Categories
Literary

The Gypsy Camp

Tracy walked up to her sister’s front door and let herself in. Tim vaulted down the stairs shouting, “Aunt Tracy! Aunt Tracy!”

He grabbed her in a hug. Tracy’s sister stepped into the hallway grinning from ear-to-ear.

“You know, Tim, you’re to be good for Aunt Tracy today,” Beth said. “It’s just a short trip to OSU to drop off your cousin’s laptop, and then Tracy is taking you shopping for some new clothes for your birthday yesterday.”

“I know I know.”

“Don’t be running off or nothing!” Beth said.

“I’ll be good!” Tim cried and began running around the room with his arms out like an airplane.

“He’ll be fine,” Tracy said. “I’m going to do what grandmother did to us at his age.”

“What are you going to do to me?” Tim asked; his arms dropping down as he stood still.

Beth looked at Tracy with a wicked grin. “Good, make sure you get the money. You know how they can be. I want my cut.”

“You’ll get your share, sister of mine.”

Tim looked to his mother and then back at his aunt.

Tracy grabbed Tim’s ten-year-old hand and pulled him out of the house. “Come on, Tim. To the bat mobile!”

Tim and Tracy ran to her vintage black Corvette convertible and climbed inside. Tracy gunned the machine to life and started speeding down the road.

“We’re getting at least one video game for my birthday along with clothes, right?” Tim asked.

Tracy laughed violently. “I have bad news for you.”

“Aww.”

Tracy plotted her next move with methodological precision. “You’ve heard of the gypsies in school, haven’t you?”

“Gypsies?”

“They are tribal nomads traveling the earth moving from place to place. They are originally from India, but they migrated through Europe and to North America.”

“Oh,” Tim said.

“They live in camps and have a rich heritage.”

“Ok.”

“After we drop off the laptop at your cousins, we’ll stop and get clothes as promised, and then we’ll stop at a gypsy camp, and I’m selling you to them.”

“What?” Tim asked.

“It’s time we sold you to the gypsies, so you can start earning your keep harvesting in the fields and rooting out weeds.”

“You are not!”

“Harvesting the Jalapeno and Habanero peppers will be the worst of it for you. The spicy oil gets on your hands, and the smell makes your eyes water. Most people can’t help but rub their eyes, and that makes them burn even worse.”

“You lie!”

“Your mother and I were both sold to gypsies as slave labor when we were ten. Parents get one hundred dollars for every year of life of the child. You’re worth a cool grand. Your mother and I stole from travelers and merchants in order to make enough to buy our way out of slavery. You’re a bright kid. I’m sure you can do the same.”

“You did not!”

“We did.”

Tim’s eyes were wide, and he very slowly started shaking his head back and forth.

“It’s not all bad. They’ll feed you well, and they are great cooks.”

Neither said anything for miles and miles as highway raced past them. They parked at OSU and Tracy fished the laptop out of the trunk. They rode the elevator up 16 floors to Jen’s dorm room and knocked. It took a moment before she answered, but when she did, her eyes lit up brilliantly when she saw the laptop. “Oh, mom. Thank you SO much. I can’t believe I forgot my laptop.”

Tracy nodded. “This is why I wanted you to go to school close to home, my dear.”

Jen knelt down to Tim and poked him in the stomach. He giggled.

“And this one is ten now, prime time to sell him off,” Jen said.

Tim cocked his head to the side, mouth gaping wide. His eyes shifted left and right between aunt and cousin.

“Yes, we were thinking the same thing,” Tracy said.

“You’re not going to sell me!”

Jen rolled her eyes. “It isn’t that bad, Tim. You’ll find ingenious ways to make money with the gypsies, and if you scrimp and save, you’ll be able to buy your freedom. And food, oh my god, the food is so good.”

“We have to go,” Tracy said. “We’re buying him his work clothes today.”

“Yes, he’ll need good strong jeans and thick cotton or wool shirts. And boots, those are essential. Oh, and get him a good knife. I was so glad grandma packed a sturdy knife with my things.”

“He’s kind of clumsy. He might cut himself.”

Tim stared at Jen.

“Yes, all boys are clumsy,” Jen said, “but he’ll need a knife for sure.”

“What am I going to need a knife for?”

“To fight off bandits and thieves, Tim,” Tracy said.

“Huh?”

“Enjoy school, Jen. I’ll see you at thanksgiving.”

“Thanks again, Mom.”

Tim seemed rather distracted, so Tracy grabbed his hand and pulled him along to the elevators. They made it back to the Corvette, and they headed south on the interstate.

“You know, after you’ve been with the gypsies,” Tracy said. “They’ll likely teach you how to put a gypsy curse on someone.”

“A curse?”

“Gypsy curses are quite powerful. I’ve seen a man with a gypsy curse lose his leg over it.”

“What?”

“A thief once broke into an old gypsy’s house and stole her life savings. The old woman put such a strong curse on him that they had to amputate below the knee. They call him Pegleg now.”

Tim didn’t say anything, but he seemed lost in thought. The flea market signs started to appear by the side of the road. Tracy pulled the vehicle into a parking space, and they started wandering around. Tracy had Tim try on blue jeans and thick cotton shirts. They purchased a number of articles. Tim carried the bags while Tracy searched the aisles of the flea market moving from booth to booth. Tim trailed behind her burdened by the heavy clothes and work boots. She finally stopped at the booth of a knife seller and began to examine each item with hell-bent eyes.

“There, that one,” she said, “with the bone handle, curved blade, and leather sheath.”

“That’s a nice knife,” the merchant said. “It’s a discontinued model, so it’s on sale.”

“You’re getting me a knife?” Tim asked.

“Jen was right. You’re going to need one.”

Tim whimpered a little quite quietly.

“Selling him to the gypsies, eh?” The seller asked.

“That’s right,” Tracy said. “I want you to throw in a whetstone and oil.”

“My pleasure.”

Tracy paid the thirty-two dollars and stuffed the knife into one of the bags of clothes. The look on Tim’s face was utterly priceless.

“Come on, Tim. To the bat mobile!” Tracy said.

Tim didn’t move.

Tracy grabbed him by the shoulders and pushed him along to the car. Once they were moving again, Tracy said, “You’re going to behave when we get to the gypsy camp? You’re not going to make a fuss or run away? I’ll have to take less than a full thousand for you if you give them trouble.”

Tim didn’t say anything.

“You don’t want to give them trouble, Tim. You’re always giving your mother trouble, and that’s no good. You don’t want to mess with the gypsies.”

Tim started to cry. “Please don’t sell me! I’ll be good!”

Tracy laughed and pushed the accelerator down on the Corvette.

Tim tried to wipe the tears out of his eyes, but there were entirely too many.

“We’re not going to sell you,” Tracy said.

“Really?”

“Yes. I was just teasing you. The knife you can keep since your father says you’re old enough.”

“You tricked me!”

“And you got a new knife out of the deal.”

“You shouldn’t trick me like that!”

Tracy smiled as the hand painted sign saying “Gypsy Camp” loomed in the distance. She took the exit and steered the car in the direction the signs pointed.

Copyright, Geoffrey C Porter

Categories
Literary

Turtles & Rabbits

A version of this story was originally published by Bards and Sages Quarterly.

The ancient but timeless snapping turtle sat on a tree stump lecturing on the proper application of technique in writing. I sat listening and nodding, wondering if I would be allowed to speak anytime soon. The turtle went on to claim that he was a third-generation linguistics expert, and his policies regarding technique were taught in all the best universities. My attention span for such things is limited, and I interrupted, “But, can’t I simply put pen to paper and etch the words out as they come to me?”

“Oh no,” the turtle said, “you must be inspired to plot out a great picture in the reader’s mind. You must paint a vivid canvas of colors and imagery. You cannot simply put down ideas and concepts. The writing must flow from word to word. You must assume your first draft is atrocious, and write a second draft, and finally a third draft. Some even go as far as to write a fourth or fifth draft.”

I had to interrupt again, “But, what if I’m careful, and I get it right the first time?”

The turtle cracked a wide smile, and there were bits of food stuck in his teeth. “You won’t get it right the first time. Nobody gets it right the first time. I’ve seen your first drafts, and you manage almost fifty errors per page.”

“But you’ve said in the past that the difference between a first draft and a second draft equates to improving the plot.”

“Yes, but would it hurt to fix the errors?”

“Publishers have armies of editors.”

“Will a publisher read past the first error?”

I paused at that. Would they?

The rabbit next to me whispered in my ear, “I got sex right the first time.”

“Sex and writing are two very different things!” The turtle said with a raised, high-pitched voice.

“For the reader, are they that different?” I asked. “I mean, you derive pleasure from both. Both should have a climax.”

“Writing is a skill that works like a muscle,” the turtle said. “There are countless exercises that will build up that muscle, and you must practice them every day.”

I shook my head back and forth, thinking what kind of maroon does exercises? “But I want to write a new story every day. Isn’t that exercise enough?”

The turtle shot lasers out of his eyes at me and howled. “No! The exercises are more important than any story.”

I sighed. I had heard the turtle talk about exercises before, and those talks bored me to tears. I often wondered if I was interested in this writing class, but it was the only writing class in the forest.

The turtle’s eyes shifted from me to the other pupils. “Don’t aspire to be as good a writer as I am. Be content if you can write one decent story in your life. Someday, you might have a great epiphany and become a great writer, but until then, you must practice and revise.”

“But… I don’t want to revise old stories. I want to write new stories.”

The turtle turned back to face me and simultaneously slumped his shoulders down low. “I have read your old stories, and they aren’t very good. You need to apply the technique of imagery and detail to each one. You need to give your characters thoughts and emotions. It’s not good enough to create a solid plot or a bit of action. You must write each story as if a blind rabbit were reading it. You must detail every image and character.”

“But, if I’m writing for a blind turtle, it seems the imagery would matter less, for a blind man has never seen a blond haired, blue eyed wench. He doesn’t need to know what she looks like. My characters are defined by their actions.”

The turtle laughed a happy little chuckle. “That’s the key to the imagery and sensory detail, for you must make a blind person see. You’ll have arrived as a writer when you can make a blind man see and a hard man cry.”

My eyes opened wide enough that they almost fell out. They almost did. “I’m a simple rabbit. I don’t want to make a blind man see, or a hard man cry. That is the work of miracles.”

“You will never be a writer.”

Copyright, Geoffrey C Porter