Saturday, January 09, 2010

Entry #75

A Better Day Tomorrow
by Michael H. Payne


The scent gusted over Harmon's beak with the wind, and he turned into it, adjusted his wings, the autumn-bare branches making it easy to sweep the forest floor for--

A red flag among the roots. With a shiver, he realized it was the Timmler's oak; he stooped, landed beside the flagpole, his talons digging into the dirt to see Gloria, her eyes closed, her front paws clasped, the black armband making her gray fur look even grayer.

He wanted to give his usual cackle, ask G.G. if she was ready for a flight into Ottersgate, but the leaf-wrapped bundle beside her changed everything. With a swallow, he bowed and spoke the ritual phrase: "A better day tomorrow, Ms. Timmler."

"We live in hope, Mr. Crow." She bowed in return, her eyes, red and puffy, finally fluttering open. "I was half-hoping it'd be you, Harm. And half-hoping it wouldn't."

The sudden lump in his throat made it hard to ask. "Grampa?"

"Last night. Ev'ryone expected it, but still..." Gloria blew out a shaky breath, and the only other sound for a while was the wind rattling the treetops.

Harmon shook himself. "I know you're s'posed to watch, G.G., but you don't--"

"I do." Her voice wavered. "I'm eldest in the family now." She blinked and stood up straighter. "I thank you for your service, Mr. Crow."

"We do what we must, Ms. Timmler." He couldn't look at her; hopping forward, he bowed to the bundle and opened his beak.

30 comments:

Bernita said...

Much depth. One of the nicest things is Gloria's use of a nickname for him.

Aniket said...

A beautifully told story...

Loved how you used the names to be a vital part of the story too. Loved it.

pjd said...

I wish you had more room to work with because I feel the depth that Bernita refers to. With this one, I feel I'm just barely seeing a moment within a very complex world with many wondrous things to be seen. (I am very curious about Ottersgate, for example.)

I find the writing efficient yet warm. The more I read this and think about it, the more I like it. I think you've got the nexus of a really good middle grade story here, or at least the world and characters to form the story. Reminds me a little bit of the rats of Nimh.

Craig said...

I think this just scratches the surface of something deep and wonderful. I would love to hear more.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Middle grade, Pete? Hm. I'm not sure. Isn't Mr. Crow death? Seems that way to me. And he's sorry to come and take another dead loved one from her. Could work.

Fascinating piece. I, too, would love to see more of this.

Sarah Laurenson said...

I take that back - not death, but the clean up crew. The crows eat the dead.

JaneyV said...

Yup I think you're right Sarah. Michael, as others have said, I think that this would be wonderful as a short story. There's so much here and I would love to know more.

Lena said...

I wish there was some more to read on this. While in itself it is sufficient enough, but your writing and your characters make me want to read more.

catvibe said...

I'm with the others, you've introduced a compelling set of characters and rules for an entire culture here, in just a few words. I'd love to read more about this world. The ending ritual was sublime! Perfect feeling of respect.

MHPayne said...

Thanks, folks!

Jason's photo made me think of my first published story, a thing called "Crow's Curse" that appeared in vol. 7 of the Writers of the Future contest anthology almost 20 years ago now. That's a very different story from this one, but then, I'm fairly different as well these days... :)

Mike

Kate said...

This is great! The notion of this poor nice crow having this terrible duty, and that he must do it while his grieving friend watches, really got to me. I can only repeat what the others said: there's a lot of depth in this simple story.

laughingwolf said...

more please, mike...

Laurel said...

Affection, respect, duty all wrapped up in their relationship with so much else clearly going on in 250 words or less.

Wow.

Plus, I totally want to read more!

Michelle said...

Very much enjoyed the familiarity of this story from the characters' eyes and hearts. Their honor shines through.

Four Dinners said...

Hells Bells!!! Every time I pop over I read a better story!!!

Tarka The Otter meets Watership Down meets Duncton Wood...or whatever.

I don't mean that in any way as a disparaging comment.

Being an animal lover I simply adored this...with a slight lump in my throat.

Fantastic!!!!!!

Charmaine said...

..."with her eyes finally fluttering open"...

Lovely.

Deb Smythe said...

I love the depiction of conflicted emotion. True for Mr. Crow. True in real life.

Chris Eldin said...

Very sentimental and enjoyable. Yes, count me in the camp that would like to see this as a short story!

Kurt Hendricks said...

Love the black arm band. What a great little detail!

McKoala said...

Loved it!

Terri said...

This is lovely.

james r tomlinson said...

It seems like you just skimmed the surface to a much larger work. You left me wanting more.

Aerin said...

Dear Entrants #1-105,

I have read your pieces so that I can fairly participate in the Readers' Choice vote. (I read all of them through last week, before I started commenting.) I will be coming back around to offer my keep/tweak comment, but I didn't want anyone to snark.

Cheers,
Aerin (#236)

BTW, it's perfectly fine if you still want to snark, but this way you can choose a more appropriate subject, like Sarah Palin's hair or the enigmatic career of Justin Timberlake.

JaneyV said...

Congratulations! Well done!

Karen said...

Mike, I'm sorry I hadn't read this in time to vote! I can only repeat what others have said, but I can also add my congratulations! This is wonderful.

Jared said...

excellent. extremely enjoyable. other "e" words as well.

Kurt Hendricks said...

Congratulations, Michael! I had a feeling your name would pop up among the contest winners.

MHPayne said...

Thanks again, everyone!

To read more about Ottersgate and the animal folks who live there, you can get a used copy of my long out-of-print novel The Blood Jaguar for about a buck at Amazon. Or you can go to fictionwise.com, do an author search for "Michael H. Payne," and you'll find e-book versions of the book along with the story "Crow's Curse" and other stuff by me.

Thanks again!

Mike

SzélsőFa said...

congratulations!

Dottie (My Blog 2.0) said...

Humanity brought to our furry (and feathered) friends, along with the truths of life. Lovey piece.

Congrats on your win!

Dottie :)