"Bond"- Chapter Seven
River Road
The Virginia Exhibit
A Lost Car on Spike Canyon
The Beneficiaries
Invisible The Morning After
Beautiful Shadows
Something Like Wonder
Try to Keep Up
A Series of Moments Between Clocks
The Unromantic REAL World of Gulliver's Travels
Meant for One Thing
The Lesser of Evils
Love and Nemesis
The Sinning Bishop
The World In Your Pocket
Higher Purpose
A Promising Look at Genesis
Not For The Ladies
Fooling Around and Falling In Love
The Tediousness of Tragic Love
Poetic Analysis for "The Trees"
Creation On Dub
Creating the Universe
Fast Acting In Small Doses
As Crazy As They
We Can Always Use More Utopia
A Little Church in Corinth
The Theory of Carl Rogers
Historically Speaking
Different Shades, Same Color
A Rose for a Funeral
Obsessed With Race

     Frally Winter was opening the curtains at the front window of the shop just as Marie Lissel was shutting hers. After the visit from Adam Love, she had begun to feel better about the rain and the day in general. His comment had set her at ease about the witch doctor, and she figured the rain must be about ready to quit anyway. It never rained for terribly long in Palmer Ellis- Eclisolus was kind and didn't care for beating a dead horse. People always got the message he was trying to send anyway.

     Lorey jumped when the curtains were thrust open, and Frally appeared at the window to stare into the rain. She was still leaning against the outside of the shop, but she had found a damp pencil that had washed against the platform and was using it to trace the lines in the wood. The burlap lady had gotten up and walked off soon after the man with the heavy bag had left. Lorey figured she was tired of being stared at by people coming and going. The skeleton man had fallen asleep to the sound of the rain and her singing. Turning to look up at the shop lady again, she wondered if maybe that lady would be nice enough to let her come inside for a while and have a look around. Her heart sank when she remembered what the pretty lady with the pearl necklace and the shiny hair had said that morning: someone had gone in and ruined the store. The shop lady probably would be afraid that would happen again if she let some strange little girl inside.

     It had probably been another little girl that had torn up the shop, after all. The lady with the pearls hadn't said much more about it before quickly walking across the street to the dress shop, but Lorey knew that little girls were the kind of people who did things like that. Before she had gotten sick, her grandmother had told her of all the bad things that had happened around town because of little girls. She said that bad little girls were sent to the dark alley, and that Ecli put them there to keep them away from nice children. So far, Lorey was still a nice little girl, and she planned to keep it that way. Even if it meant living on the street instead of with her aunt, who for some reason liked living in the Vespers. It wasn't good to live in a place like that, with people like the bad doctor and the vine killer. It was scary to even think about sleeping at night when living next door to a monster.

     Amidst her shivering at the very thought, the pattering of the rain on the awning slowed and nearly stopped. A drop every now and then framed the utter silence of the day and the empty streets, and Lorey couldn't help but stand up and approach the edge of the platform to have a look. What she saw made her muscles tense, and her heart drop into her stomach. She turned quickly and ran back to the door of the Bittersweet Crossing, knowing it was wrong, but knocking anyway. Forever seemed to go by before the door was opened and the shop lady was looking down at her with an anxious, unsettled stare. The look softened when Lorey breached the door jamb and clung to her skirted legs in tears, begging to be let inside. The door was being closed behind her, shutting her safely inside. Better yet, the shop lady was letting her cling and not making any move to step away from her.

     "What is wrong, little girl?" the shop lady asked sweetly. Lorey wasn't sure if the sweetness was fabricated or real, but didn't much care.

     "The Bad Doctor," was all she could say before bursting into a fit of tears that blurred up any attempt at speech she could have made.

     She could feel the lady moving her further from the door, and nearly cried out when she felt her pull away, leaving Lorey to collapse against the front of the counter. The shop lady took one glance out the window and pulled the curtains closed, leaning her back against them to hold them shut. Did she really think they would burst open on their own as the Bad Doctor walked by?

     "It's alright, honey," she assured Lorey in a near whisper between heavy breaths. "He's just walking back to the Vespers. He'll be gone soon and we wont see him for a long time."

     Outside, the skeleton man called Arthur stirred awake, roused by the sound of the frantic knocking. He looked for the pale, sarcastic woman who was usually the only one who didn't mind sitting close by. Even the little girl had gone. They must have gone off somewhere when the rain stopped, he figured. Across the street and down a ways, an old man and a teenage boy sat slumped against the front of the Tedrus Tavern with bottles in their hands. They had likely been drinking all day, from the looks of them. If he had one thing to thank life for it was not being a drunk. Besides, every penny he managed to get ahold of was spent on food. There was rarely a shred left for anything else.

     The thought alone made his stomach growl loudly. It had been over a day since someone had dropped a penny in his hand, and it had been that dreadful gossip who moved from store to store like a queen bee, gathering up all the pointless information she could. She was nice to look at, though, and she almost always gave him money.

     This morning she had been distracted with the overturn of the Crossing, which, in his opinion, was nothing to get bent out of shape about. Par with the expression that beggars can't be choosers, he hadn't reached out to tug the fine fabric of her skirt as she had walked by to ask her to spare a penny. He was lucky to get what he got when he got it.

     It was really strange the way people ran for cover when it rained. What could be so bad about a little bit of water, after all? He knew that it was mostly because of the popular fixation on the rain as a reminder from Eclisolus. He had never much cared for Eclisolus or his reminders, but he sometimes liked to use it to stir up trouble with his fellow layabouts. Many of them were quite religious and responded in a fiery huff to anything he had to say on the subject. Offensive entertainment was better than no entertainment at all, he always thought. At least it gave them all something to talk about other than how poor and miserable they were.

     He picked up his carving and began to work at it again, doing his best to fashion a lady out of the damp wood. He had been having dreams as he drifted off during the day of a lady with golden hair walking by and smiling down at him. The only word she ever said was "Rest," but it was a great comfort to him nonetheless. He wanted to carve out a copy of her, but it was difficult work with the wood being so wet and slippery.

     He was well aware that popular belief marked this tall, spindly man as a layabout, and an old one, at that. In his forty-two years, he had aged considerably more than most, likely due to spending nearly ten years of his life out walking the countryside, hoping to stumble upon some kind of miracle. It had been a rainy day that he ambled into town, first nudging his way into the Vespers, and then running at full speed up the rocks to town. He had spent his life alone on the street, and still that place had scared him. The eyes that had turned on him when he set foot past the first run-down building had been dark, the skin around them worn and tired. He had stumbled on a crack in the road and one scraggly looking man had actually come at him. When he regained his balance and moved away, he had bumped into a little girl with dirt on her face, and she screamed as if a demon had just taken her. He had begun walking faster then, intent on getting through whatever neighborhood this was. He knew from the traveling merchants he spoke with on the road that there were really dignified people in this town. He was sure to find them if he kept his head on.

     As he walked on, he felt hundreds of eyes sweeping over him. Soon, the buildings started to get smaller, and he came to the end of the civilized street. Ahead of him was a bluff with jagged rocks at its top, and a road that wound unsurely up a hill that surrounded it. It didn't appear to have been travelled often, but there was really no other way out of this frightening village. Before he could start up the path, a hand had fallen on his shoulder, freezing him in his step.

     "Are you lost, scarecrow?" the deep voice accompanying it asked.

     Even now, sitting and chipping away at a piece of wood, Arthur wasn't sure why he had run away. He had not so much as turned around to see who was speaking to him. Something about the voice had chilled him into a panic run.

     Without looking back, he had run all the way up the slope of the road, tripping twice and clawing his way back to his feet in the thin, sandy gravel. His heart was beating his chest like a drum, but his fear kept him moving. When the road turned sharply to the right, he let himself collapse into a little grove of foot-brush beneath a crevasse in the rock. He was not followed.

     The memory made him shiver, though the end of the rain had brought a strange sort of warm breeze into the square. He shook it off and directed his attention once again to the wooden lady in his hands. If nothing else, he could certainly be thankful for the talent he had been given. If only he could remember the first time he had successfully carved something....

     In his dreamy concentration on the lady in wood, he didn't even notice when Detrich the Healer passed on the other side of the road, carrying a fistful of flowers that weren't for any vanity.