NOT LIKE THE MOVIES
As the credits rolled and people made their way out of the cinema with thudding steps, Katie McGuire remained seated. She smoothed her green satin skirt, straightened her scarf, pulled on her white gloves, and sighed. Gregory Peck had been magnificent as always in this new picture, Roman Holiday. And the girl who played Princess Ann was charming, funny, believable. Quite pretty as well. But her name! Audrey Hepburn. What? Was she trying to present herself as the new Katherine Hepburn? Hah! No one would ever measure up to Kate Hepburn.
The theater lights snapped on and an usher appeared beside Katie’s aisle seat. “Come on, sweetie,” the teenage scarecrow told her. “You only get one viewing for your ticket.”
“I know that,” Katie informed him regally. “And I am not your ‘sweetie.’”
He grinned. “Y’wanna be?”
She stood, moved him aside with a look, and made her way up the aisle with the dignity of a princess, hoping the swing of her full skirt would hide her limp from the scarecrow. Escaping into the lobby, she went into the ladies’ room.
Ugh! Katie glared at her teeth reflected in the mirror. The gap between the front two wasn’t wide but it was enough to keep her from being a Kate Hepburn. Or even an Audrey. Her Liz Taylor Father of the Bride pin curl haircut, though, framed her face nicely. If only her hair wasn’t such a mousy brown. It had been a lovely light auburn , but almost the second she had turned twenty it had darkened. She would color it except no beautician—outside of Hollywood at least—seemed able to dye hair a believable shade of red. Maybe a henna rinse would bring out some red highlights. She’d pick one up tomorrow on the way home from work.
After applying a fresh coat of “Coquettish Coral” lipstick and powdering her face, Katie left the theater and headed towards the subway station. She elbowed her way through the crowded Manhattan sidewalk. reassuring herself that no one noticed her hobbling gait. They were too focused on getting where they needed to go to notice.
Strange that, after all these years, it should still bother her. After all, she had limped since she had had polio at the age of five. In fact, most days she didn’t think about it. That usher. He’d done it with his lecherous flirting. Would he have made that crack about her wanting to be his ‘sweetie’ if he knew she were a cripple? Not that she would ever have anything to do with the likes of him, but to have someone like him reject her….
Katie raised her head proudly as she descended the steps to the subway. Well, he hadn’t had the opportunity and he never would.
From the short story, "Not Like the Movies," by C. Dorman
Shatering the Moonfish
As Danny Fallon gazed at the blood dripping from his fingers, he knew he should feel something—anger, pain, fear, something—but inside he felt as empty as the void between himself and Garringer’s body. The still form lay about five feet from Fallon, blood from Garringer’s head and mouth staining the den’s plush pale green carpet. There were only two things in the space between the former friends: a broken lamp, its shattered shards of crystal chaotically scattered across the carpet, and a crimson-stained letter opener lying at an almost perfect ninety-degree angle a hand’s length away from Garringer. A memory floated into Fallon’s mind, a memory of the day thirteen years ago when they had agreed to be friends. They had actually discussed it and agreed as if it were a contract. Had even shaken hands.
“I hope you won’t regret it,” Garringer had told him.
Confidently, Fallon had replied, “I won’t.” His lips tightened now at the memory then he slipped into the darkness.
From the novel, Shattering the Moonfish, by C. Dorman
The flickering glow from the television, the only light in the room, drew me towards sleep. Muting the drone of the news anchor’s voice, I laid down and cuddled my pillow. Through my closed lids, I could still see the flickering and it soothed me the way the clack clack clack of a train did. Easing into sweet peacefulness, I drifted away only to be ripped back to consciousness by the knocks. Three slow, deliberate knocks on the wall behind me, the wall that separated my bedroom from Matthew’s office. An office that should have been unoccupied.
I sat up. Matthew, my brother-in-law and my sister, Caitlin, had gone to spend the summer in Canada two weeks ago. I was house-sitting. Alone. Ignoring the sound of my racing heart, I listened for any sign of movement in the office, in the hallway, in the house. None came. All I heard was the knocks repeating in my head and the sound of my mother’s voice, a memory from childhood, saying, “Three unexplained knocks is the banshee warning of a death in the house.”
A tingle of fear rippled through me. I had been raised on stories of ghosts, fairies on the hill, and other such superstition at the feet of my Irish grandmother. They were fun, but I didn’t believe them. My American mother was a much more practical woman so, when she told me about banshees, I half-believed her.
“No,” I told myself in a fierce whisper. “This is nonsense. There are no such things as banshees. It was probably the house settling.”
But I didn’t believe it was.
Excerpt from the short story, "Number Three," by C. Dorman
Little Thief wasn't there, so I leaned the ladder against the tree and--oh! I left the ladder in the park. I didn't feel up to carrying it." Grimacing, Peyton lifted his leg and repositioned his foot on the coffee table. "Can you get it after dinner?"
“Sure," Edie told him.
"It smells great in here, by the way. What is that?"
"Dinner. Chicken. Peyton, are you going to give me details or what?"
"Well, I climbed the ladder, and just as I was reaching for the hat with the grabber, this kamikaze bird comes flying at me from outta nowhere. I lost my balance, fell off the ladder and hit the ground hard. That's when I broke my ankle."
Edie smothered a giggle.
"Then" Peyton continued, "these kids start laughing at me. But I managed to get up and collect some acorns. Then I whipped out my trusty companion." He patted a pocket of his t-shirt.
Edie saw the top of a sling shot peeking out from the pocket. "Peyton! Tell me you did not shoot acorns at those children."
"Of course I didn't. I slung acorns at the bird."
"You didn't hurt it, did you?"
"Why is everyone more concerned about that bird than about me? I was just trying to scare it away. I aimed for the branches. But then this animal-lover, walking her dog, Mini-Terror, comes along and starts yelling at me about how mean and horrible I am for attacking a defenseless bird. Defenseless my --"
"So what happened?"
Peyton shrugged. "She called the police on me."
"Reported me for animal cruelty."
"So that’s when you left the ladder and limped home?"
"No. She sicced her dog on me. Look what he did to my pants." Peyton pulled at his jeans' leg. The bottom was shredded.
"Did he bite you?"
"Yes! With his tiny needle teeth."
"Has he had his shots?"
"Was he wearing a tag? We've gotta get you to the hospital."
""What are you talking about, Edie?"
"You need a rabies shot. Maybe a tetanus shot too.”
"He just nipped me."
"You said he attacked you. Did you at least get the woman's name and phone number so we can call her to see if he's had his shots?"
"No, but the cop probably has them since she's a witness. His name is on here." Peyton reached into his pants' pocket and pulled out a small, rectangular piece of paper.
"What's this?" Edie asked, taking the paper from him.
"It's the ticket he gave me for hunting crow during the nesting season. I told him I was just trying to scare the bird away but, apparently, it's illegal to use a sling shot on
a bird at any time. I asked if it was legal to attack humans with a dog but he didn't seem to want to care that I’d been injured."
Edie leaned over and kissed him on his left temple. "Oh, honey. What a day, huh? So how much is the fine?"
"Doesn't matter. I'm not paying it."
"I'm going to court to fight it."
“It’s a matter of principle, Eddie. That bird attacked me and stole my hats. Why am I the one in trouble?”
“Peyton, it’s a bird.”
“So? I’m defending myself. I’ll take this to the Supreme Court, if necessary.”
Edie closed her eyes and sighed.
From the short story, "Carried Away," by C. Dorman
MUSIC of DRAGONS
Siobhan cut a stalk of foxglove into five pieces and arranged the deep purple flowers around the jar. Holding the pot of boiling water over the jar, she read the directions aloud, “As you pour the water into the jar, fill the room with blue light from your aura.”
“What?” she snapped, slamming the pot down on the uncovered side of the work table. “How in the name of Tus-gra do I do that?”
Determined to go through making the protection draught, she snatched the pot and held it above the ja again. Closing her eyes, she tried to envision her aura. You can do this. Ciaran can see your aura and he is half-human! Just relax. You can see it too.
Colors formed in her mind. She saw a pulsating ring of purple, violet, and red with a few green spots. Studying the image intently, Siobhan noticed a small ring of light blue encircling the rest of the colors. Concentrating on it, she imagined the thin ring growing wider, radiating outwards. When she opened her eyes to pour the water, she gasped and nearly dropped the pot. The jar and the area immediately surrounding it were inundated with a delicate blue light.
“I did it!”
Regaining her focus, Siobhan poured the water slowly into the jar and read the incantation aloud:
“Ag solas agus fae-as n’Gaela
Glach-mé sinall an nearth cosana de na plandaí.
N’gach į solas bech de cúra mahair.
Be se sin nes solas nacht-mé
Nos an t-airm de mahair, sciath-mé ó gach docar.”
The incantation invoked Gaela’s goodness and light, then summoned the essence of her and nurturing care within each herb to combine into a light that would encircle Siobhan like a mother’s arms and shield her from all harm. The incantation also called on the spirits of the plants from which the herbs were taken and the Ancient Ones to come to Siobhan’s aid in times of danger.
She said every word clearly and carefully until she came to the final two lines: Má tá mé dochar ábail-ar na plantaí, bí se sín an tae-ol nach fúl-ar chorabith agus bí sé sín a scrios-mé thar lea-häs! If I have done any harm in obtaining these herbs, may the magic of this draught utterly fail me and may my enemies injury me beyond remedy.
After a brief internal struggle, Siobhan decided to omit that part. She then put together the Satchel of Defense. After placing the required gems onto a napkin, she made nine knots in a string, speaking invocations after tying each knot, as the directions instructed. Siobhan bundled the napkin into a little bag and secured its top with the string.
The satchel didn’t look magical, but Siobhan could feel its energy vibrating in her palm.
Her own energy had dwindled down to nearly nothing and the magical light in the room had dimmed. Sunset was near. Aunt Keena could be home at any moment. That thought gave Siobhan energy. She sealed the protection draught jar tightly with a lid then carried it and the satchel up to her bedroom. Placing them on the floor of her closet, she hid them under a quilt.
Returning to the basement, she tossed the tablecloth across her arm and snatched up the scissors, string, and gloves. In the quickly fading light, she hurried to the cabinet and returned the gloves to their drawer. Turning towards the stairs, Siobhan noticed a soft lavender glow coming from the far end of a table of potted plants.
Tossing the scissors and string onto a nearby table, she walked with the tablecloth still slung over her arm towards the shimmering plant. Its bluish-purple flowers, delicate and feathery, were the source of the luminance. A spicy-sweet fragrance like cinnamon in rose tea caressed Siobhan’s nose. A fierce desire to caress the plant’s leaves between her fingers filled her, but Siobhan resisted it, reaching instead for the plant’s identity placard. She needed to know the name so she could look it up in the herb book. This plant had potent magic in it!
Using the glow as a light, she read the placard: Nil Lea-häs. Siobhan shivered. The name meant “No Remedy.” Beside the name was a symbol: PԹ. The Cu Tailte sign for poison of the deadliest kind. She remembered coming across it when she had inventoried the garden for Keena. The flowers hadn’t glowed in the daylight but the symbol had made her curious. She recalled how Keena had urgently asked, “You didn’t touch it, did you?” when Siobhan had inquired about the herb. And how her aunt had evaded explaining why she kept such a lethal plant in her garden. Intriguing.
Siobhan swayed a bit as a wave of light-headedness hit her. The tablecloth, still hanging from the crook of her elbow, fell forward and tipped the Nil Lea-häs on its side.
“Sha-faerg!” Her heart thudded. “Oh sha-faerg! Gaela, no!” She threw the tablecloth to the floor, dropped the placard on the table, and stared at the plant. For several moments, that’s all she did: stare at it. Her mind felt frozen. The plant had to be straightened but how?
Siobhan scanned the basement, praying to Gaela for inspiration. None came. Picking up the placard, she placed it neatly in front of the plant and gave in to the dismal thought of having to confess to Aunt Keena.
As she picked up the tablecloth, though, her mood brightened. Siobhan folded the cloth into several layers and, keeping her hands behind and under the it, tilted the plant back to its upright position. Careful to keep the part that had touched the plant inside, she folded the tablecloth into a small rectangle.
Satisfaction surged through her but it disappeared quickly as a thought occurred to her. What am I going to do with the tablecloth? I can’t just put it back in the drawer. Could moving the pot have left poison residue on the cloth? If so, how could it be cleaned? It would, Siobhan suspected, need more than a normal wash. Magic might be required to remove any traces of poison.
The fingers of Siobhan’s left hand tingled. The sensation increased into a burning pain. Her heart pounding in her ears, Siobhan looked at her hand. The fingers looked normal. There was no sign of redness or swelling but they felt as if they were on fire.
Sudden bright light stabbed her eyes.
“What,” Aunt Keena’s voice demanded, “are you doing?”
Siobhan looked up. Her aunt stood on the top of the staircase, her hand still on the light switch, fury radiating from her.
Wooziness swirled in Siobhan’s head then she plummeted into darkness.
From the work-in-progress novel, Music of Dragons, by C. Dorman