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The Best Laid Plans

Title The Best Laid Plans
Author Eglantine_br
Word Count 1144

The Best Laid Plans

The horse was one he did not know, a big gelding with a tough mouth, and disinclined to listen. Kit had gone to speak and meet him, to blow in his face, before mounting. But he did not get a greeting bunt, or sneeze, or nuzzle. The horse rolled a white eye at him, and shifted his feet. Now Kit's hands slipped, sweaty on the reins. His arms ached. His back itched. Two hours more to go. The empty trees and land made his stomach upset. At least in the city there were people nearby, who might not be friends, were perhaps not enemies-- yet. And, too, it bothered him obscurely that he had not had to bring apples for the horse.

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(This one belongs before the other one,)

The limb of the tree was warm beneath him, too wide and solid to move with his clambering, or with the small wind. It was too solid to move, really, at all. But his shirt lifted as he wormed his way forward. He could feel the scrape of the bark and green lichen on the soft belly of him. His hands were full. He had the things he needed wrapped in his doublet, the old leather one from home, it hardly fit anymore. He steadied his way with his elbows and knees, pushed the doublet bundle carefully ahead. He had left his sadd cloth robe back in his room. An infraction, of course, but next Wednesday was a full week away, and nobody could get up a tree in an ankle length robe. Inside the doublet, sheltered by his hands, were important things. He had a corked inkhorn, a pen and knife, his commonplace book, (not the one he used for school but the real one, that he put his thoughts in) He had two apples, taken from the tree itself. They were small and rather wrinkled but still edible. There was a piece of cheese too, that he had been saving.

Nobody else that he knew seemed to have this need-- he had never seen it in them. Never seen them show any sign of the clawing that overcame him, to be alone, to spill out the words that climbed up the insides of him, that wedged in his throat, that peopled his dreams. Not Latin words, at least not mostly, not school words; question words, names of things, bits of stories that didn't fit together yet, those things went into his book. He put them there so they would leave him alone. And too, he put them there to hone and sharpen them, to return to them, to make them right, to get them cutting sharp. He had to be alone for that.

He had felt the words itching him all week, like a living thing scratching at his insides, as he tried to be good and pay attention, or at least seem to. Every moment was spoken for, meant for something here. He had class, study, prayers, study, class again, time to eat in silence There were only a few moments of humanity as they readied themselves for sleep, a few mumbled words, in Latin now out of habit. So this time was stolen of course-- but he thought he had gotten away unnoticed again. And if not, he would be punished for it, but not until next week, a whole week from today. Worth it.

There were little corners in the world, even here, as there had been at home, where he could fade from sight, where he could see and be less seen, where he could hear and be he nearly unheard. And now here was the the join of the tree , the trunk with the branches, and he could sit, with the doublet to pad his backside. His feet hung down free either side of the limb, and he leaned the little book against the wood and began to write.

He saw it clear as he worked, the towers of Troy, the faces and bodies of Hector and Achilles, the grating voice of old Nestor. He had thought it would be a poem-- and it was, but as he worked he realized it could perhaps be also a play.

He muttered to himself as worked, getting the voices right. He did not know this. For some time the only other sound was the sound of the tree itself. He had forgotten the tree, forgotten the food and his own empty insides.

The other sound came to him slowly, from below. It nagged and at first he ignored it, but it wrapped itself around his thoughts and his words and his pen stopped. He leaned over the side of the tree branch, pushing the leaves aside.

“Who are you?” Kit kept his own voice low, but he was not really worried. One small voice, at the base of tree, snuffling and sobbing was certainly another student. And it was Wednesday, after all.

“Who wants to know?” The voice was young, hoarse from weeping, but belligerent as well. Dark eyes, under a flop of limp dark hair, pale skin, except the nose which was kitten pink at the moment.

“Here, I'll come down.” He could not think why he said that exactly; said it to the rough little voice and the pink abraded nose. And anyway, Kit knew who this was now. This was the broken armed sizer of last winter's ice.

The boy nodded and scrambled back a little to let Kit drop.

“ I am Thomas Nashe, he said. “”Well, Tommy really.”

“Tommy then,” A smile then, swift and purely reflexive, buck teeth white under the floppy mane made Kit think of a pony in need of the farrier.

“You are a sizer-- I mean, I have seen you before.” Kit thought, a moment too late, that this was, perhaps not the best start.

“A sizer aye What of it? My father is a poor curate from a town of fishermen. At least he--”

“Nothing of it--” Kit rode over the words though he kept his own gentle. “My father is a cobbler. He can barely sign his name.” And that was true. It was true though Kit had never said it before to anyone. Father was good with his hands-- good at making the shoes, fixing the shoes, fitting shoes, fitting the shoes. Father was good at convincing the reluctant to buy. But mother was the clever one. Mother and Kit.

“My father is a cobbler--” Kit said again. “My name is Cristofer. At home they call me Kit.”


Night Season

Here is a little bit of my never ending much-suffering Marlowe thing. Baby Marlowe and Baby Nashe-- at University together. (Yes I know they were in different colleges, but they so need each other...) This little adventure is only half done. I am putting it up in hopes it will help me complete the other half more quickly.

First snow today-- early in the year I think. We got about an inch or two. Usually don't get that until after Thanksgiving. (Closer to the end of the month.)And that is going by North of here... Anyway, it is pretty. Clean, for the moment. And new snow feels like a fresh start.

Kit Marlowe
Word Count 886

Night Season

To Kit, each day seemed like a bootlace, soaked tight with rain, each day was 12 hours of picking at it, slow and dull as dripping water, before it resolved. That was lessons. He was much less likely to be beaten here-- but he rarely learned anything new. He picked and picked, and nothing seemed to move, and then the whole thing gave, and the day opened itself into a violet spring sunset. Then the dark came, and the day was over.

This evening he yawned through his prayers and his mutton. He cleaned his plate, utterly, but already half dreaming. He watched for Nashe, out of habit now. Tonight the sharp little face was seen nowhere. Some nights Kit had to study, some nights too, he stayed up to write. This was not such a night. Kit ached for sleep. Once in bed, he let the sounds of the other boys go to nonsense around him. They would include him if he spoke, they were kind enough now. But he turned the pillow and pushed his face deeper in. Darkness came.

There were bits of dreams that made no sense, fathers hands holding Kit's better foot, and a boom of voice like the brass voice of God. Father's hands improbably huge, and so careful. And a shoe made a of soft leather scraps, too soft for walking. So that made no sense at all. Kit had never worn such a shoe-- and his two feet were as good as each other. So that made no sense at all.

It was sometime later, in the dark that a sound came. It was a persistent scritch-scratch. He turned from it but it kept on. He groaned and covered his ears. No good.

“Christopher--” A hiss in his ear.

“It's me. Tommy Nashe.”

“What is it?' Kit replied in a whisper dulled to near silence, mouthing the shapes of the sounds. He could see now the shape of the thin boy crouched on the floor in the deeper shadow of the wall and the bed.

“Why-- Why are you holding a piss pot?” Kit asked

“Sizer, remember. This is my passage to the gentleman's chambers.” Scorn in the whisper, and the sound of it thin now as steel wire. Kit realized that Tom Nashe was shaking.

“Something bad-- something bad has happened.” Tommy's hands in Kit's now, small and cold.

“Th'art freezing. Come here, warm, and tell me.”

Thus Kit spoke to his little sisters. He had been a refuge in nightmares before. He did not think this was a nightmare though. He lifted the blanket, the bed was narrow but there was room for two boys.

“There you are now, come here close, Jesus thou are as cold as a newt. Now tell me.”

“I sleep on Master Kett's hearth.” Tommy began, his voice was rapid now and Kit thought it was colder and further out somehow. Tommy was pushing the memory down and away. “It was Kett brought me here-- I attend lectures only as long as I work. So I go into the kitchens at 3, every morning to build the fire up, and line the loaves up ready-- they bake at 5.”

“So that is why you miss breakfast and prayers so often.”

“Aye. I sleep too long. Kett promises the others that he beats me for it, but he does not so. Oh God--”

Why this troubled him Kit did not understand. Nashe gave a gulp of a sob, scrubbed at his nose with his wrist.

“Tonight, I was asleep, wrapped warm by the fire, I heard the bell strike 3, and left to the kitchen. All was as always, Master Kett was snoring. I am quiet, not to trouble his sleep.
It was cold, dark.”

“Yes.” Kit said. He could picture easily the hush at the deep end of night, the stars in the trees, the frost on the grass, the other boy's breath like smoke.

“I did not make a light-- no night candle. All was dark when I left the room, all was well. I was gone less than an hour. When I came back to Master Kett's room, it was-- he was-- gone.


“He is gone”

“Well-- what of it? Maybe he is at the privy. Maybe he could not sleep. Certain this is no--”

“No!” The whisper was a sharp hiss. “Not gone like that. Some of his things are missing too. And the room askew. Come with me. Come see.”

Kit sat forward, chin on knees. Tommy's breath has slowed now, but the distress was clear on his face.

“Aye, I will come. But hasty. Why me, Tommy? Why not someone older, or even another master?”

Nashe made the word a horse does, by a firm exhalation through the nose. “I fear some harm has come to him-- I don't know who I can--” he waved a hand in the air in frustration. “And I like thee, Kit,” He said. “Thou art not stupid.”

And so Kit was shivering now, pulling on his robe over his nightshirt, stepping into his shoes barefoot.

“Don't forget the piss-pot,” he said.

Kit Marlowe
Word Count 886

new start, old life

I am here in my new house, after 3 years of turmoil of trying to move, of saving up, of worrying about landlords and everything horrible. We found a house to rent-- the top floor of a house. Warm and full of light-- pets are happy here-- street is so quiet it does not even feel like city.

I am between jobs again, have been resting for the past few weeks, sleeping late, waking to blue and yellow light. I look around and think, this is so beautiful, I should write it down, and then some other thing happens, and the day ends, and I have not.

No fiction either, though I can feel it pressing at me. If I were to put fiction up here, just as a place to save it, I mean the kind I used to do, would anyone like it? Would anyone out there still want to read it? LJ seems much diminished, but I too have been part of the shrinkage.

Tracing One Warm Line

Title: Tracing one warm line
Author Eglantine_br
Word Count 920

HMS Hamadryad, at sea

Tracing one warm line

“Nothing wrong with the number-work, but it will have to be recopied. It is not legible, blots here... and is this blood?”

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Fallen behind on the books for December

December is a great month to read. There are always blocks of time when you cannot rush around, when you are poised in between one task or another, when you are waiting to be called, when you are on the train. And there is little temptation to just go outdoors and bask, as one might in the summer. Snow is pretty, but the wind here is damp and vicious.

So i did a lot of reading.

I told you guys about the first few books. Since then:

The Book Of Dust-- Philip Pullman

This is a prequel to the Dark Materials. It features another protag, a boy this time. It was a quick read, more of a real adventure story i thought. Many of the same people in it, and Lyra and her daemon as babies. It was fun to read, I think I finished it in two nights. It felt less deeply symbolic to me, although i am sure that someone with more training would see many references that I missed. There was a great big flood.

Like everyone who read these books, I am enchanted by the idea of the daemon and badly want my own.

A Thousand Naked Strangers--Kevin Hazzard

Many years back I thought i would go into emergency medicine. I trained as an EMT. I was completely qualified to work in Connecticut, and then was sidelined by a complicated pregnancy. After that, to my vast relief there was an actual baby and I never went back to work.

That is fine, but i do like to read about the experiences I might have had. This book was a collection of memories of a man who was a paramedic in Atlanta in the 1990's. He describes his experiences with the ambulance, with different partners, with the seemingly endless people who needed his help. The book moves forward in time, so we come along as he grows more confident and capable.

Atlanta during these years went through tremendous upheaval. There was a real estate boom and, for a time, job growth to rival anywhere in the world. Atlanta in the 90's was not just hot, it was cool. Of course the wave did not lift everyone. The waves never do. And then the crash came. Jobs gone, homes foreclosed, hopes gone, health insurance gone, make-do run out. These things are relevant to an ambulance crew.

I like the book, and any book about medicine, no matter how old, remains fresh. The people who set out to fix others seem to me to be the same across centuries, decades are nothing.

Boy--Roald Dahl

I had never read anything he wrote for adults. In fact the writing is almost as childishly direct as that in Matilda. But this is not a kids book, or not really. Retrospective looks at childhood are mostly wasted on kids. He looks back on the confusion felt by an intelligent child surrounded by the weird inflexible rules of adults. Some rules are stated up front, some you only learn after you have broken them. Because he lives in the 1920's he gets beaten a lot. It is horrible to read about. There is also a scene where he has his adenoids out at the kitchen table, sitting up, wide awake. There is also lovely boating in Norway.

This is one of those books of long ago, where everyone is sort of improbably good at everything. You wonder to yourself, did everyone back then really know how to sew themselves an evening dress, and build an ocean-going raft, and you feel bad about your own skills. (Not that he did those particular things, but you know what I mean,) but I think that they actually could, and did. I tell myself we have other good qualities, but I wonder...

So December has run out, and the old year is done, pretty much. Daughter has gone to rural Pennsylvania to visit friends. Rest of us will be quiet at home this weekend. None of us will be unwise enough to go anywhere near Manhattan. (I have a friend who went, when she first moved here, to Times Square. She got wedged in the crowd for 5 hours. Once you are there they will not let you leave. Some guy pissed on her leg.)

See you all on the other side.

And some other thoughts

I am not sure the Dreamwidth thing is working for me. How about if I cross post to Twitter, sometimes? But maybe not always. What do you guys think? Any of you do that? I kind of wanted to keep the two parts apart, but that is maybe silly.

Also how about more Hornblower stuff? Anyone up for reading it if I wrote more? Not a lot of fic on my feed right now. How about smut? Is everyone just over it? I am hoping to write a Christmas thing for Perfect Duet in the next week. Not even started yet, not unusual for me...

Dec Books number one

I got a late start with my reading in December. I was busy with the dailiness of things-- I find that I read a whole lot more articles and news stories than ever before, now that I can get them online. And more widely too. How my journalist parents would have loved this online news world!

But I did get a book read in the last two days-- I have mixed feelings about it. I read Tom Eubanks 'Ghosts of St Vincent's'

St Vincent's is a famous hospital that used to be in Greenwich Village. It was founded in the 1840s to deal with the needs of a rapidly expanding city, in the days before anyone knew any way to deal with epidemic disease. New York was having a cholera epidemic.

The hospital took in the poor as well as the wealthy, before the days of insurance. It treated many famous New York people over the years. It was scrappy, gritty, practical. But mostly St Vincent's was ground zero for the emergence of AIDS in the 1980s.

St Vincent's was demolished in recent years to make room for luxury apartments. The land is too valuable for a charity hospital now.

So I picked up this book, thinking it would be a sort of story of the hospital itself. I thought the 'ghosts' would be the patients or the doctors or something. There was a little of that. It had little interjected chapters like that. But mostly it was a memoir of Eubanks himself, of his living through the 70's and 80's as a young gay man in New York. The 'ghosts' are the memories of the friends he has lost, the days that are gone, the frantic joy of being young, and how it all flew apart.

And of course it is the story of the hospital too. Where so many went and did not return. Where Eubanks himself went, and came home again. He is in middle age now, and has seen the city transform completely.

The book was not what I expected. But I read on, moved, saddened. The writing is beautiful, but not intrusive. it is not the kind of book where you stop and pace the room because a particular phrase makes your bones sing. It is the kind of book where you see it as you go, forgetting yourself, waking with a bump when the world intrudes.

I read the whole thing in two days. you guys might like to read it too.

lj trouble

I cannot get into lj on my new laptop. I went to sign in and it said that my ip address was 'temporarily banned.' Has this ever happened to any of you? Luckily I was still signed in here-- on the desktop. Son says it it is probably not forever and not anything to do with me. Still feels odd.

Just got the next two books I hope to read. Will tell you guys about them soon! We have snow on the ground here now, not too much, but enough to make everything look different. The city has given us a new tree for in front of our building. They come around and plant them in the night, you wake up and there they are. it has red berries. No leaves of course.

I was lucky enough to get a stand-mixer for early Christmas. Last night I made a pie crust with it in about 1/5 the time it usually takes me, and with considerably less mess. We had a giant sausage and cabbage pie for supper. Was very good, and I think the crust was actually the best part. My mother told me that when she was little her grandfather said his grandmother made pies that could be thrown intact down a mine shaft. It was almost that kind.

Anyway, I hope this reaches you all, and that some poor overworked NSA fellow is not forced to read about my pies...Sleep well internets.