The Great Hall

great hall

Two old men met again, as they did each day, on the steps of the Great Hall.  Neither knew each other.  They never spoke.  Yet every day at the same time they would arrive at this place and barely acknowledge each other.  Their missions were the same, yet entirely different, both knowing the way here the same as they knew their own faces.

Entering the hall, the cool air greeted them and filled them with a familiar sense of purpose.  The glistening polished walls gave wings to the importance of their missions.  Arching windows that framed a breathtaking vista went unnoticed.  They were intent only on the two objects in the immense room:  a large book and a computer, each sitting on a plain table.  So intent were they, and so habitual, even the floor bore a slightly worn path where they tread each day.

One of the men, with soft but fearful eyes, settled himself in front of the large book.  As he reached his calloused fingers to touch it, they trembled slightly.  Then, with a movement graced by deepest respect and tempered in repetition, he opened the book.  Carefully he leafed through its pages until he found the words he was searching for.  He settled into reading.  The only sounds that danced around him were the rustling of the page and the whispering of his lips as he read.  Occasionally, he would shift his gaze towards the ceiling, rich with murals, and then close his eyes.

These actions met with an almost imperceptible glance of distain from the second man.  He was settled stiffly in front of the computer just a short distance away from the man and his book.  With a quick movement, he flicked the machine on and tapped the keyboard impatiently as fans whirred and parts clicked and hummed.  When the screen came to life in its usual greeting, he took a deep breath and sat forward.  With a relieved smile his fingers launched into tapping away at the keys.  The more he tapped, the hungrier his posture became as if a cat about to pounce a mouse.

The man with the book spared him a glance and wondered at his raptness.  He looked like he was about to dive into the monitor and swim in his sea of information.  He chuffed and turned back to his book.  Foolishness.

And each day they spent like this, leaving only to satisfy other needs that couldn’t be ignored.  Never had they spoken.  Never had they taken noticed of much of anything else in this grand place beyond the perches where they sat.  So engrossed were they that neither noticed the child standing quietly in front of a window, smiling at the sunrise and stretching his tiny wings.

Quiet Water

Charlie Davis ran a bandana over the balding spot on the top of his head and returned his sweat-stained cap to its perch.  He liked to consider it his “lucky fishing hat” and last time he figured it, he’d had it most of the last 30 years of his life.  Today the luck hadn’t shown up, though; not yet anyway.  He squinted with one eye up at the sun.  This day was going to be a hot one.  The morning air was dead still and the mosquitoes were making the most of it.  He slapped one on his arm and flicked it into the water.  The pond was as flat and as perfect as a mirror.  Charlie didn’t mind any of this, though.  There was just something about fishing that made not catching anything perfectly okay with him.  Communing with the sun and the bugs and the water fed his soul in ways other things just didn’t.  He arranged himself more comfortably in his lawn chair with a creak and watched his companion dangle her feet over of the edge of the dock and swing them just above the water’s surface.

“How come they’re not biting, Mr. Charlie?” Andrea Sanders asked with a flip of her red 8-year-old pigtails.

“Just call me Charlie, Andie.  That’d be just fine.  Don’t you be worrying about them fish.  They’ll bite when it’s the right time.  Just you wait and see.  Just gotta be patient a little bit is all.”

Andie wrinkled her nose at him but smiled.  He adored the child and didn’t mind bringing her along with him.  It seemed to him her momma didn’t mind either, not that she paid much attention to the girl unless she was yelling at her.  That woman seemed to yell about a lot of things but Charlie didn’t have much to do with her.  He didn’t mind it; except when it came to Andrea.  At least out here she was getting some peace.

He was amazed such a beautiful child came from such a woman as that.  It made him wonder at times about who her daddy was.  He never asked and Andie never talked about him so he figured to leave it at that.  Some things were fine left hanging in the air.  Sometimes they just belonged there.  He enjoyed her company and sharing all he knew about fishing and it was enough.  He figured she enjoyed him just about as much because all he had to do was walk to his truck with his pole and bucket and she would come a-running.  He had to admit, if she didn’t, he would purposefully bang the bucket around the truck bed a few times like a dinner bell.

So here they sat together on the old wooden dock, bobbers motionless in the water, swatting at mosquitoes.  He thought to himself what an odd pair they must be; an old black man and little pig-tailed white girl with freckles.  This wasn’t exactly the norm around these parts, but Charlie wasn’t one to question life in this way and Andie he knew well enough didn’t see color that way.  They were just happy to be doing what they loved best.

“Charlie?”  Andie asked.

“Yes, child?”

“Teach me something new today,” she replied, scratching a mosquito bite.

He wiped his face and neck with his bandana and thought a moment.

“Yes, I guess yo’ right.  We haven’t had our fishin’ lesson today, have we?” he chuckled.


“Alright.  Since these fish ain’t hungry I suppose now’s a good time as any.  Just be sure we don’t fo’get to keep an eye on those bobbers.  You never can tell when a fish is gonna come along and take a bite,” he winked.

This made Andie squeeze herself and shift so she was facing the water beside Charlie’s chair.

Eyes fixed on the pair of lazy bobbers she declared, “Okay Charlie.  I’m ready.”

He chuckled low in his chest and tugged on one of her pig tail making her giggle.

“Let’s see.  Today we’ll talk about the quiet water.”

“Quiet water?”

“Yes.  See how the water is all still and quiet, like a mirror?  That’s what I call ‘the quiet water’.  Now, the quiet water is very special, Andie;  like magic.”

Andie’s eyes grew wide and she tore her gaze away from the bobbers to look up at him.

“Magic?” she asked, filled with awe.

“Oh yes.  Just watch.”

Charlie and Andie sat watching the water.  After a few silent minutes passed a little fish broke the surface snatching a floating bug.

“See there?”  Charlie exclaimed.  “If the water hadn’t been quiet we wouldn’t have seen that little fish right there.  We wouldn’t even knows he’s there or what he’s eatin’.  So, like magic, when the water goes quiet it can tell us a lot.”

“That’s funny, Charlie,” Andie giggled.  “Anything that’s quiet doesn’t say anything at all.”

“Well now, that’s the mystery, Andie.  Quiet things can sometimes tell us mo’ than noisy things.”

Charlie paused to dip his pipe into a rumpled pouch he produced from his pocket and took his time packing the tobacco firmly into the bowl.  He watched the child as she watched the bobbers.  He knew she was chewing on what he’d said.  He could almost hear the wheels turning in her head and it made him grin.  Another little fish rippled the surface and Andie flinched.

“There’s another one!” she squealed, pointing.

Charlie chuckled again, “Yep.  There’s another one.  Just came like an idea out of nowhere, didn’t it?”

Andie turned her wide eyes to him again.  He saw she was nibbling at his analogy and doing a much better job of it than those fish were at the corn-baited fishhooks.

“That’s like them artsy folk,” he continue while lighting the pipe.  “Ever wonder how they get those ideas for they’s paintin’s or writin’s?”  He didn’t wait for a reply.  “It’s like if they’s mind wasn’t quiet water then those ideas wouldn’t never be seen.  Just imagine this here pond if all the little fish decided to jump at the same time.”

“I would be like a sea storm!” Andie exclaimed.  “Tidal waves!” she squealed and jumped up waving her arms around wildly.  Charlie laughed.

“Sit down, youngun, or you’ll scare away all those fish.”

Andie complied, hugging her knees tightly to her chest, restraining herself.

“As I was sayin’,” Charlie puffed, “if all these fish were jumping at the same time, the water would be too rough to see any of them.  We’d just be seein’ the waves and hearin’ the splashes.  We might think there’s no fish here at all; just rough water.  Just like folks and they’s ideas.  If they’s mind is all rough with all kinds of ideas jumpin’ at the same time, they’d miss the good ones.  So those artsy folk know the magic of the quiet water.  See?”

Andie nodded.

“Mmhm.  If you need to find an important thought in all those ideas swimmin’ around in yo’ head, Andie, you need to have quiet water.”

He paused to puff on his pipe and watch the bobbers.

“You mean make my mind like quiet water, right?” Andie asked.

Charlie smiled.

“Yep.  You’s a smart girl, you know that, Andie?”

She leaned her head against the arm of his chair and he patted her soft head.

“I wish my Mom thought so,” she sighed.

The words made Charlie’s heart ache and he hated it.

“Don’t you worry, child.  Don’t you worry now.  She knows you’s smart, she just don’t say it is all.”

He had to resist the urge to take the child onto his lap.  He tugged her pig tail again instead.

“Just keep yo’ mind like quiet water, child.  Everything you need’ll come like those little fish out there, one at a time so you can see ‘em.  Just be the quiet water and watch.”

Andie sucked in a breath and caught him by surprise.

“I’m going to try it right now!”

She squinted in concentration and stared hard at the water.  A good belly laugh seized Charlie up before he could catch it at the sight.

“Andie girl, you can’t force the water quiet by catchin’ all the fish first,” he grinned.  “Just relax yo’self and be quiet.”

“Oh, I think I get it,” she nodded, and settled herself quietly on the dock again.

Some time passed.  The mosquitoes buzzed.  Charlie wiped his bald spot at least half a dozen times and was doing so again when Andie sprang to her feet.

“I did it!  I did it!” she cried.  “I was quiet water then I got an idea!  I know why the fish aren’t biting!”

She raced down the dock onto the bank and began turning over rocks and sticks.  Charlie watched her in amusement and chewed absently on the stem of his pipe.  She crouched and pried a stubborn rock from the ground and turned it over.  She began digging at something then sprung up with a grin.

“I got one!” she announced.  “I got one!  It’s a fat one too!”

She ran back down the dock waving her wriggling prize.

“The fish don’t want corn today.  They want worms!” she cried waving the fat wet worm in Charlie’s face.

He let out a guffaw and clapped his hands.

“Girl, you done lost your mind,” he laughed.

Together they reeled their lines in and plucked the soggy corn kernels from the hooks.  Charlie popped the worm into 2 pieces and they re-baited.  Grinning at each other, they cast their lines again.  The bobbers hit the water with a “plop, plop” and they sat to wait.  A few tedious minutes passed when Andie’s bobber flinched in the water.  Then it bounced.  Andie squealed and grabbed her pole.

“Wait, now.  Wait,” Charlie advised.  “Be sure he takes it all the way under.  We don’t want to lose him now.”

Andie stood still as a statue, her face a work of wonder and excitement.  Her fingers were wrapped around the pole handle so tightly the knuckles were showing white but she didn’t move a muscle.

“Quiet water, quiet water,” she whispered to herself.

Suddenly as Sunday the little red and white bobber disappeared.

“Now, Andie!  Now!”  Charlie cried, sitting forward in his chair.

Andie gave a sharp tug and sang out in triumph when it was met with struggling resistance.

“I got ‘im!”

“Hold yo’ tip up!  Don’t let him get away!”  Charlie yelled.

Tongue caught in the corner of her mouth, Andie fought to reel the fish in.  Her pole bent sharply but she didn’t relent.  Her grip remained firm and determined.

“It’s a big one, Andie.  Oh he’s a fine one.!  It’s yo’ biggest one yet!”  Charlie sang.

Finally, the little girl managed to haul the catfish up onto the dock, panting.  Charlie grabbed it before it could flop back off and they both laughed.

“My, my.  Would you look at that fish!”  Charlie exclaimed.  “He’s big enough fo’ both of us to have us a nice dinner tonight.  Maybe yo’ momma, too.”

Andie swelled with her accomplishment.  She gazed up at Charlie as if frozen in the shimmering buzzing summer swelter, her green eyes fixed on his.  He watched the emotion moving behind them.

“I’m proud of you, Andie girl.”

The words were out before he realized he’d said them, but they were the truth.  He was damn proud.

Suddenly the child flung herself at the old man and hugged him.  It wasn’t just a hug with her arms.  It was a hug from her whole being.

“I love you, Charlie,” she whispered.

He held her to him as the world distorted and swam through sudden tears and he uttered, “Quiet water, Andie girl.  Quiet water.”

Moribund’s Demise

Moribund the Shadow Thing sat like a knot.  He was frustrated and frankly, not in a very good mood.

“You’re seriously not afraid of me?”

“Nope,” said the little girl, smiling up at him like an annoying little cherub.

“Not even a little?” he asked.


He deflated.  One last child to frighten and he would earn his Junior Demon status.  He summoned up a belly full of bile and made his most horrific face at her.

“I love you, Mr. Silly,” the girl giggled and hugged him tight.


And with that, Moribund disappeared into a puff of smoke.

MS Word Count:  100

This is a creative writing piece for the Friday Drabble.

Other 100-word installments in the Moribund saga:

Copyright Jean Mishra 2012

The Pot

Bored by the rains of another monsoon afternoon, the boy wandered the maze of mud puddles to the village potter’s hut. He didn’t know exactly why he was so fascinated by the simple clay pots. All he knew was that he was and they drew him here almost daily. His greatest and most silent hope was to learn the trade from the elderly man who made them for their village. He had never dared to ask though. Until now he had been unable to move beyond is own sense of awe.

Taking quick inventory, he noticed no new pots but his favorite among them remained in its usual place. To the common eye, all the pots looked the same. Any new additions would easily go unnoticed. But the boy’s eyes were the eyes of his heart and every pot, no matter how plain, stood out in its individuality to him. He scrutinized the crooked stacks as he did every day, silently bidding each one good day.

A calloused hand ruffled through his hair. It was familiar as his own mother’s. The aroma of sweat, dust and cigarettes enveloped him mixing with the smell of the rain and painting a grin on his face.

“And what do the pots say today, little dreamer?” the old potter grinned, glancing out at the rain-soaked world.

“Don’t be silly,” the boy blushed. “Pots can’t talk.”

Upon hearing this, the man arranged his old bones on a dusty cushion more tatter than fabric and rubbed at the white brush of whiskers sprouting on his chin. It was a deliberate motion. It made a dry sound. He pondered a moment.

“A pot has a mouth just as you do, a throat, and a good strong belly,” he finally declared. “Why shouldn’t it talk?”

The boy blinked and absently fingered the rim of the pot that rested next to the grubby cushion on the floor. This was his favorite pot, and had earned this place of honor as silent recognition by the old man for the boy’s unspoken love — a love well-remembered over the years of molding, shaping and decorating the very clay that seemed to permeate every pore of his being. Yes, he understood this in the boy better then the boy understood it himself. Resting his eyes on the boy, the child looked up and smiled. The potter patted his face leaving a hand print on his sweaty cheek.

“And you know it does,” he added with a wink.

Filled with bliss and feeling content, the boy returned his attention to the pot. Placing its cool wide mouth between his hands it suddenly exploded with a *plink* leaving the bewildered child holding a pot-less rim. A soggy cricket ball rocked back and forth amid the shards as if trying to shake off the blame. The pot was destroyed.

Filling with rage the boy hurled the ball from the shop. The boy-cricketers braving the rain nearby cheered and scooped up the ball, oblivious of its crime. His heart lay amid the broken shards. Falling to his knees he began picking up each piece and cradling it against his chest, a quivering breath for every shard.

“Why are you so sad?” the potter asked.

“Its broken,” the boy choked on his broken heart. “It was the most perfect one and now its gone.”

“Its outside is broken but its certainly not gone,” the man sighed, wiping at the boy’s tears.

The boy gazed up at him with glistening eyes, the question in them plain.

With a smile that wore the weight and wisdom of his years, the man knelt among the ruin with the boy and picked up one shard, considering it.

“What you see is the skin of the pot, but not the pot itself,” he told the boy. “Yes, its true as I said. A pot has a mouth, a throat, a belly and a skin which surrounds it, just like you do. It also has another thing.”

“What’s that?”

“The pot also has the space inside. The skin may be gone, but that space that was the inside of the pot is still there. Always will be. It was there when the pot was created around it.”

So saying, the old man settled his rickety bones back on his cushion with a dusty puff and lit a cigarette. He feigned returning his attention to the rain.

The boy blinked and looked back to where the pot had been moments before, trying to digest the potter’s words. He waved his free hand around in the space where the pot had been then placed it on his own chest. He didn’t see the corners of the potter’s mouth twist around his cigarette with a knowing smile. The boy considered the broken shards in his hands, pulled them tight to his chest and pondered the space one final time.

After long moments, he rose to his feet and walked with a kind of reverence to the rubbish heap behind the shop, the cricketers forgotten. There he deposited the remains of his most beloved pot with a little smile on his face he wasn’t even aware of.

Upon returning to the cushion, the potter blew a large lazy smoke ring. The boy giggled.

“Tomorrow come by after your lessons and bring a bucket,” the man said, snuffing out his cigarette on the dirt floor.

“Why do I need a bucket?” the boy asked, absently wiping his hands on his shirt-front.

“You’ve learned what you need to know about life today. Tomorrow you will learn to make pots.”

Copyright Jean Mishra 2011