My Name is Minette, Chapter Twelve: Trapped

That was the last conversation she’d been trying to avoid. “Maw, please!” Minette protested. She wrapped a lock of hair around her finger and rubbed it between her fingers. She wouldn’t be able to meet her reflection at all with her last shadow of independence sheared off. It was her only weak grasp at her true self, at the person she dreamed about. Shearing off her hair turned her outsides into the outsides of the Good Son, the honorable husband, the person who was not–and would never be–Minette.

Paw’s fist slammed down on the table, silverware jangling, Irma startling. Uh-oh.

He leaned forward. Crickets sung outside, unaware of the calamity inside. “Why do you fight this so hard?” he asked. His face was the reddest she’d ever seen it, and that was saying something.

Minette was silent. She couldn’t tell him. She had no defense. She couldn’t answer past her tight throat.

“Morton, you’re too old for all this. It’s time to grow up,” he said, snapping the last two words in emphasis.

Minette ordered herself not to cry. She nodded her head, hiding behind locks that would be gone in a day or two. Her dreams bled away. This was real. This was happening. To her. And soon.

“Yes, Paw.”

Paw leaned back. “Good,” he said. The sounds of life resumed. Everyone else kept eating, complimenting Maw on her mash. Irma asked about her dress, and Maw’s eager yammering filled the silence and loosened everyone’s shoulders.

Life kept turning around Minette, even as desperately as she wanted it to stop, to just stop, if only for a moment.

It felt utterly useless, almost stupid. What control did she have over her life? All her dreaming, her pining for something else, it had only served to hurt her. To highlight its own impossibility. Before autumn came, she’d have a moppy head and a wife and she’d be a partner at the smithy.

Before long, she’d be trapped behind the portrait of her false life forever, acting and dancing around like a fool until it was time for her own weary, overworked death, completely voiceless, her true self unknown to all.

My Name is Minette, Chapter Eleven: Paw’s Plan

“Irma’s right,” Minette said. “It’s a little early to talk about this, isn’t it?” She tried a smile. Maw and Paw liked to get serious sometimes, to impart Elder Wisdom upon the Youths, but those moments never lasted long. Minette just had to get through this one.

“I met a boy who goes to school in town,” Rhys piped up. “He’s my age, and he’s the son of the candlemaker. If they can–”

“It’s never too early to get your affairs in order,” Maw said, barely blinking at Rhys’ words.

Rhys went quiet. Minette had nothing to say, either, and definitely not Irma.

“I thought you’d be happy,” Paw added after the silence hung around too long, and Minette didn’t miss the edge of hurt in his tone.

Minette’s heart fell into her tummy. She sighed. “I… I just don’t think I’m ready yet,” she said. “I could use some more time. To practice. At the smithy.” It was the most and the least she could say to appease Paw and eliminate any suspicion. Minette didn’t know how to explain herself if he learned that she didn’t want to be the man of the house. She didn’t want to run a smoky, choking business for forty years and then die because of it and consign her beefy son to the same fate. She didn’t want to impregnate some woman. She didn’t want to drop her kids on a wife locked at home while Minette compared her muscles with other men at the pub and complained about naughty children and nagging.

“Of course y’are!” Paw exclaimed. “We’ll go to the mines tomorrow. I want you to find me the softest ore. Something good to work on on your own. Once you do that, we’ll start your partnership, and let the women in town know you’re eligible. It’ll all fall together.”

Minette nodded, running a sweaty hand through her hair. She schooled the look on her face. He made it sound so easy, like she’d stumble into the forge and then stumble home to bed her wife. Easy peasy. She’d thought he would back off, give her time. Some pointers, maybe. But instead, he’d only doubled down. 

In that moment, Minette had already run through a million and one different scenarios where she sabotaged Paw’s copper test or intentionally pulled out the grossest, worst piece of copper ever, but she crossed them all off her mental list. Paw knew her too well to fall for a trick like that. Plus, if he did think she was that brick dumb stupid, it still wouldn’t stop the part Minette was truly afraid of: the siring of sons. The sense of duty. The unseen woman, the loyal wife.

“That hair,” Maw added, nodding over at Paw. “That goes, too.”

My Name Is Minette, Chapter Ten: The Lecture

The table went silent. Minette waited for someone to say something, anything, but there was nothing. Even the forks and spoons had stilled.

“She just needs more time,” Minette spoke up. “She can learn just the same as any of us can. But sometimes you’ve got to be patient.

When Maw said “Morton…” in That Tone of Voice, Minette had no choice but to shut her mouth and look up at Maw. “Enough about that, then.”

Minette knew what that meant. She held back a sigh. “Yes, Maw?”

“Paw tells me you’re doing well at the smithy,” Maw said. It wasn’t a compliment.

Just get to the point, Minette wanted to scream. No need to draw out the agony. She knew this was about more than just hammering metal. This was about the Good Son they wanted.

“Yes,” Minette said, proud of how her voice barely trembled.

“We’re thinkin’ of your future,” Paw butted in, popping a bread roll into his mouth whole. “I’m getting old.”

“I know you are,” Minette said. She thought again of his froggy, chipped voice, of how his whiskers were more white than brown. His aging appearance was another reminder of her future–and how the little world she inhabited was soon to change in a big way.

Paw frowned. Rhys stomped on her big toe under the table.

“Rhys,” Maw said, spoon in hand, without even looking at him.

His foot retreated.

“Anyway,” Paw continued, clearing his throat, “it’s time you weren’t my apprentice, but my partner. I’ll teach you how to run the business by yourself, and you’ll take over. We’ll take you out courting to find you the right woman. She’ll move in with us, and start keeping house soon after that.”

Minette couldn’t help but laugh at all he left unsaid. Minette would take over the smithy when he was dead. Her future dainty, submissive wife would take over the house when Maw was dead. Couldn’t they see how absurd it was to speak so frankly about their own untimely demises?

Irma huffed. “Can we talk about something else?” she asked, echoing Minette’s thoughts. “May I be excused?”

“No,” Maw and Paw said, in unison, answering both questions. Irma slouched in her seat.

Minette nudged Irma’s knee. Irma hated all this talk about death even more than Minette did–her future was just as uncertain. Lots of townsfolk talked about the blind girl down the way, but it was the things they didn’t say that gave away their true feelings. They just didn’t know what to do with her. Minette knew that feeling, that dread, and she knew that Irma must be feeling like she was toeing the edge of a great, dark, chasm.

The Rise of the Band Geeks, Episode 16: The Army Returns (Part 3)

Kendra crept away from the crusty dining hall, her backpack a rock on her shoulders and her Holy Band Beanie situated snugly atop her head.  The space was empty save for a few poles, a bannister, a water bottle-refilling station, and–




Atop the fountain sat the demonic octopus, its gaze fixated on Kendra.  She pulled her Holy Band Beanie tighter over her ears and set her backpack aside, then clenched her fists.  Without stretching first, she barreled toward the accursed thing with the most vicious battle cry known to mankind, a war chant dredged up from the countless minute spent cadencing with the band to football games.

“BUTTEEEEEER!!!”  Her legs pumping, she shot toward the octopus, her arms outstretched, ready to destroy the thing–




She crashed into something solid and human-shaped.  It toppled backward but did not fall onto the floor, which just saved Kendra from faceplanting before a rando who had not been there a mere two seconds before.  When her vision cleared, she realized she was staring at a figure clad in black form-fitting athletic wear from shoulder to toe.  Diminutive and squirrely, the figure bounced up and down his feet to shake out his muscles, unperturbed by Kendra steamrolling into him, then flashed her a smile that eerily resembled that of the demon octopus.


“Hello there,” boomed Franklin F. Franklin.


“Franklin, wh–how–.”


Franklin simply lifted an as-of-now unbruised finger upward.  Kendra’s eyes followed him and found a missing ceiling tile beyond which the ventilation shafts loomed.


“I’m a cymbal player.  A little knee-bending doesn’t scare me.”  Again, that smile.  “I was hoping you’d figure it out sooner.  You know, since I am the lord of reversible stuffed octopi.”


“F-figure out what?”  Kendra was dizzy; her head was spinning.  Everything she’d been through in the past week was because of Franklin?


“I was trying to film an iMovie about sentient stuffed octopi, but you kept popping up in all my critical shots.  Don’t worry; I’ll edit you out of them.”  Noting Kendra’s incredulous expression, Franklin erased his smile.


“It was on my bed!!!”


I didn’t mean for that to happen!  He just fell from my hand, bro!  I am sorry about that one.  It was completely unintentional.”  As he talked, Franklin approached the apparently-not-demonic octopus and plucked it from the water bottle filler.  “Anyway, I’m almost done filming.  Just two more months to go!”  He flashed Kendra a thumbs-up, bent his knees, and launched himself back into the building’s crawlspace.


Kendra shook.  All of the running, all of the terror, and it had been–it wasn’t–.


“Hey, Kendra!”


She whirled around.  The space was suddenly teeming with students, though she was certain no one had been there a moment before.  Hilary waved at her with a smile that betrayed her ignorant bliss.  “We gotta get to class, sis.  Everything okay?”


“Y-yeah,” Kendra stammered.  She stooped down to pick up her backpack again.  Franklin.  Franklin was–.


All of this for an iMovie?


She pushed her terror away, squared her shoulders, and trudged beside Hilary into the snow.


The End!  For now………………..


More things will happen next week!

My Name is Minette, Chapter Nine: The Dreaded Dinner Table

That night, Minette sat at the dinner table already dreading Paw and Maw’s imminent interrogation. She didn’t want to hear them call her a boy or a suitor. She wanted to ignore her fate. They were all huddled around their little round table, knees knocking, toes fighting. 

Rhys was humming to himself, gnawing on his porridge spoon, and Irma was devouring her food like a mouse who’d found its way into the cookie jar. Minette hid her anxiety by chastising her siblings’ manners as usual and teasing them as much as she could without starting a ruckus.

Maw and Paw were, predictably, surveying the table and its inhabitants like a king and queen on a haughty dais. They noticed any green beans hidden under a napkin, any elbow pinching of an irritating sibling.

This evening, try as Minette might, each child received their time in the sweltering spotlight.

Irma came first. Paw leveled his molten stare at her, and she looked up, swallowing, even though her eyes couldn’t see it.

“Irma,” Paw said, in that deceptively quiet, even tone. “You went to the shop with Rhys today.”

“Yes, Paw,” Irma said. Minette glanced at Rhys and found him observing his peas with altogether too much fascination. Uh-oh.

“Well? How did it go, then?”

“It was… fine,” Irma said, with just a squick of hesitation. “Rhys was there the whole time. He helped me count the copper Drunes.”

Paw’s head swiveled like an owl’s to peer at Rhys. “Is that true?”

Rhys nodded, his moppy hair falling into his eyes. “Yes,” he said. “We got the bread and the flour, like Maw asked. Irma did great, Paw. You should really let her–”

“Really?” Paw interrupted, and Rhys’ jaw clamped shut. “I should let her do what? Overpay for Thom’s clumpy flour again?”

Irma opened her mouth to respond, but Paw dropped a bunch of copper-colored Drunes onto the middle of the table before she could say anything. They rang out and clattered against one another. “You gave me two Drunes short. Two Drunes we could have saved longer. Two Drunes your father worked hard for.”

Irma lowered her head. “I’m sorry.”

“This is why you can’t be doing things like this, Irma. You’re just not like the rest of us.”

Minette flinched. She looked to Maw for any protest, any resolution, but Maw was silent.

“It was my fault,” Rhys interjected quickly. “I was the one who should’ve–”

“Quiet,” Paw barked.

The Rise of the Band Geeks, Episode 15: The Army Returns (Part 2)

The ends of her fingers numb, Kendra crept behind Hilary on the short but arduous trek to the dining hall.  Each time she blinked, the puffy form of the stuffed octopus loomed before her, its mouth twisted into a coy smile.  Its elliptical eyes taunted her, their innocent demeanor crumbling as its sinister soul festered within.


Soul?  She shook her head to clear the cobwebs.  This was a stuffed octopus; Franklin the freshman cymbal was trolling her.  That had to be it.  Stuffed octopi couldn’t possibly–.


At the dining hall, she downed more coffee than usual.  She brushed Hilary’s concerned query, insisted she was caffeine- and sleep-deprived.  There was nothing to worry about; Franklin was trolling her; it was her imagination–.


Something soft tickled the nape of her neck.


The volume of Kendra’s scream could have drowned out a jet engine.  While no glass shatter, several patrons did drop their plastic cups, and one dude was unfortunate enough to spill chai down the front of his shirt.  Kendra leapt to her feet and batted her shoulders to brush the wretched thing off her, but there was nothing there.  She glanced wildly around her, impervious to the perplexed gazes of her fellow students, but there was no sign of the octopus–not on the chair, the floor, or in the clutches of a certain Franklin F. Franklin, with whom she was unfortunate enough to have in two of her classes.


The thing that had tickled her neck was Kendra’s own hair.


Her face the shade of the zero in the center of The Horseshoe, Kendra returned to her seat.  “It’s alright, guys,” she managed with a nervous laugh.  “I just got startled, is all.”


With that, the onlookers returned to whatever enticed them on their cell phones, save for the guy who had spilled chai on his shirt.  He was presently aiding a dining hall worker in cleaning up the mess and letting loose a poetic string of curses that would have put Shakespeare to shame.


“Kendra, are you sure you’re okay?”  Frowning, Hilary bit into the dining hall French toast, which didn’t have a very French feel to it once one added syrup, but no matter.  “That was–.”


“I thought it was him.”  Kendra couldn’t bring herself to say the word octopus.  For some reason, she thought of the octopus as being male, primarily because the person she associated with stuffed reversible octopi was male.


“You…thought it was your stuffed octopus.”


“He’s not my–my plushie!  It’s alive, Hilary!  IT’S EVIL!”  This earned her a few more looks from the patrons whose phone screens were not especially interesting.


“It’s a stuffed octopus, Kendra.  It can’t be alive.  Look, I’m stressed about school, too, but this–you need to relax, sis.  I can give you tips to help you destress–”


“I don’t need to destress!  I need to get to the bottom of this–this thing!  Because whatever this is might very well possess me.”  Steeling herself, Kendra stood and slung her backpack over her shoulder.  “I’ll see you later, Hilary.”


“Wait, what about your brekkie?”


Kendra hesitated and studied her un-French toast–English toast?–and gingerly resumed her seat at the crusty dining table.  “After breakfast,” she amended, setting her pack down.


To Be Continued…………………………………………………………………………..