well-cooked spaghetti. Penny had seen her share of movies, so she slipped hers in his and allowed him to lead her across the golden fields. “Tell me a little more about yourself, Mr. DuBrow.”
“Please, call me Dexter,” he replied.
“Tell me more about yourself, Dexter,” Penny repeated.
As they came to the top of the hill, the sky turned watermelon red. Little black seeds fell down around them, but Dexter didn’t bother to offer an umbrella. His bells jingled as the little seeds rebounded off of them. He spoke with unbridled enthusiasm. “Well, as I said, I am a Knight of the In-Between Table.” He pointed to a pair of golden bells that hung on his chest. Penny hadn’t noticed them before. “You see. I’ve been a member for two years. It’s quite an honor here in In-Between.”
They crested another hill and the watermelon rainstorm ceased. A pleasant kiwi green colored the distant hills. Penny noticed many things she hadn’t noticed before. Throughout the golden fields, little single-stem flowers could be seen. She saw a brilliant red rose and a rather quiet-colored dahlia. She also saw, in the valley beneath them, a door.
It was blue. A bright blue that she knew wouldn’t change like the sky above her. It rounded at the top, and had a single silver knob that matched the silver four attached to its center. The paint had chipped in places, but to Penny this seemed a great improvement. Who wants a door without character? A door that hasn’t been opened a time or two?
“Mr. Du…. I mean, Dexter. Why isn’t that door attached to anything?”
They stopped just short of it. Penny craned her neck, but she was quite certain that the door stood apart, quite on its own. Doors belonged on houses and tunnels, libraries and churches… they were supposed to lead somewhere, Penny thought.