Reminder: Free short story – see below ‘A Pearl for Your Enjoyment.’
The Christmas engine is steaming towards us at a great rate. I feel as if I am going to be sucked in beneath those thundering, rumbling, steel wheels.
MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE
ENJOY THE MOMENT
WISHING YOU LOVE AND GOODWILL
Keep safe, Keep smiling, Keep reading, Keep writing.
Current Weather and Tides
While searching for a short story for this newsletter, I came across two pieces written over twelve months ago. They were the forerunners for the current novel. How depressing to think the book is not quite finished yet. What have I been doing? Well, the story is written, and the cover picture is organized but as usual editing is like swimming through mud.
A Pearl for Your Enjoyment
Our mentor gave us a writing prompt: I kept my pace even, not looking over my shoulder. That would cost me precious seconds. I couldn’t afford to lose.
I have taken the liberty of putting a twist on the Greek Myth of Atalanta and Hippomenes.
I kept my pace even, not looking over my shoulder. That would cost me precious seconds I couldn’t afford to lose. Yet, for the first time, I felt my heart betray me. My usual determination to beat all comers appeared to have deserted me. I struggled to dredge up the motivation to win. The wind whistled past my ears lifting my long blond plaits, blowing moisture from my eyes like fallen tears. It cooled the heat of my body relieving the effect of the rays of the hot summer sun. I increased my speed. The passing trees blurred.
My mind drew on the one motivation that never failed me – the last time my father and I spoke. My ears rang with the memory of bitter words thrown across the room. What right had he to demand I do anything to please him? Where had he been all my life when I needed him?
“Atalanta, this running has got to stop. You are a beautiful woman and must marry and have beautiful children. You need a man to look after you.”
“Running is all I live for, Papa. Nobody can outrun me. Even Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, says I am the best runner. I am always first there for the kill.”
“Leave the hunting for the men, Atalanta. It is now time for you to take on the role of wife and mother.”
I remained silent, knowing it would not aid my cause to tell Papa of the vow of virginity I made to Artemis when I emerged from childhood. I reined in my errant thoughts. The terrain had changed. Boar Hunt Bridge came into view. The sound of the challenger’s footsteps thudded across the timbers behind me. They faded into the soft fall upon the dirt road with mine.
What is that? It rolled along the ground past my feet. Sunlight glinted on the shiny golden ball – no – apple. My love for apples enticed my feet to slow. I stopped and scooped it up to hold before my nose. My every breath sucked in the aroma and flavour overriding the urgency within me. The unusual sound of running footsteps passing my ears barely registered. My white teeth bit into the fruit. It carried me back to idle days under the trees heavy with fruit in Grandpa’s apple orchard. With the last morsel chewed and swallowed, my feet once more began the chase. This time, not hunting boar, but the handsome runner who hoped to win my hand in marriage.
Yes, I had conceded to my father – albeit in a sly promise to marry the man who bettered me in a footrace. No one known had been able to beat me in a footrace to date. There was no reason to think anyone might do so in the future.
I lifted my eyes to see Hippomenes’ tanned muscled body racing up Potter’s Hill in the distance. Of their own volition, my feet flew over the track in pursuit. A fleeting thought entered my mind. Where had the apple come from? Had this man – this handsome man – thrown it to gain ground over me? The thought amused me. It intrigued me. I drew on my inner strength and increased the pace to a new level.
As I caught up with and passed Hippomenes, his body flashed on the periphery of my vision. The flutter inside my belly surprised me but held little attention. My mind recorded the message delivered by my eyes, Hippomenes was indeed an attractive specimen with his broad shoulders and muscled legs shining with perspiration.
On the downside of Potter’s Hill, another golden apple rolled along the grass past my feet. A smile teased my lips. I am not sure why I stopped. But the race was only half over, I had time. This time as Hippomenes’ lithe form raced past, I watched closely while I savoured the sweet juice of the fruit. The glory of the beautiful views of the valley below faded in my mind. The flutter in my core increased. The figure of my competitor filled my vision.
With my feet flying once again, my mind swirled with confusing thoughts and impressions. Who was this man, Hippomenes? No doubt he was no slouch when it came to running but how had I never noticed just how good-looking he was? A fleeting sense of reluctance flashed through my body when his racing figure fell behind.
At Arrow River, I bent to retrieve the third apple as it rolled past my feet, nearly over the bank and into the water. This time my eyes refused to ignore my competitor. While I crunched the flesh of the apple, I watched the rippling muscles as this man’s strong legs powered onwards. My heart rolled over at the sight of a pair of dimples flashing in his cheeks under dark eyes partially hidden by long lashes. The voice inside warned me not to delay – there were only two miles until the end of the race at the community hall but the caution landed weakly upon my ears. My mind offered another incentive. You have promised to marry the man who beats you in a footrace, Atalanta. Is this what you want?
Hippomenes’ speeding figure disappeared through the trees at the bend of the river. My feet refused to listen to my orders. Oh, they ran fast but not too fast. I admitted, I rather liked this man’s race plan in tempting me with the golden apples. He really must have wanted to win and he has taken the time and interest to learn how I love to eat apples. I watched the back of his body when he came into sight again on the outskirts of the township. My feet drove me onwards but my heart was otherwise occupied coping with the added pounding and swirling inside my chest caused by something it did not quite understand.
Hippomenes crossed the line an inch in front of me. Dust rose into the air as we came to a halt together. Our panting breaths blended when he turned and knelt at my feet. From inside his tunic, he withdrew another gift of a rather wilted, sweat-laden red flower and held it out to me.
My eyes glowed – I know – I felt them glow. My heart squashed the words belting on the door of my mind. Arrogant Sod.