Ill-Starred Kettle

Ill-Starred Kettle

A Story by YouoweYoupay
"

I cry to be pulled out of the darkness.

"



How I wished to be pulled out of the darkness. 

A door opened and closed. I could feel my eyebrows furrowing and my lips shriveling in a grimace. Someone, somewhere, whimpered a protest in between loud, short breaths. It was me.

"Rowa, you're dreaming again." the firewood crackled.

My eyelids lifted. Davin was on her knees beside my pallet. She was holding my hand, her thumb swiped my forehead where she printed a wet kiss. Her red hair tickled my face, the curls glowing in the light of the fireplace. My heartbeats were like the drums I beat with my hands as the women danced in the heart of the forest, naked and drunk on laughter and fermented grapes.

Davin was a mad woman. And I never tried to reason with her. I never needed to. She was my older sister, and the love of my life. I had refused every marriage proposal just as she had refused her share of suitors. I abandoned our only home just to remain by her side. My life was divided between learning from her gifts, basking in her brilliance and protecting her with my only source of power: premonition.

"What did you see?" she murmured, caressing my hair, "Tell me."

The touch of her hand, the moisture of her kiss on my forehead instantly calmed me, the sound of her voice an anchor to the abyss of dreams that had been keeping me hostage for at least a few weeks.

"I can't.." I slurred, "I can't remember."

I was five years old, if I recall correctly, when my mother begged me to join the other children on the swings that hung on tree branches. No matter how many times I swore to her that the swing would fall apart from my weight, my mother would refuse to believe me. I, in turn, refused to obey. Davin watched me as she and her play partner sunk their hands in the mud, bewildered by my distress and resistance to participate in every child's pleasure. My mother huffed and puffed and clicked her tongue, disappointed with my cowardice. Another child filled the vacancy of the swing, he steadied himself and retreated backward to initiate the first push and set it in motion. Of all the dozen trees that grasped the swings by their thick strings, like sturdy, protective mothers, one tree branch that held the ropes of the ominous swing snapped.

Davin, five years older than I, summoned me in private, abandoning the feast of mud cakes she had been earnestly baking for hours. 

"Rowa, how did you know? About the swing?" she stared at me with admiration, "If you tell me, and only me, I promise not to tell a single soul." I avoided her focused eyes and I sighed into the patches of grass streaming with red ants.

"I see a picture in my head. Sometimes." I said, "But I didn't... I'm not a witch."

"Neither am I," Davin hastily confessed, her brown eyes bright with knowledge she had been dying to share, "But I can cure the sick. I can. With-with the touch of my hand." she raised an open palm closer to my face, "Sometimes."

 I swallowed nervously. I glanced left and right, at my surroundings. At our mother who vibrantly prattled and babbled and cackled with the wives of the villagers. My gaze returned to Davin's.

"Sometimes?" I muttered. The soft brown of her eyes hid fear and guilt. And the thrill of keeping secrets. Her partner called her from afar, the mud cakes were getting cold, she told her, they ought to eat them soon.

I could not remember this particular dream. What did I see, Davin had asked me. I turned to stare at the ceiling. My sleeping pallet was outlined with sweat. She squeezed my hand.

"Look, give yourself time." she suggested,  "If it's a future vision, it will come back to you, won't it?" I nodded, "I made breakfast. And I'm heating some milk, if you like." 

My sister's gift of healing extended to the rest of our small community; from the smallest child to the weakest elder, her soothing presence and gentle touch was on demand. Davin kissed the hand of my grandmother, and the dull, persistent ache in her back disappeared. She blew a slight breath into my uncle's eye, and he stopped complaining about his blurry vision. 

Our older cousin once leered at Davin as he passed by our family gathering, signaling her to join him. Davin pretended to be immersed in serving our guests. She understood. I did not. Another hour passed before I heard the sound of a slap echoing from the back of our house. Davin emerged moments later, followed by my cousin, who claimed loudly, his hand over one side of his cheek, that she was a novice healer. He was the only villager she had failed to cure.

Davin took her gift to new heights. Until it was blotched, stained and mirrored back to her as a curse. 

She coaxed a few women of the village to experience a ritual of merriness and liberty. Women come from earth. We are the earth, Divan had said, and sometimes we needed a reminder. We built a tall fire in a clearing. My sister poured the wine. I beat the drums. Davin sang, intoxicating us with her voice before the grapes were effective. She removed her leine, and soon, all the women shed their clothing as well. The large, full moon looked on to our deviant celebration.

I never lost track of Davin's song. My eyes never parted from her milk-white skin as she swayed and circled around the flames. I beat the drums impeccably. The gods were artists, painting and shaping each woman uniquely; a field of flowers. Some of us stumbled and others kept their poise. Each of us discovered the chanteuse within. We laughed until our bellies ached. The stars fell into the fire, the trees breathed in awe, and the beasts of the forest succumbed to the beauty and magic. We then caught our breath in a circle around the firelight, each woman complaining about house chores and ridiculing the unwise decisions of their husbands. The next day, the villagers began to notice a change in their wives; they became more mellow and patient with their husbands, they cleaned and sewed with no complaints and every stove held a delicious, bubbly pot. The women had been rejuvenated by the fire dance under the moon. Not only did they work with a stronger sense of obligation, but also with more love toward their husbands. They had collectively sworn an oath to Davin, an oath to keep this indulgence a precious secret, and to commit to the ceremony every full moon.

The women had sworn an oath. Every single one of them. A few days later, I woke up in the middle of the night, my breath reduced to a wheeze, a scream of horror buried in my throat. In my dream, one of the women had let a word or two accidentally slip to her son, who complained to his father about his mother's whereabouts. The woman would then claim she had been unknowingly tailed by her husband. The story, retold in diverse versions, of our abomination spread like wild fire. The women had been discovered, according to the circling folktales; their worship and prayer to the fire instead of the true gods, their immersion in intimate coupling among one another, fornication between two women or more and their unsettling chants, incantations of ruin, envy and hatred toward men. An ungodly conspiracy.

My sister was no healer, the men concluded furiously, she was a seductress and a witch. My mother shamed us, her round, plump face turning red as she dragged Davin by her red hair and locked her in our storeroom. Had my father been alive, I was certain he would have given us an opportunity to clarify our intentions.

In the middle of a cold night, I smashed the window glass and extended my arm to the interior of the storage room. Davin weakly reached out to me. Hand in hand, we disappeared into the woods, taking refuge in the cottage of a deceased widow, another outcast, originally a fortune-teller and palm reader who grew up in our village. The only heirloom she left behind was a goat in a room attached to the back of her cottage, a variety of grains, and a clay jar of honey. 

The large glass window by our breakfast table and opposite the fireplace was truly a gift; it gave us a wonderful display as we waited for the milk to be reheated. The earth wore a silken, white cloak of snow and ice. The sky breathed in the rosy colors of the dawn as we took our first bites of honey coated wheat. We poured milk into our bowls and the remaining pool of warm milk sweetened by honey, which we thankfully drank at the end, was a remedy for every broken soul. 

Davin smiled at me apologetically. Her lovely brown eyes, the sadness in them, pierced my heart.

"I hate myself," she confessed, "for turning you into a fugitive." I stared at her, "Sometimes, I wish I had died before doing this to you."

 The iron kettle whistled. I opened my mouth to say something. The large window was shattered, the rain of glass showering three men. We turned our heads toward the invaders. Davin did not move from her chair. She turned to me.

"Rowa," her eyes filled with tears, "Run!" 

I fell out of my chair. A sword sliced the air, the furniture, Davin was already on the wooden floor, staring at me from beneath the table, a stream of blood expanding around her.

Three men. And a wolfhound.

I screamed, dragging myself away against the floor. One man signaled the others to wait. 

My sister was injured. Blood. There was no air. I suffocated. Their feet approached my petrified form on the ground. I was suddenly pulled by my leg, my ankle and feet and knees examined. My breasts, shoulders and neck were being stroked and measured. My teeth chattered. I kicked and screamed only inside my head. Davin. My sister. Help her. 

"Leave the witch to die. Bring the dark-haired girl with us." one of the men said, "Anlon will be pleased with this one. He prefers women with more flesh."

I shot up from the ground. I ran to her. I was pulled back by my shirt. Davin's brown eyes flickered to mine, silently shedding a tear, breathing slightly and painfully. Her face plastered on the wooden floor, her fiery hair soaked by the spreading darkness beneath her.

"Let me go. Please, I-" I whimpered, falling on my knees beside her. "She's still alive!" I shrieked but the man with the cold eyes seized my chin and forced me to tear my eyes away from her.

"Look at me. W***e." he hissed, "I was ordered to bring you alive. But I will, and I mean it, disregard this one command if you force me to." I spat in his face. A fusion of courage and stupidity I instantly regretted. Before I could see the shock and repulsion on his features, my head was turned by a slap, the fireplace and Davin spun in my vision, sedating my motion for a few moments. She was still breathing, a string of wisp air tying her to life. Two men swarmed and grabbed both my arms, I fought to be freed only to be yanked and carried on someone's shoulder. My cries and howls rumbled and thundered in the forest as we left the cottage. I prayed amidst my crumbling world. I prayed and begged the gods to wake up from this dream. Let this not be real. 

Davin drowned in her own blood while the iron kettle whistled and steamed and overflowed with foam and milk.

The women, wearing nothing but faces flushed with joy, danced around the fire.
Davin's mud cakes. The redness of her hair as she stood by the fireplace.  An oak tree, once glimmering green, casting a majestic shade, now reduced to a skeleton of veins.

I cried to be pulled out from the darkness. Please...

A twinkle of light. Tragically out of reach. But visible.

A door opened and closed. I could feel my eyebrows furrowed and my lips shriveled in a grimace. Someone, somewhere, whimpered a protest in between loud, short breaths. 

"Rowa, you're dreaming again." the firewood crackled.

She was slowly taking her place beside my pallet, reaching with her hand to stroke my forehead. My eyes snapped open and I caught her arm midair. Davin gasped.

"What did you see? What happened?" she hesitantly asked.

I was a woman close to drowning and yet, by the grace of the gods, I had emerged from the depths of the sea. I scanned the room. The large glass window, The fireplace. The kettle.

The kettle. The ill-starred, f*****g kettle.

"Davin," I sat up, the drum in my heartbeats exceeding the volume of my words, "Davin, Davin," I was sweating. My hands shook as I placed them on her shoulders.

"I'm here." she murmured worriedly, "You're safe, Rowa. It's arlight."

I cupped her face in my hands, "Davin, when..." I shivered with every exhale. A thorn barbed my throat when I tried to swallow, "When did you put the kettle- when did you place it on the fire?" 

"A minute ago." she frowned sadly, "I was-"

"We need to leave. Now. Right now, Davin."

"Rowa," she sighed, "I trust you, but we cannot panic and run every time you see a dream--"

"LISTEN TO ME!" I roared,. Davin turned to stone, "We will DIE. They will kill you. And I will be sold as a slave. I don't care about myself. I don't- It's you that matters. You are all that matters. You must live. Your gift. Your kind heart. You will travel the world and cure people. You must live, Davin." the river flowed from my eyes, "You must. Because. I love you." Confused and afraid, but unshakably faithful in my vision, Davin pulled me in for an embrace. I breathed in relief.

Hand in hand, we ran in the direction of the mountains, wholeheartedly hoping the snow would clean our traces.

Years ago, beneath the shade of a dazzling green angel oak, Davin adjusted a long stripe of green onion beneath her nose, imitating our father's mustache. She then fell on the grass with a loud exhale and stretched her arms and legs comfortably, turning her head to look at me.

"Rowa," she said, I sleepily hummed a response, "How did you know the swing was going to break?"

"I told you. I see a picture in my mind. Sometimes." I sighed with embarrassment. Davin smiled at me with admiration. I turned to lie on my side, to properly appreciate the pearly shine of curiosity in her brown eyes.

"Do you know why you see what you see?" she asked. I shook my head, "the gods, they are kind. They want you to know that you have a choice. Do you understand what I'm saying? Rowa, are you happy with this gift?"

I closed my eyes for a moment, "Sometimes."

"Sometimes?"

"Yes."

© 2019 YouoweYoupay


Author's Note

YouoweYoupay
Image: The Angel Oak
Source: Gagnon Studio

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Reviews

this is a great touching story that shows many emotions of your life

Posted 4 Months Ago


I have read 3 of your stories now & I must say that some of your reviewers are piling on with a rather extensive vengeance, it seems. I hope you won't let the anality of their diatribes get you down. Overall, you write great stories that are unlike anything I've been reading here at the cafe. I love your storytelling style, keeping your storyline dynamic with dialogue, action scenes, & yet flowering the path with some nicely lyrical descriptive writing.

That being said, the mystic aspect of your story may not be as convincing or compelling for some people who do not already entertain the possibilities of mysticism. I felt you modulated your storyline between the fantasy aspects & keeping the flow/suspense going . . . but in a few spots my eyes glazed over a teensy bit becuz your well-written & imaginative side trips seemed to dwarf the main storyline here & there. To me, this is not a bad thing. It's an off-beat writing style that can be forgiven. Just be aware that online, people have short attention spans. The best reviewers on this website often don't touch the longer stories. That's why the response to your stuff seems unfair to me. If you are writing for the pure joy of writing, then keep going in whatever style you want, as you are very versatile. But if you want to generate a following of readers, this kind of story is a little too long & rambling. For me, very much worth my reading time! (((HUGS))) Fondly, Margie

Posted 4 Months Ago


This comment has been deleted by the poster.
YouoweYoupay

4 Months Ago

Barleygirl,

I am pleased to read your reviews on my writings.
So thankful that.. read more
barleygirl

4 Months Ago

First, we must get & keep the flow flowing by writing what makes us happy, however the writing comes.. read more
The way you started was a bit confusing. It was sort of difficult to know exactly what's happening. The transition between past and present sometimes didn't happen smoothly and was a bit uncertain.

Now, let's turn that frown upside down.
This was an amazing story. I loved it!

The plot is magical, not just because of the type of content but the way you've written it. You are quite skilled at portraying the emotions of a character. Then there are beautiful fragments like "the rain of glass showering three men."

The only things I found issue with are:
1. Punctuation doesn't seem to be properly used here. I think a change on that end will make your words even more animated
2. When Davin first notices Rowa making a prediction (the swing that broke), it seems too sudden and unconvincing. It becomes clear why she asked that question directly after noticing the swing break (because Davin has her own powers and is dying to share it with her sister), but you could still make it more convincing, I feel.
3. A few typos here and there. Nothing another calm proofread session cannot change.
4. I wish the story was longer ;)

Again, I loved this story. Hope you keep up the good work!




Posted 5 Months Ago


YouoweYoupay

4 Months Ago

Agyani, baby! Your reviews are always welcome. They warm my heart and also open my eyes to more spac.. read more
Agyani

4 Months Ago

Wow, thank you for making my day, Ayesha! (do you spell it without the 'e'?). Again, I loved this st.. read more
Well, you did ask…

• How I wished to be pulled out of the darkness.

To a reader, who has no clue of where we are in time and space, what’s going on, or who we are, this line is, literally, meaningless because we have no context. Darkness can mean ignorance, a life-style, and more.

• A door opened and closed.

To you, who know the story, and the points I mentioned above, this makes sense. But for a reader? The term “a door,” has very different meaning if we’re in a parking lot, a house, a jail, or a cabinet-making shop. If you’re alone in the house and you hear that it could be a reason for joy or fear. Did something or someone come in? Go out?

Again, the reader lacks context. You know. Anyone in the story and on the scene knows. But who did you write this for? Shouldn’t they know?

• I could feel my eyebrows furrowing and my lips shriveling in a grimace.

As stated, the person speaking has no control over it. They can only know it’s happening. Yet they aren’t asking why it’s happening. That’s not what you intended the reader to get, but it is what you told them. Remember, you’re not there to explain. And the reader has no access to your intent. All they have is what the words suggest to them, based on their background.

• Someone, somewhere, whimpered a protest in between loud, short breaths. It was me.

With this line, you clearly establish that you’re talking ABOUT what happened, and that we’re with the storyteller, hearing about events second hand, not on the scene. That’s a nonfiction approach that’s fact-based and author-centric. But the goal of fiction is to provide an emotional experience, not an informational one. So it’s emotion-based and character-centric.

Will your intended meaning for this line become clear if we read on? Perhaps, but since the reader has no assurance that it will, they’ll probably stop reading. And even if they go on, you can’t retroactively remove that “Huh?” Nor can you provide a second first-impression. That’s why your words must provide context for their meaning as-they’re-read.

Are you getting the feeling that your schooldays writing skills may not be up to that task? You should, because all those reports and essays you wrote sharpened your nonfiction skills, but taught you nothing about writing fiction for the printed page.

• "Rowa, you're dreaming again." the firewood crackled.

Based on that lack of an uppercase T after the quote this is supposed to be a tag, telling us the firewood talks. Again, not what you meant, but it is what you said.

Forgetting that, the reader expects to know who speaks. They don’t care if the fire crackles (In common usage, firewood burns, and the fire crackles).

Bottom line: You’re writing exactly as we’re taught, and presenting this as a chronicle of events in the form, “This happened…then that happened…and after that…” The viewpoint is that of someone not on the scene, and talking about the events instead of making the reader feel as if they’re living them. Yes, you’re using first person personal pronouns, but viewpoint is something very different.

To Illustrate my point: I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying that in a lover’s quarrel there are three sides to the argument: Her side, his side, and, what really happened.

Using that as the base, I’ve asked many hopeful writers to evaluate the following statement: “Our job, as writers, is to tell the reader what really happened, in an entertaining and informative way.” Do you agree? Pretty much every hopeful writer I’ve posed it to has.

I hope you didn’t agree, because it’s 100% wrong. Our job is to show the viewpoint of our protagonist, in real-time as they live the story. For one reason why, and how that influences the reader’s perception of the story, you might read this article:
https://jaygreenstein.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/the-grumpy-writing-coach-8/

A second reason is that while you can tell us how the protagonist, or any character, speaks a line of dialog, you cannot make the reader know how the narrator does. So what the reader gets is, and must be, dispassionate. That’s why your narrative prose shouldn’t require emotion in that voice. You hear emotion in it as you read, but the reader can’t know how the line should be read the line until AFTER it’s read.

A third reason is that everything we do or say, in life, is the result of how we perceive our situation, in the moment we call “now.” That’s true for every character in a story. So unless we know who our avatar—your protagonist—views the scene, their actions and dialog won’t be obvious to the reader. So, you’ve given them no reason to care. And unless the reader is made to care they will not turn the pages.

The thing no one tells us is that writing fiction is a profession, and ALL professional skills are learned AFTER we master the general skills our schooldays give us. So in the end, you’re trying to write fiction with the nonfiction writing skills that employers require. And that’s both fixable, and something you share with pretty much every hopeful writer. So fixing that is more a rite of passage than a disaster—though after putting in all that work on your writing is can feel like one. I know, because I’ve been there.

So what do you do? Well, if that article I linked to made sense, you might dig around among the others in my writing blog. That will give you a feel for the issues, in general.

Then, the local library’s fiction-writing section is a great resource. You’ll find the views of successful writers, publishing pros, and noteworthy teachers. My favorite, and the book I most often recommend, is Dwight Swain’s, Techniques of the Successful Writer. It’s a bit dated, and can be a bit dry in spots, but it is the best I’ve found.

If a university level book seems more than you want, there’s Debra Dixon’s, GMC: Goal Motivation & Conflict. Deb was one of Swain’s Students, and though the book is less detailed, it’s still far better than most of what’s out there.

But whatever you decide to do, hang on there, and keep on writing.

Jay Greenstein
https://jaygreenstein.wordpress.com/category/the-craft-of-writing/

Posted 5 Months Ago


0 of 1 people found this review constructive.

StarNinja

5 Months Ago

Sorry, internet ate my comment.

The firewood talking to the narrator worked for me as.. read more
JayG

5 Months Ago

• The firewood talking to the narrator worked for me as dream logic.

First, it can'.. read more
StarNinja

5 Months Ago

Ah, you owned a manuscript critiquing service. Now it makes sense. This did help. Thank you for expl.. read more
"Hmm. This story is too short," the reviewer clucked, fingers tapping a crossed arm. "I don't get to know the characters well enough and the plot is underdeveloped."
"This story is too long," the reviewer mewled, heel tapping a cold stone floor. "The pace is slow and doesn't move fast enough."
"The writer is too young," the reviewer growled. "Her immaturity bleeds through the page."
"The writer is old enough," the reviewer howled. "Her words should reflect her age."
"The subject matter is too basic," the reviewer tsked. "Women's expression is old hat. Give me something meaty to chew on."
"The subject matter is too graphic," the reviewer hissed. "A woman's body is sacred and should not have a light shone on it."
"This work offends me," the reviewer said, shrinking down. "Ladies should behave as their men instruct."
"This work doesn't challenge me," the reviewer shrieked, disappearing into himself. "I want to see more skin! More tongue! More fu-"
The reviewer died. His thoughts echoed in digital space. His opinions changed nothing. His critique did not apply. A waste. A waste.



Anyways, I loved this tale. Timeless and classic. Powerful and probing and inspiring. I'm glad you're sharing your talents with us again. Three thumbs up and ten stars!

Posted 5 Months Ago


YouoweYoupay

4 Months Ago

Thank you so much. You can't imagine how happy I am to be able to write again with little care for q.. read more

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Added on March 26, 2019
Last Updated on March 26, 2019
Tags: love, story, faith, magic, premonition, novel, poetry, tree, fire, celtic, snow, honey, oats, wheat, writing

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YouoweYoupay
YouoweYoupay

Amman, ..., Jordan



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"The Universe is made of stories, not of atoms." ~Muriel Rukeyser "There is no one more rebellious or attractive than a person lost in a book." “He allowed himself to be swayed by his con.. more..

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