Saturday, February 9, 2018
Diana Wallace Peach started a monthly feature at her blog, Myths of the Mirror. I caved into the temptation to play along. Click the link to learn more.
Each month, Diana issues an image as a prompt. This time, my response is a twofer! My first response is my alteration of the original image. Click the link above to see the original at Diana’s blog.
As you can see, I was hoping to make a Valentine’s story. However, whatever and whomever my muse is, apparently it has no relationship with Cupid. Even so, I wrote a vignette and once again, made my response part of my “Atonement, Tennessee” universe. I’ll leave Ralda Lawton to tell you about it.
What is that up ahead? I wondered.
I was about to turn my Toyota into the long, rhododendron lined driveway of Sunhold. Before you get any glamorous ideas, the plants had run wild and hiring gardeners wasn’t high on my list of allowable expenses. It looked nothing like Manderly. However, it did look deserving of the Creepy Hollows nickname the locals gave the old estate I had won at auction.
As I was about to say, I stopped my car. Just down the street, opposite the Sunhold cemetery, a van was broken down. It was painted with colorful, almost psychedelic designs of whimsical shapes and animals, including a beautiful paisley elephant.
I saw a person, whose posture spoke of confusion, leaning over the open hood. It was selfish of me, but I held back. I had to get home for an appointment. A squirrel had gotten into the house. Annie from the antique shop recommended Jo Davis’ son Billy. I didn’t want to miss him. Guilt got the better of me though, and I went to see what the trouble was.
“Hey, is everything okay? Do you need help, s―” I stammered. “Um ma―”
I stopped mid-sentence. I didn’t know how to finish because my eyes beheld such androgyny. Blue jeans and a loose shirt were worn with whimsical athletic shoes patterned to resemble mice, as if each foot was a big mouse. Glossy, straight black hair hung below shoulder-level. Brown skin had a warm yellowish tone that made me think of turmeric. Or maybe it was just the aroma of curry wafting from the van and going from my nose to my empty stomach that made me think so.
Huge soulful brown eyes turned to meet my puzzled gaze. When I tore my stare away from those mesmerizing eyes, I noted the firm jawline, and then a rich voice that, while tenor, was certainly male. A scar on one side of his rather long nose added ruggedness to his face.
He wiped his hands and closed the van’s hood. He pushed back his bangs, rubbing his brow with the back of his hand. I glimpsed what looked like a henna tattoo of an om symbol on his forehead.
“Hi!” he greeted me with a disarming smile. “I think it’s good to go now. I heard a noise and thought I’d better stop and check under the hood, just in case. Besides, I think I missed a turn. You couldn’t tell me where the Sunhold place is, could you? Billy’s Critter Ridders was over booked and he asked me to pick up the slack.”
Comprehension abruptly dawned. I took another look at the artwork on the van. The psychedelic elephant was in a humorous pose with one foot on a mouse that appeared to carry the pachyderm. Lettering beneath the image stated, “Humane Pest Removal.”
Tension gripped the back of my neck when another van stopped. It was from Fae’s Flowers. Gwydion, locally known as Guy Fabdon, hoped out, green eyes glittering flirtatiously. He seemed to take quick stock of the situation. There was something territorial in the set of his shoulders and the way he eyed the stranger.
Just then the newcomer spoke.
“I’m sorry, I should have introduced myself. I’m Bheema,” he said and shook my hand.
Bheema proffered his hand to Gwydion, who gave a snort. I shot the florist a surprised look for his rudeness.
“Doesn’t that mean one who is gigantic? A Hindu name I believe?” Gwydion asked in a sardonic voice.
I couldn’t imagine why Gwydion would know anything about Hindu name meanings. Then again, I supposed he would know all sorts of things, considering the fact that he was a supernatural being of the fae variety.
I couldn’t help noticing that Bheema’s hand was not as androgynous as his slim body.
One who is gigantic? I thought. Keep looking at his eyes. Don’t look down, woman. Don’t even glance. Just don’t. Look. Down.
“Ralda, luv. I heard you had a tree-rat lose in the old manse,” he told me in his lilting accent. “I can take care of that beastie for you. No need to bring in extra help.”
There was no wonder Gwydion was posturing like an alpha male. Yes. I confess, I looked down.
“That’s not necessary, Gwydion,” I said, tiptoeing to peep inside his van. “I know you need to get those flowers to the refrigeration units in your shop before they wilt.”
“So, how long are you going to be in Atonement?” the florist continued as if I had not spoken.
“That’s not clear yet,” Bheema said, and I found his choice of words odd. “I’m helping out Billy for a while, but I’m also house sitting for his mom while she’s in Florida. Not sure how long Mrs. Davis is going to stay.”
“Considering what happened the last time Billy took care of Jo’s place, I can understand why she’d want someone else there,” Gwydion replied with a knowing chuckle.
I resisted the impulse to ask for details. I was still avoiding Gwydion and wanted him to get on his way.
The sounds of meowing came from Bheema’s van. I moved to look inside. Two pet carriers were secured in the backseat, along with a large duffle bag.
“Ah. You’re a cat person,” Gwydion commented in a smug tone. “Nice shoes,” he added, smirking down at the mouse designs.
Apparently having cats and whimsical shoes neutralized any threat Bheema posed to Gwydion’s territorial alpha male impulses. He excused himself and left a moment later.
The meowing resumed. Bheema reached into the van and brought out a configuration of clear plastic tubes.
“Oh, meet Siddhi and Riddhi,” he remarked with a motion to the carriers. “I haven’t gone to Mrs. Davis’ to settle them yet. Don’t worry. The cats will be okay because this won’t take long. I’ll just bait these traps and that squirrel will oblige before you know it. Then I’ll take him far enough away that he won’t come back to munch on any more of your woodwork.”
“I’m relieved to hear that. I like squirrels, but they can do a ton of damage when they get inside a house. Plus, I’m worried about what might happen if it gets into a part of the house that my cat, Lilith, can access. Such a little creature can cause such a big problem!”
“Ha! I understand. There’s a saying,” he began. “Don’t tell Ganesha how big your problem it. Tell the problem how big your Ganesha is!” Bheema said with a motion to the elephant painted on his van.
I chuckled as I looked into his soulful, reassuring eyes. The om tattoo showed again when he tossed back that mane of black hair. I looked from the symbol to the odd scar that marred one side of his long-ish nose. I looked at the shoes that lent a fanciful illusion of mice carrying him.
Siddhi and Riddhi gazed at me from their carriers and gave affirmative sounding meows.
There you have my response to Diana’s image-prompt. What do you think of Bheema? Would you like to see more of him in my Atonement, TN universe?
The #steampunk submarine will be at the port on Wednesday for Hidebound Hump day and the next serial episode of “Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers.” Then Straightlaced Saturday will be back with another Victorian novel next weekend.
Thanks for visiting. Mega hugs!
Now some shameless self-promotion.
Universal link to my Amazon Author Page
USA: Atonement in Bloom
USA: Atonement, Tennessee
(E-book still on sale at 99¢ )
This is a work of fiction. Characters, names, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2019 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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