June 02, 2009

The Dream Child, Short Fiction from Dragons Composed

Today, I'm sharing an excerpt from my story, "The Dream Child," included in the recently published anthology, DRAGONS COMPOSED, from Kerlak Publishing.

Excerpt, "The Dream Child"
By C. A. Verstraete

"Margriet, you have to do something with the boy." Lionus Van Der Straete slugged down the rest of his ale and belched. "Another cup, woman, and a hunk of that bread."

A feeling of dread hit Margriet as she grabbed the pitcher of ale and walked across the room to the table. "Yes, yes, I will talk to him again." She filled the mug and sighed, wishing the answer on how to control her youngest was as easy as sidestepping her husband's groping fingers. Something she should have done six children ago, she thought.

The youngest boy, Bernardus, had come out of her womb nine years hence screaming, with a full head of hair, fists flailing. "Ach, a lively one he'll be," the midwife had remarked.

Margriet had cursed the woman and her prediction ever since.

The knife made a pleasant thunk against the wooden board as she cut a chunk of bread, making her think of things that she'd be too ashamed to tell the Father at this week's confession. She dropped the bread on the man's wooden trencher and went back to kneading the few coarse leftover grains and flour to make a new loaf.

His meal done, the man rose and gave her a pointed look as he fastened the heavy cloak about his shoulders. "Talk to the boy or I will."

She nodded and watched her husband pick up his tools and head to the market square in hopes of being chosen for a day's labor. She hoped he'd get something to ease his surliness, and their worries. They needed the coin to supplement the few pennies she earned from sewing lace under the dim light of a candle late into the night.

Her fists pounded the dough, the force of her motions putting healthy dents in the moistened mass. Her mind raced as she wondered how to get the thickheaded boy to see reason, to make him stop his foolish storytelling.

She partly blamed herself.

She would never have let him hear all those fanciful tales of dragons, soothsayers and the like as a little one if she'd known how much he'd take them to heart.

Margriet mulled over her brood as she placed the raw loaf into a cloth-covered bowl and set it inside the still warm stone oven to rise. She had nothing but praise for her more sensible older children. The eldest, Alexander, though quiet, had outgrown his moodiness and was courting the cobbler's daughter; a good match.

She said a silent prayer, thanking God for her four daughters, especially Maria and Constancia, who at thirteen and twelve were well-versed in cooking and cleaning, helping make the endless chores a little easier. They were good examples to the two younger girls. She regretted the coming day when they would leave her hearth for families of their own.

One of the problems, she knew, was as the last to be born, Bernardus was too many years removed from his older brother, and the younger girls had no patience for his dirty fingers grabbing their few playthings.

Left on his own, he often found troublesome ways to amuse himself. The boy was lucky not to have been jailed after he set fire to a neighbor's barn the year before. Margriet had barely been able to contain her husband's rage when the boy insisted he was only trying to burn the dross from the hay so it would turn to gold.

"Alchemy?" Lionus had yelled, grabbing a sturdy switch off the tree outside their door. "The boy has crazy ideas instead of doing his chores? I'll give him something to dream about!"

Margriet had long feared the boy was soft, that he'd been injured coming out of the birth canal. When he began coming home bloodied and bruised, his sisters crying that he was ruining their future chances for being wed, she knew he had to be kept even closer to her apron.

But more worrisome were the boy's increasingly elaborate tales.

She tried to keep this from his father, fearing fatal harm to the child, but she wasn't sure how long she could keep it secret. Even his sisters began calling him het droom kind, the dream child, harkening to the bedtime story she'd told them about a child saving the village from a dragon. She remembered her own mother reciting the tale to her while she learned to sew and make lace as a little girl. Her own children had enjoyed the story, too, but they had outgrown it. Her youngest, though, still found it fascinating...

(c)2009 C. Verstraete, published in Dragons Composed, Kerlak Publishing - http://candidcanine.blogspot.com

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