Thistledown – Midsummer Bedlam 5

Thistledown Girl

Hello everyone, and welcome back to the fae world of Thistledown.  I have a special guest today.  Many of you will know her because we’ve done several collaborative posts in the past.  If not, then allow me to present Suzanne DeBrango of A Pug in the Kitchen

Suzanne is a multi-talented woman — chef (and great photographer of her foods) and blogger.  And if you’re ever in need of property in New York, this “Brooklyn pug gal” is also an award winning real estate agent. 

She was inspired by the fae magic Pick (the cousin of the character she named) when he coaxed cherries off the trees and they rolled to him, rather than being picked.  Then, lucky for us, she found beautiful sour cherries at her farmers’ market.  Here’s Suzanne to tell us about the recipe she’s sharing here today.

I was thrilled to find sour cherries at the farmers market and snagged a few containers to make my favorite jam. Refrigerator jams and pickles are one of my favorite things to make. It’s so easy, you can make one jar at a time.  There’s no need to go through the canning process.  Just, make sure you sterilize your jars, or at least run them through the dishwasher before using them. 

I want that sucker fish to help pit those cherries — oops, you’ll meet them in this episode!  If you have ever tried to pit sour cherries you know it’s a lot of work.  They are soft, small, and getting that little pit is difficult.  It is a labor of love though, and the resulting jam is worth the effort.  

I definitely identify with the faery character, Peaches Dragonfly and her name.  Teagan, thank you for Peaches Dragonfly, and fantastic story.  You are amazing. I hope you all enjoy this recipe.

Sour cherry jam tart Suzanne DeBrango

As you see, I made both sour cherry vanilla and gooseberry jam.  I have to say they are wonderful with scones and creme fraiche. 
2 cups pitted sour cherries
1 1/2 cups sugar
Pinch of salt
Use a non-reactive, medium saucepan, adding the cherries, sugar and salt.  Cook on medium high heat until thickened.  It took about 45 minutes total cooking time.
To test to see if it is going to be thick enough place a spoon in the freezer.  Spoon some of the jam on the freezing cold spoon.  If it gets nice and thick, then it’s done.
Pour the hot jam into very clean preferably sterilized jars, seal and let cool on the counter. The jam will seal, but because it is not processed in a water bath, it must be stored in the refrigerator.  It will last for a long time refrigerated. 

How could I be anything but inspired after Suzanne’s words?  Thank you, Suzanne.

Writing Process

Suckerfish attached to diver

At this time I think I should remind everyone that  characters, names, places, and incidents are used in a strictly fictitious way. The actions of a character do not imply anything about the person who named the character.

I allow myself some artistic license, especially since this serial is a fantasy.  I’ve added to the flora and fauna of Thistledown.  This time you’ll meet some fun fish, living in a pond. 

I’m pantsering this story so I don’t know if these faery fish will live in both fresh and salt water, or just the one pond.  However, I imagine them as looking partly like a remora (salt water) and partly like a suckermouth catfish (fresh water).

Without further ado, here’s the next installment of the serial.

Thistledown

Midsummer Bedlam

Sprig Yellow ben-moore-8884

Ben Moore, Unsplash

Pucker Up

A pale yellow patch of sky was framed by green branches.  Doves cooed peacefully.  I saw two perched on a limb outside my bedroom window.  One appeared to try and give the other a tiny flower.  Or perhaps one tried to take the blossom from the other.  Who could say?

I glanced downward from my dizzyingly high vantage point.  My grand-uncle built his spacious home nestled in the branches of a massive redwood.  Uncle taught us to nurture the primeval tree just as it enriched us.  However, I had never been fond of heights.

He probably thought to encourage me to practice my flying skills by installing me in the attic bedroom, the loftiest room of all.  Many faeries would have been envious of the room, for the fun of gliding down hundreds of feet to the ground.  I however, often took the stairs.

Beyond the huge evergreen, I glimpsed Willow Stargazer flying past.  Her purple hair stood out against the morning sky.  She always wore an orchid tucked behind one ear.  Willow gave a quick wave.

1 Butterfly wing

I yawned and stretched, knowing I had slept late.  By the time I left the reflection pool, I had been exhausted.  In a short time, a lot of troubling ideas had wriggled into my mind.  First among them my horrible, frightening vision.

What troubled me most about that vision was the fact that it felt prophetic.  That must be why it upset the fae of Thistledown so much when they heard of it.

I had seen a bleak, unhappy world.  There was sunlight sometimes, but often the sky was murky.  The place was dark in every other way as well.  Bad things happened there all the time.  Negativity saturated the place — disasters, disrespect, corruption, violence, and hatred.  Even the elders and leaders were continually exposed as corrupt and even insane.

In the vision, it seemed like the people saw and experienced those things continually.  Each day they thought it couldn’t get more absurd, insulting, or hurtful.  Yet it did.  They became used to bizarre and harmful events.  They accepted it as just another part of their day.  There were highly placed people who could have remedied the situation.  Yet they did nothing.

The attitudes and actions of the people reflected the darkness of their world.  Even the clothes they chose to wear were in dark, dull colors.  The girls I met in my second vision seemed like rebels of a sort, daring to wear a splash of bright colors in their clothes or hair. 

Worse, I suspected the fae there had no wings.  My grand-uncle once told a scary story of a group of faeries without wings.  Did the darkness that saturated that world cause them to eventually lose their wings?

One of the doves on my windowsill fluttered away, dispelling my reverie.  The one that remained still held the tiny flower.  I realized it was a peach blossom.  Then I knew it must be a message from Peaches Dragonfly.  I took the flower from the dove.  Oddly it was wet.  My body mirrored the posture of the dove when she tilted her head to one side curiously.

“A wet peach blossom?” I murmured to the dove who answered with a coo.  “Oh!” I exclaimed in sudden epiphany.  “Peaches must want me to meet her at the pond.”

The dove bobbed her head forward and back, and then flew away in the direction of the orchard.

I unfolded my injured wing to apply more of the ointment Calico Rainbowforest gave me.  Even my grand-uncle had to admit I wouldn’t be practicing my flying for a while.  Since Peaches sent a dove to bid me visit her, she must not be in a rush.  If there was any hurry, she would probably have sent a zippy hummingbird.  I considered borrowing Uncle’s unicycle, but I knew I would end up painfully unfurling my wings to catch my balance.  I’d have to settle for my own two feet.

I must be the clumsiest faery in Thistle down, I thought with a loud sigh.

***

Peaches Pond nitish-kadam-43351

Nitish Kadam, Unsplash

“Bedlam, thank goodness you’re here,” Peaches Dragonfly said once I arrived at the pond.  “I could really use a hand.”

Her pink hair was wet, but only around her face.  Beside Peaches were four pails of water.  I noticed an oddly shaped purple fish swimming in one.  When I asked about the fish, my friend said it was a suckerfish.

“They absolutely love the pits from sour cherries,” Peaches explained.  “I have buckets overflowing with sour cherries from the far side of the orchard.  I’m going to make jam from them, but the pits have to be removed.  Those cherries are tiny, and it’s a lot of work to remove the pits.  So I had the idea to use the suckerfish to take out the pits.  With a little fae coaxing, they don’t bother the flesh of the cherries at all, and happily suck out the pits!”

“What an amazing idea!” I complimented Peaches.  “But I don’t see any other fish like this in the pond.”

Peaches gave me a wry look as she knelt at the edge of the pond.  I had a bad feeling that there was a tangle in her brilliant idea, and that I was about to get caught in the middle of it.

“There are several suckerfish in the pond.  They usually stay at the bottom, but they’ll come to the surface if you call them,” she told me.

I thought we were about to get to the tangle.  A hopeful look from my friend suggested I was right.  I expected to regret it, but I asked how one went about calling the suckerfish.

“It’s easy,” she told me with a bright smile.  “You just put your face into the water and make kissing sounds.  The suckerfish will come right to you.”

“What happens when they get there?”

“Well, if you aren’t quick enough in grabbing them, they’ll suck your face.  They’re very affectionate.  Don’t worry,” she added upon seeing my expression.  “It doesn’t hurt.”

Face in water blue

Genessa Panainte, Unsplash

I cringed so hard that I went to my knees.  Peaches took that for agreement and pulled my shoulders down toward the water.  I watched as she made kissing sounds into the pond.  Two purple suckerfish quickly swam to her.  One of them appeared to give her a kiss on the cheek.  With lightning reflexes, Peaches caught one fish in each hand.

“See,” she stated as she put the fishes in a pail.  “It isn’t that hard.”

Taking a deep breath, I agreed to give it a try.  I made kissing sounds into the water.  A fish swam to me so fast that I didn’t even see it.  Peaches had quick reflexes and grabbed it for me before I possibly could have gotten it.  Emboldened by the fact that I hadn’t had to even touch the fish, I put my puckering mouth back into the pond.

After two or three “kisses” I saw two tiny purple fish approaching from the left.  They were much smaller than any I had seen at that point, so the prospect of them touching my face did not upset me.

What I could not see was a suckerfish as large as my arm rapidly swimming from the deepest part of the pond.  Suddenly something forcefully hit my mouth.  Thankfully it was soft, or it would have really hurt.  I fell backward to the banks of the pond.

Peaches gasped, but rapidly detached the big sucker from my face.  I fitfully spat, and spat.  And spat some more.  I’m not sure why.  It wasn’t as though I tasted anything.  It was just the idea of being smooched by that fish.

“I’ve never seen a suckerfish this big.  The pit removal should go extra fast with this guy helping!” Peaches exclaimed.  “Nice work, Bedlam.”

We both looked up as a shadow passed over.  A blue heron swooped low, gliding toward the eastern bank of the pond.  I was awed by its beauty, with its broad wings and smooth passage, and plumage the color of a thunder cloud.  It sailed to the eastern bank of the pond.

I realized something looked different than I remembered about that side of the pond.  Peaches explained that an underground stream had come to the surface.  She thought that under or above ground the water eventually made its way to a small lake near Catseye Glimmer’s home.

Curious about the change to the landscape I wandered to that side of the pond.  I could see a thicket.  In the shadows I could barely make out the water of the stream.

“What’s that sound?” Peaches asked.

At first I didn’t hear anything.  After a moment, soft whimpering came to my ears.  To my astonishment, Peaches jumped into the pond.

“It sounds like a dog!” she cried as she swam.

I jumped in after her.  We soon realized that end of the pond was shallow enough that we could walk to the thicket.  That was a relief, since my swimming wasn’t any better than my flying.

The whining grew louder.  Peaches moved to the edge of the thicket.  When I looked at the place, an inexplicable shudder traveled through me.  The shadows were dark.  They were gray and unnaturally, densely drab.

“Peaches, wait!” I called and fearfully extended a hand, but she was out of my reach.

It was a relief when my friend emerged from the shadows with a small dog in her arms.  To my surprise she chuckled.

“There’s a suckerfish stuck to his mouth.  Help me get it off him,” she told me.

We walked through the water to the near edge of the pond and climbed out.  I helped Peaches up to the grass because her arms were full with the little dog.  I expected her to stop right there, but she hurried over to where we had been catching purple suckerfish.

She detached the suckerfish from the little dog’s mouth.  Rather than purple as it should have been, the fish was a dull brown.  Peaches gently placed the oddly colored fish in a pail separate from the other fish.

With the fish removed, I could see the dog’s face.  He was easily the oddest looking pup I had ever seen.  He had a tightly curled tail.  His coat was dull gray, but his little face was black.  It was also squished flat.  He looked at me and licked his nose with a little gray-blue tongue.

When he looked up at Peaches, his screw-tail wagged enthusiastically.  She set about drying the dog with a towel.

“I wonder who he belongs to?” Peaches pondered.  “His coloring is so unique,” she added with an uneasy glance at the strange brown suckerfish.

We both gazed nervously toward the shadows of the thicket.  Then Peaches leaned down to look closely at all the fish in the pails.

“I’ve never seen any fish that color,” she commented in an uneasy voice.  “It makes me think of how you described the place in your vision as colorless.”

“I doubt he belongs to anybody in Thistledown,” I whispered.  “What should we do with him?” I asked as I cleared my throat, trying to bring my voice to a normal volume.

Peaches took another look at the thicket and shivered.  The dog’s dull coloring indeed reminded me of the dark place where I met Rotten Soulfire and her friends.  How could they bear to live in such a place?  I swallowed hard.

“I’ll look after him,” Peaches stated in a determined voice.  “I think I’ll call him Pucker.”

The dog barked a yip at his new name.  Pucker’s tail wagged so hard I was surprised it didn’t cause him to fall over from the force of it.  He put a paw on Peaches’ shin and she bent to get him in her arms.

Vintage Pug painting

***

The End

The new “mystery faery” for this episode was Cecily of Cecily’s Writings.  I hope you’ll say hello to her.  

Stay tuned for the next episode of Thistledown — Midsummer Bedlam.  We will see the counterpart of Catseye Glimmer in the other faery-verse and more photos from T & L Photography.  

Hugs on the wing!

 

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 © 2017 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

All rights reserved.

No part of this work may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

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