Near 500 words: The children

Nicole ran. She remembered the day she ran. It was the Day of the Rainbow. Karl, her brother, ran with her. They left their father’s house and ran from the fear. Their father had big hands and he knew how to use them. Especially on Nicole.

She was eight and Karl was ten and they ran. Their father followed them until he lost their trail. Then they walked. They did not know where they were going. Only they knew they were not going back. They would rather die first. So they walked.

When you are that young, you have no place to go. No refuge. They must have walked for weeks. They slept underneath things and ate the food they found in the trash. By this time, they were dirty and unrecognizable as the children of their father.

Summer was getting close to coming to an end. Autumn was closing in and soon it was to be chilly. And then the snow and winter. They had to find a place of refuge. But where.

They came to a forest. It was a large forest. Perhaps they might find a cave where they could stay to keep warm.

In that cave, the woodsman found them. Asleep. He was a big fella and he was handsome and was gentle. He had lived in the forest all his life long.

“My name is Theodore. My friends call me Theo,” he said when the children woke up. “What are your names?”

The children looked at him with frightened eyes. He could not see those eyes but he knew they must be frightened.

“Do you wish me to leave?” he asked.

“Y-y-yes,” Karl answered.

“I can do that. And you can stay here. I can bring you cakes if you are hungry. My wife makes very good cakes. But what are you going to do when the witch comes?”

“There are no witches,” Karl said.

“Oh, but there are. The one this cave belongs to is disguised as a bear. But she is a witch. And she likes the taste of children with her gingerbread.”

“Wake up, wake up,” Karl shouted to Nicole. “We have to leave. There is a bear coming.”

“Would you like to come home with me? I have food, a bath and a warm bed. And a wife who would love to meet you. If you are not happy there, you can be on your way.”

Karl and Nicole were not sure whether to take the offer. Theo might be just like their father. All smooth, then like a volcano, bursting with anger. Finally, the hunger got the best of them. “We will go with you,” Karl said. “But we will not stay.”

“At least, stay for the winter. Once the spring comes, go your own way.”

They stayed for the winter and then the summer to come and then another winter and another summer. Theo and his wife loved the two children as if they were their own. Finally, one morning Nicole told the story of their father’s anger. It was not a pleasant story to tell by a fire. But she told it anyway. Theo and Margaret, his wife, were happy the children trusted them enough to tell their story. That was the day a giant rainbow appeared through their window.

A Case of No Winning

I was hanging with the Octopus. You know the fella who can’t keep his hands to hisself. He’s been slapped more times than Reagan had jelly beans back when Reagan had jelly beans. We were at a poker game and Fudz was telling this story.

Fudz being Fudz never started with a once upon a time. He didn’t give you a setting either. It could have been a dark and stormy night or once upon a midnight cleary. Didn’t matter to Fudz. He’d just plunged right in. It was like you started The Game of Thrones on the fifth season and hadn’t a clue who Ned Stark was.

Anyway Fudz was taking off on this story. “Filler,” he said. “That guy. You just never knew about him.”

“That was Filler alright,” Octo joined in.

“Don’t interrupt, you eight-armed piece of seaweed.”

Now you did not want to say something like that to the Octopus. No sirree. It just wasn’t done. He was on the sensitive side when it came to his looks. I knew that. Fudz knew that too. Well, that was it for the game. No more five card studley. Fudz had been looking for a fight all day. And now he was going to get one.

The Octopus jumped up and stuck his fist in Fudz’s face. Everybody knows you don’t want to stick your fist in Fudz’s face. But there was the Octopus doing it and he was ready to chili con carne Fudz’s face.

The Octopus was hot and Fudz was hot. I just knew there was going to be a hot time in the old town that night. Somebody was about to get a whooping and I did not mean it to be me.

Unfortunately, and I am meaning a big unfortunately, the two of them guys turn to moi. At the same time they requested, “Toes, you gonna referee, you hear.”

“Who? Me?” I choked out.

“Toes,” Octo said. “You gotta do it.”

Now I gotta tell you. There was going to be blood that night. Most likely it was to be mine. ‘Cause no matter who I chose as the winner of the bout the other one was going to stick his hand down my throat and pull my heart out and eat it.

That was no way to be cornered. That’s what I get for hanging out with the two gallootest galloots there ever was. I was thinking a mile a minute and yet I wasn’t fast and furious enough. On top of that, I was sweating to get all. The perspiration was pouring out of me like I had just been baptized in the River Jordan.

“Okay,” I finally choked out. “But I got one request.”

“Request away,” the duo sang duet-style.

“You both can only use one hand. Octo, you have to have seven arms tied behind you. Fudz, you have to have three of your arms tied behind you.”

Well, they thunk about it. They thunk and they thunk and they thunk. It took so much time it was like being stood up for a date and having to buy both dinners. It took a heap amount of time, I’m telling you.

Finally, they turned to me and said (at the same time), “You got yourself a deal.”

“That ain’t all,” I said.

“There’s more?” the Octopus said, unsure he was liking the conditions. He gave me that mean look of his that said, “This had better be good.”

“Good,” Fudz repeated with that snarl of his.

“To be fair,” I said.

“Yeah, yeah,” the two gave me.

“We’re going to tie your left leg, Fudz, to Octo’s right.”

They didn’t like that. I could tell by the frown on their faces. It was not a nice frown either. I thought about reconsidering but I knew this was the only way to save my hide.

“That’s the way it’s done,” I reassured the two.

“Who says,” Fudz wanted to know, and he wanted to know bad.

“Chivalry says. It’s written in the Code of the Knights. You never heard that. It’s the only way to guarantee a fair fight.”

“Who says we want a fair fight?” Octo asked.

“What do you mean?” Fudz said. “‘Course we want a fair fight.”

“We do? Well, if you say so. All right. I agree to the terms. Tie our legs together.”

I always carry a bit of rope with me for such occasions. You just never know when it will come in handy. I wrapped that rope around their legs, tying the two beasts together. Then I tied their hands behind them, leaving just one free for each. I backed away from the brutes and shouted, “Go for it.”

Now I am here to tell you that you never seen such a fight in your live-long life. It was something else. While they were in the middle of it, I decided I had enough of the entertainment. I lit out. And that’s why I am hiding out here. When they realized I was gone, they stopped beating the brains out of each other and turned their ire on me.

So please don’t tell them that I am on this here sheet of paper. I value my health.

Uh-oh. No. It can’t be. Geez. It is. You ratted on me. You mean you didn’t rat on me. Then why is Octo and Fudz standing right behind you?