Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A Disgruntled Elf and a Funeral Home (part two)

I shelved this story this past week in order to work on another story idea I am formulating. The last year or so of my life I've had what I like to refer to as "SQUIRREL!!! syndrome." This malady hit after both of my children settled into the stay-at-home mom promise land also known as full-time school!

Don't get me wrong, I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to be with my kids during their first formative years. I got to watch them both roll over, learn to walk, kissed their boo-boos, shuffled them to parks and playdates, and tucked them in almost every single night. But, after over 8 years of my life lived through them, I am now thankful for the opportunity to explore more personally fulfilling options.

The problem is that I want to do ALL THE THINGS. So far, I've tried taking up piano, creating set designs for a local kids church, curriculum editing, attending continuing education courses for my esthetics licensure, going back to school, freelance marketing assistance and starting this blog. Every time a new adventure floats past my view, I get distracted and chase after it until the next one catches my eye.

I'm a little worried that this condition may bleed over into my writing. After my long creative-hiatus, I have many ideas and it's hard to focus on seeing anyone of them through to the end. So, I'm going to try applying some of my parental guidance to myself and make sure I follow through on what I've started.

Here is part two of my tale of Lodie the Elf. If you recall, we last saw Lodie when he was unfortunately left behind at the funeral home. More to come!

            In a panic, Lodie rushed to the wall where the portal had just vanished. He clawed at the drywall and banged his fists against the soundness of its structure. How could he be so stupid? Lodie crumpled to the floor and clenched his hair in his hands. It was hopeless now. There was no way to move forward and no way to return home. Lodie was stuck.

            After a long, self-loathing pause, the elf gathered himself together to assess his sudden misfortune. He had no money. He had no food. He would need to survive the next three-hundred-sixty-five days with only the clothes on his back, the sandals on his feet and that mixture of grit, wit and foolishness unique to young adult males.

Lodie pondered the foreseeable options…he could attempt to remain unseen, hiding in closets and the like. It seemed plausible, but there was the issue of food. He wasn’t certain, but a funeral home didn’t seem likely to come with an amply-supplied pantry. He could attempt to leave…but he ran the risk of being caught by a backwards-minded human and then he would have a whole new set of issues to contend with. Plus, with no money, how far could he actually get anyway?

Feeling dejected and uncertain, Lodie began to wander down the hallway. The carpet under his feet was blue with an overlay of tiny white and green flowers. Cherry wainscoting covered the walls to about Lodie’s height, while the exposed drywall above was painted a soft-cream color. A sky-light above was now filtering in the beginnings of dawn and as his eyes began to adjust, Lodie noticed an opening at the end of the hall. When he reached the door jam, Lodie carefully peered around the corner and saw the viewing room. On an elevated platform to his left, stood two large bouquets of white flowers. He recognized some of them to be lilies, not only in their form but also in the sweet aroma that danced under his nostrils. The space in between the bouquets was empty and Lodie guessed that that must be where the casket would go. Straight ahead and to his right were several rows of white chairs. They reminded Lodie of bigger versions of the banquet seats that were currently being filled with incoming Elf families while he was stuck here in this strange place with no family and no hope. Lodie felt the water welling up in his eyes and a tear slip out onto his mottled cheek. He climbed up into the nearest chair and began to cry. In between his muffled sobs, it occurred to Lodie that this room was indeed a good place for grieving.

Consumed inside his unfortunate turn of events, Lodie did not hear the sound of metal as a key was slid into the front doors behind him. He did not notice the change of lighting in the room as the door was drawn open. He did not realize that a man in a dark suit was now standing over him, watching the little elf cry.

“Eh-hem.” The man cleared his throat and suddenly Lodie’s tears turned to terror at the realization that he was no longer alone. The elf jumped to his feet and his height combined with the height of the chair, brought him nose-to-nose with an elderly human with grey hair and a bespectacled-nose. The panic coursing through Lodie’s veins rendered him temporarily mute.

“What is an elf doing in my reception room?” The man, Arterius Medleson, asked as much to himself as to the wee being before him.

“I, uh, I…” Lodie tried to cling to the millions of words rushing through his brain. “I came to see you about a job,” he blurted out. A job? Lodie thought silently, Why did I say that? But as he wondered, he realized the brilliance of his accidental idea. A job could be the very thing that would solve his imminent crisis. Lodie held his breath as he waited for the man to respond.

Arterius surveyed the elf in front of him. It was a strange sight indeed. The last time he had been this close to one was when he had been a child. In those days, it was common for a family to be attended to by an in-home elf. While Arterius’ parents did not own one personally, his grandmother did and so whenever he visited her, he would watch as the funny little woman scuttled about the house. Her name was Melana and though she was clearly well along in years, the top of her head was a full foot shorter than the young Arterius’ seven-year-old frame. From what he could tell, Melana was an obedient and diligent worker. He would watch her as she moved from room to room, straightening the pillows and dusting the windowsills. At mealtimes, she set the tables and made sure everyone’s glasses were filled. After, she would clear the table and disappear into the kitchen to wash and dry all the dishes.

Arterius’ grandmother was not a particularly kind woman. He didn’t care much for the time he spent with her as she was cold in demeanor and quick to point out all the ways in which the only grandson of her youngest daughter was a disappointment.

“You are getting rather fat, young man,” she spat at him over the dinner table one evening. Arterius’ cheeks turned bright red as he glanced down at the slight roundness of his belly. “You’d do good to skip on dessert tonight.”

When Grandmother made statements such as that, Arterius knew that it was much more a command than a suggestion and he stared longingly at the triple-layer chocolate cake that had been set directly in front of his gaze. He’d been eyeing it all evening as he dutifully choked down his plate of pork chops and brussell sprouts, silently reassuring his taste buds that something much more appealing was in store for them. He felt a wave of disappointment wash over the shame of his grandmother’s comment and subsequently lost his appetite.

Later that night as Grandmother predictably snoozed in the sitting room and Arterius attempted not to die of boredom as the hours ticked on, he heard a faint pssst coming from the doorway. Swiveling his head around to follow the sound, Art was surprised to see Melana’s oversized round eyes peering at him from just passed the door jam. Though Arterius had visited Grandmother for two weeks every summer since he could remember, this was the first time he had ever interacted with the lady elf.

Psssst…” Melana summoned again, curling an unusually long and knobby finger to beckon the boy along. Curious, Arterius stood quietly and so as not to wake Grandmother from her drool-producing slumber, tip-toed past the soft snorteling sounds and into the hallway. Once there, he caught sight of the back of Melana’s apron as it slipped behind the swinging door into the kitchen. Creeping in after her, Arterius was both surprised and delighted to see a single gooey piece of chocolate cake and a tall glass of frothy white milk awaiting him on the counter. He glanced around gratefully for the little woman and he met her gaze as she stood near the sink, nervously wringing a dishtowel in her hands.

“I just thought…” Melana started, her voice high and sweet with a hint of anxiety, “I just thought a good and fine boy such as yourself should not be deprived of such a simple pleasure.”

Arterius began blushing in spite of himself, and as he took the first bite of fudgy decadence, he let the richness of Melana’s words travel with the cake into the depths of his belly. Bite after bite, he basked in the warmth of the kitchen and of her kindness. When he soon discovered his plate empty and his belly full, Arterius gulped down his glass of milk and brought the dishes over to the sink, where Melana had been washing.

“Thank you,” he said, and though he wanted to hug her, he felt the self-consciousness of the distance that had existed between them begin to creep back in. Instead, Melana smiled warmly, took his dishes and waved him off to bed.

That summer was the last time Arterius went to visit his grandmother. She passed away the following December and he never learned what happened to the little woman who had shown him such an unexpected kindness.

Now, staring into the similarly over-sized eyes of the surprise guest before him, the memory of that kindness tugged at his consciousness.

“A job?” Arterius Medleson asked. “I haven’t posted an ad for a position.”

“I understand, Sir,” Lodie hesitated, “but if I may, I am a quick learner, highly motivated and I don’t cause trouble. Is there anything to which an elves’ nimble fingers or keen sight might assist you with?” He was attempting not to give the desperation of his need away with his words. Requesting assistance from any human was a gamble, as he’d grown up being taught to use great caution around them for fear of being claimed.

Mr. Medleson sized-up the young elf. Though at the moment, Lodie stood nearly eye-to-eye with the five-foot-eight undertaker, his actual height was closer to thirty-six inches. His head was covered in an unruly mop of auburn hair, and it fell in haphazard chunks around the points of his rather large ears. The elf’s nose was slightly crooked and upturned, and his skin was creamy in color, yet rough in texture, and it reminded Medleson of how sand looks just after a wave has washed over it. The sleeves of his white shirt were rolled up to his elbows and the hem fell over the waistband of green linen pants that cinched just below his knees. His feet were fat and sandaled with little tufts of hair sprouting from each toe.

The elf was truly a curious sight to behold inside the reception room, and certainly not what Arterius Medleson was expecting when he’d arrived at the funeral parlor that morning, but as his eyes met Lodie’s, he was reminded once more of the unexpected kindness an elf had once shown him.

“Eh-eh-hem.” Mr. Medleson cleared his throat once more. “Well, I suppose the least I could do is give it some more thought. I do have some projects that have fallen a bit behind, straightening up and the like. I’ll assume that you know what type of business this is here. This environment is not for the faint of heart.”

Relief poured throughout Lodie’s body and he let out the breath he had been holding. “Thank you, Sir! I can assure you that I will do my best Mr…um…I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name.”

“It’s Medleson. Arterius Medleson. And you are?”

“My name is Lodie, Mr. Medleson. It’s nice to make your acquaintance.”

1 comment:

  1. Part Two is just as ambitious as Part One. I like your splashes of descriptive imagery here are there (such as the hair sprouting from Lodie's toes).

    The narrative seems to be 3rd Person limited to Lodie, but when Medleson enters the picture he pulls focus and we go into a flashback connected with his experience. You might want to rethink that strategy -- perhaps save the grandmother narrative for a bit later (and it might be good to deliver the information in dialogue form when/if Lodie and Medleson become better acquainted.)

    Keep up the good work!