Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Prompt: Word wrangler

“Keep your net ready,” Father said, holding his two nets loosely in his left hand while he shifted her hand farther up the handle of her small net with his right. “You never know when one will fly right in front of you, and you don’t want to miss it, do you?” he asked seriously.

Emelia shook her head, her eyes wide as they had been ever since she entered the aerie with her net clutched tight in one hand and Father’s tunic in the other. He’d never allowed her to come up before, only to watch from the sandy floor below while he climbed the narrow balcony that wrapped in a steep spiral around the inner walls of the tall tower.

Every once in awhile, a word dropped down to the floor, and she would pick it up and cuddle it as gently as she did cook’s hearth kittens. But they were usually limp and lifeless. Emelia treasured every one, though, keeping them carefully pressed in a book of blank pages her mother had given her after she brought home her first word from the aerie floor two years ago.

She was five now, and Father had promised when she could read and write all her letters, she would be old enough to come with him up into the aerie to see the living words. She could hardly remember to breathe, she was so excited to see them all. They moved around too fast for her to read, mostly, though she could make out a few slow or small ones that fluttered by.

Father pointed to one fluttering just past the balcony railing. “Think you can reach that one, Emelia? Be careful. A gentle swing, just like you’ve practiced with the flutterbyes. That’s right, line it up. Don’t reach out too far.”

She held her breath and swung her net from right to left, catching the lone word right in the middle of the green gauze. She felt her grin stretch her lips so wide, she thought her face might split apart. She knew better than to jump up and down or squeal with the excitement building up inside her. Father disapproved of both activities. He had raised six boys, all grown. Emelia had been a surprise in more ways than one.

He nodded approval as she brought the gauze back under the railing and swept it straight to her chest, just like he had taught her. He helped her gently hold the word between her thumb and forefinger and peel back the gauze to see what it was. “You read it, Emelia.”


“Remember the 'e' at the end—”


“Pris-teen. That’s a tricky one. You’re right. Sometimes the long I is ‘aye’ and sometimes it’s ‘ee’. Do you know what it means?”

Emelia furrowed her brow as she tried to remember. Had she ever heard the word before? Would Father be disappointed if she didn’t know it? Finally, her face fell and she shook her head slowly. Would he make her let it go?

“Well,” he said more gently than she had expected. “Then you better take it with you so you can ask your tutor to teach you.”

She drew in a deep breath and looked up with her eyes wide once more.

“I expect you to tell me about it at supper, all right?” He ruffled her hair once, then turned back to his nets. “Now, stay here and I’m going up to the top. Do you see that word in the far corner?”

Emelia peered into the gloomy turret and saw a word fluttering weakly against the brick wall. She nodded.

“It’s been stuck there for a couple of days, now. I’m going to go pull it down and we’ll see if it has any life left to it, or if it’s time…”

Emelia looked down at her word. Pristine. She cradled it against her tunic and watched Father climb higher. She was torn between wanting to see the other word, to learn what it was and what it meant, and wanting him to rescue it to fly freely around the aerie once more.

Dogs in house
Time writing:
20 minutes
October word count:


  1. Prompt: Word wrangler

    The old man sat at a small wooden desk, almost a child’s size. He held spectacles in his left hand and a pen in his right, both plastered to his head as he rested his face in his palms. A clean sheet of paper lay beneath his elbows.

    “Why’s he look so sad?” Yemina leaned forward, trying to get a better look over the railing at the man below.

    “He always looks sad,” said Mrs. Linian. “Come along, now. You still have a lot to see.” She strode off along the narrow corridor that formed a raised walkway along the edge of the courtyard.

    Yemina trotted to keep up. The faster pace seemed to send shocks of vibration along the wooden-slat floor. She slowed her steps. Mrs. Linian was far ahead, and vanished around the corner without looking behind her. Yemina reached the end of the open space. She turned, gazing at the old man one more time.

    He was writing! She found herself drawn backwards. She had to see what he wrote. She stepped slowly, carefully, as if she were creeping up on a bird. The old man continued writing. If she could get past where his hand blocked the view...

    A hand clamped down on her shoulder. “What are you doing!” Mrs. Linian shook her.

    “But, the words—“ Yemina leaned into Mrs. Linian’s grip. With that support, she might just be able to...

    “Come along, child,” Mrs. Linian said, softer, almost sad. She rotated Yemina using her shoulder and a new grip on her elbow. “I think perhaps you’ve seen enough today. Do you want to lie down?”

    Yemina felt dizzy, more than could be accounted for by the half-turn Mrs. Linian had propelled her through. Her limbs were heavy, her hands and feet like dead weights at the ends of long levers. She nodded, surprised her newly ponderous head did not tumble off her neck at the movement.

    Mrs. Linian guided her from the open space.

    Time writing: ~20 min

    1. Very intriguing. Not sure what the story is yet...what did Mrs. Linian do to Yemina, and why is she sad about it? Why is the old man sad? What's interesting about the fact that he's writing? Good questions - I'd read more to find some answers..