My Name is Minette, Chapter Eight: The Future

The ladies carried themselves without a second thought, but with a hearty heaping of grace. They moved differently from Minette. Their dresses weren’t royal or anything, weren’t attire for a ball, but their simplicity was beautiful. Minette wanted to feel the black buttons in her hands, slip her arms through a shapely sleeve. Maw could make a dress like that. But not for Minette.

Paw clapped a giant, calloused mitt on her shoulder, startling her. He nodded his chin out toward them with a grunt and a grin. “Nice to look at, ain’t they?”

The ladies scurried off at the sight of Paw’s scruffy mug. Minette watched them go, face going hot. She didn’t know what to say.

Paw chuckled, finding something funny about her silence. “I remember those days with your mother,” he said. “Courting is fun, but marriage is work. You don’t want the prettiest girl, you want the one that can keep house. Remember that, boy.”

Minette wanted this conversation to be over. “Yes, Paw.”

“And go out for once,” Paw said, brow wrinkling. “One drink wouldn’t kill you. You need the experience, the hair on your chest.”

“Yes, Paw.”

“We’ll find you a good woman. Summer’s end. Guaranteed. It’s past time, Mort. We’ll get your hair cut and your shoes polished. Your mother and I will sort it out. Don’t you worry.” Paw clapped her on the back hard enough to make her cough and turned around, wheeling back into the forge and leaving Minette alone.

Minette tightened her jaw, watching the skirts bounce lightly above the ground as the girls turned a corner and disappeared out of sight.

Summer’s end, Paw had said. Brushing her hair out of her face, she looked at the sun-burned hills, the broad Oaks with some leaves already littering the dappled sunlight at their roots

Summer’s end was already here, along with the end of Minette’s freedom.

The real fantasy was how delusional she’d been. She’d assumed she could put it off forever, keep training, keep to herself, and maybe fall into something worthwhile, something that didn’t make her want to scream.

But reality was knocking, and she had to answer the door sooner or later.

She was so screwed.

The Rise of the Band Geeks, Episode 14: The Army Returns (Part 1)

It started out subtly:  cold sweat on her hands, the crawling sensation she was being watched, tension coiling through the back of her neck.  Between homework, classes, and crying over the fact that she had to turn in her uniform last Saturday, Kendra didn’t have time to consider who–or what–her stalker was.


When she first spotted him, she was crying studying in her dorm room.  Her roommate was out and about, so she was all alone–save, of course, the random stuffed octopus perched eerily on her windowsill.


“AAAAAAAAIIIIIIEEEE!”  In her terror, she yeeted her calculus textbook across the floor and nearly spilled perfectly hot dining hall coffee.  When she came to her senses, she realized the octopus was just staring at her contentedly.  Smiling, its innocent visage harbored no malevolence she could observe with the naked eye–which meant it was harmless, right?  She knew there was a cymbal kid named Franklin who was obsessed with these things, so maybe….


But she didn’t know Franklin.  Franklin didn’t know where she lived.  And, most crucially, Kendra was not on the drumline.


She backed away slowly from the thing and its stitched-on ovular eyes.  She couldn’t take her eyes off it; if she did, she was afraid it would attack her.  But it didn’t.  After half an hour spent hiding in her laundry basket, Kendra emerged to find her room just as she’d left it, except now the octopus was gone.


She was on the Bursley-Baits bus the next time she spotted the octopus.  After an afternoon spent practicing Taps on her horn in the band hall, she was wiped:  her palms were sweaty, knees weak, arms were heavy.  Her vision was so blurred with exhaustion she almost did not spot the octopus swinging from one of the straps standing passengers were supposed to hold onto.


Though horror rose in her throat, she did not scream.  She was in public; whatever this was, the octopus could not attack her here.  It could not do anything, anyway, because it was a stuffed octopus.  She was imagining things.  Franklin must have stuck one here to troll passengers and forgotten about it…right?


She decided she was sleep-deprived; she was seeing things.  So she went to bed early that night and woke up refreshed, her eyes naturally sliding open to greet the day in a rare moment of bliss.  She gave a slight smile, took in her surroundings, then–.


The octopus, the same octopus from her windowsill and the bus, was sitting inches from her face.


The screech that emitted from Kendra was a cross between a banshee’s shrill and a five-year-old cackling as his mother vacuumed the carpet.  Her roommate, the people in the adjacent rooms, the residents of the hall two floors below her, and an unsuspecting clump of pedestrians on the sidewalk bore witness to her scream.


“What the flippin’ frick is wrong with you!?” hollered her roommate.




“What th–oh, that?  Where’d you get him?  He’s so cute!”




Calmly, Hilary plucked the octopus off Kendra’s bed and stroked its plush head.  “Aaaawwww, hey there, widdle guy!  where’d you come from?”


“I don’t know!!!!  But he’s been on the bus, so he needs a deep cleaning.”


“Oh.”  Hilary tenderly set the octopus onto her desk so she could clean him.  “Why are you afraid of a stuffed octopus anyway?”




“Alright, Kendra, calm down.  I’m sure the octopus isn’t really alive.  You’ve been reading way too many creepypastas, sis.  Here, let’s get breakfast and try to think through this rationally.”


To Be Continued………………………………..

My Name is Minette, Chapter Seven: Another World

The forge wasn’t far from home. She could see their huddled little roof and stone chimney from here. There was a nice view of town, too. The smithy sat alone on a hill on the outskirts of town, but still inside the great stone walls, observing the cramped, messy streets from above. From this perch, Minette had done quite a lot of people-watching, guessing at the lives of the little ant-sized citizens that rushed to and fro down below. Droz wasn’t massive, but it wasn’t empty, either; it teemed with life. There were districts and people Minette had never ventured to or met. She’d been relegated to her little corner, her little life.

She’d never made it past the walls. The gates were always guarded, and if she went too close, her parents screamed at her about the dangers of the Outside World. Drozians rarely left, and when they did, it was for essential reasons, not because of some secret, hard-to-describe yearning.

Her parents had set her up on playdates with other children in town, but the boys she’d played with were all so rough, so violent. She didn’t understand them or their equally brutish fathers. Some of the people in Droz motivated Minette to just stay home, cooped up inside of walls upon walls.

Maybe her parents were right. If she could barely handle Droz, would she even be remotely prepared for what lay beyond its walls?

Minette admired the tenacity of the weary blue sky and the stubbornness of the dying, tawny grass stalks, the exhausted bumble bees searching bravely for the last of the late summer flowers to pollinate. They all persisted despite the heat and dryness. She understood them, the effort it took just to grow.

A titter grabbed her attention.

A real, actual, dictionary-definition titter.

She looked up and found two ladies walking past, staring right at her. What they were doing all the way out here where the streets were mud was a mystery. They stood out in this tired landscape like gemstones among pebbles.

She didn’t know how old they were, or who they were, or where they were from, only that they wore maroon dresses and high stockings and boots. They carried a parasol between them, keeping fair, unlined skin from the sun, and they smiled over at Minette when she caught their eyes.

Minette was enthralled. Just like with Sir Edric, the sight of them drew her into vivid, rose-tinted fantasies. Their very existence spoke of a different world, a different reality that called to Minette in dulcet tones.

The Rise of the Band Geeks, Episode 13: Lonely Millicent

Millicent, the sophomore cymbal who may or may not have skull tattoos on her arms and 36 copies of Hamlet in her bedroom, was lonely.  She sat alone in her lonely one-person dorm room and twiddled with her purple hair extension she’d gotten off Etsy at a 50% discount once.  Alone with her band uniform, which she tragically had to return next Saturday.  Alone with the homework she should be doing instead of browsing Reddit.  Alone with a half-eaten calzone.


She was utterly disgusted with the email she had received last night from the Board of Regents and hoped the scandal didn’t go much deeper than the 118-page PDF of messages.  This PDF, of course, took precedence over her homework, and it unfortunately took precedence over practicing cymbals because the band hall was closed until Tuesday.  Sighing, she pulled her eyes away from Reddit long enough to check the drumline Discord, which of course was blowing up with memes.  Hal, the freshman whomst believed eating tater tots was a religion, was spamming it, of course; he, it seemed, did not understand those memes had been posted several hours ago.


Millicent fiddled with her hair again.  She yearned to be practicing T Dubs in the band hall before a mirror, her ear canals jammed with foam maize earplugs and her tennis shoes scrabbling for purchase on the tiled floor.  What was the purpose of life if not punk music and T Dubs?  But, alas, the band hall was closed, and Commuter South didn’t even run on weekends.


She growled.  Why did people do such horrible things in this world?  Why couldn’t people remain loyal to their loved ones?  It made her angry, which, of course, made her want to play cymbals, which she still couldn’t do because the band hall was closed.


Ugh.  She was considering going rogue and practicing T Dubs choreography in her room nonetheless just because something was better than nothing, right?  But she’d just eaten half a calzone and planned to finish it, so that probably wasn’t a good idea.  Give it thirty minutes to an hour, and the calzone would be digested enough for her to commence the deep knee bends.


Although introverted, she did get lonely from time to time.  This was one of those times.  She wanted to be back in the Big House in full uniform with her beanie and 100,000 maize-clad Michigan fans screaming as the Wolverines pummeled That Team Down South for the first time in ten years.  She wished it was still that day, November 27th.  She didn’t want it to already be January.  She didn’t want band season to be done.


Sighing, Millicent massaged her hurting heart and took another bite of her calzone.


Author’s Note:  What Schlissel did was not OK in any capacity; he was rightfully sacked for abusing his power.

My Name is Minette, Chapter Six: Irons

She couldn’t see any alternatives, though, as she was the eldest Coppersmith, their proud “son,” their strong heir. She’d worked in the smithy for years already and knew it well. Paw never smiled, except for when he talked about when Morty would take over the family business one day. 

One day soon.

And, of course, Minette could only do that with a good wife who had child-bearing hips.

Those were the thoughts that made her particularly dizzy, and being dizzy in a tiny dark room full of liquid copper was not a winning combination.

Minette forced herself to ignore her brain once again, grabbing one of the broad mallets from the tool bench and putting her smithing helmet on. Paw poured copper into the cauldron above the flames, and off to work they went.

It was silent in the smithy, the way Paw preferred it. He considered words a woman’s tool, and was expertly talented at never giving voice to the worries and grumps that ran around inside his head like hungry voles. Trying to talk to him about anything important was like trying to stuff your hand into the dirt and catch one of those voles without looking.

So Minette worked in silence alongside her father.

The process was, of course, all strength and brutishness and griminess, but Minette didn’t really mind the end product. The delicate, beautiful art they wrought from tough, raw, hot metal was something to behold.

Their first order today was one they’d done together millions of times: a weathervane.

Farmer Foster wanted a cow-shaped weathervane to sit atop the barn on his dairy farm. Paw did all the grunt work, slamming and shaming copper into delicate sheets, and Minette helped work it into art, into something tangible: two interconnecting pieces that looked like delicate cows with the cardinal directions sitting atop their backs. She etched the fine details, drawing twin, smiling faces on the cows.

It was an everyday item, something so commonplace that most people never gave it a second glance, but Minette appreciated it. She found it beautiful, magical, even, knowing the work and care that went into it. They made a lot of household items and decorative pieces, things that others saw only the utility in, but she saw the art in them.

Plus, they were getting paid to make it. Nothing fostered a sense of appreciation more than a gold Drune.

All that was left was the crafting of it: heaving it onto a stake, adding decorative marbles, and all that. Paw did that work–he was still too particular about it to let Minette do it on her own–so Minette wandered to the forge’s mouth for a breath of fresh air.

My Name is Minette, Chapter Five: The Smithy

Minette opened her mouth to respond, but Maw wasn’t done.

“And why do you keep it like that anyway? I keep me own hair shorter’n yours. It’s practical.”

“Practical,” Minette snorted. Sometimes that felt like the only label people slapped on her. That she was useful, like a tool.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Maw demanded, hand creeping toward the dastardly wooden spoon. She jerked her head toward the open front door. “You’d better be off to your father. He’s redder than that apple of yours.”

Minette swore, curses drowned out by Paw’s laments about his lazy, tardy son. She popped the slice of bread in her mouth and ran out the door.

Paw was waiting by Lumpy, their beefiest workhorse, and one of their carts. His face was indeed ripening as Minette watched. He shook his head at her, climbing astride Lumpy with a grunt. “Fix that hair,” he barked.

There was no room for discussion. Minette nodded, swallowing the last of her bread. She hopped into the back of the cart just as it began to judder and rumble away from the house.

Paw’s hands were especially tight on the reins today. It was almost definitely about Irma. Minette knew better than to ask him about it when he was in a mood like this. Paw was an angry worrier. He meant well.

Minette watched the streets pass in silence instead, wondering at all the lives going on around her of people she’d never met, wondering if, hidden away in some shop, there was anyone else even remotely like her.




The worst thing about the forge was how hot it was.

Minette could admire the tools adorning the walls, the private space all to her and Paw. The run threading through the field outside, dry in this part of summer but still full of pretty stones and the occasional pot-bellied toad.

But the heat. The heat got to her.

The center of the room held the tall iron fireplace where they did the majority of their work. Inside it, a cross-hatched plating sat over where the flames roared. It was on this plating that they did what the Coppersmiths did best: smith the copper.

It involved a lot of gruntwork, heavy lifting, shouting, pounding, and blasting.

There was molten metal, soot, ashes, sparks, flames, and smoke. It was grimy work. Even working at the forge for just one hour turned her entire face black and made her feel like her lungs were clogged up. She worried over Paw, whose voice had turned from gravel to crushed up bones, to something throaty and crackly.

Minette did not want to be like him.