Tales of the Bearded Toad

Short stories and the occasional true tidbit devised in the life and times of the Bearded Toad

Monday, July 09, 2012

Mane Attraction

The curl released from her finger like a spring and bounced back into the jumble of its companions. A deft twist, and she had it again, twirling it in counter clockwise circles with her left hand. She was staring of course, but not in that frozen, completely oblivious to the world way. She was staring at the man who had just walked in the door. Her friend could tell that she was impressed with something about him, but she wasn’t really sure what.

Her friend nudged her with her elbow to break the stare, just as the smile was beginning to get a little too big, a little too telling. Neither said anything, but they looked at each other quickly and turned away. A little cough from one; it doesn’t matter which. She tried to remember what she was saying just before the little bell dinged on the door when it opened. Her brow furrowed a little, then released upward, bringing the sides of her eyebrows with it as the daydreams crept in.

Her friend was weighing it out, searching for what had grabbed her. Was it the way he was dressed? The way he walked in confidently? The tattoo peeking out from his sleeve?
“Do you remember that guy I dated two years ago that was obsessed with his car? Jeremy. He was always talking about the next part he was going to put on it, and the next auto cross race, and how his car compared to that one. Do you know which one I’m talking about?”
She nodded in reply and said, “Yea. Why?”
“Well, I remember getting really excited about him when we met, because I was drawn to him for some reason…of course I was a bit tipsy that night. Somehow, though, when we’d gone out for a couple of weeks, the lustre wore off of him faster than he was trying to wax it back into his paint job.”
“Right, we laughed about that, and said it was because he paid more attention to his stick shift than he did to your glove box.” They giggled again.
“Exactly, but I don’t think that’s it anymore. I realize now that I wanted him because of his hair. He had that long flowing hair, just like the guy that just walked in the door, and all I wanted to do was run my fingers through it. But after I got that out of the way, I figured out he was a pretty hollow vessel.”
The bell on the door tinkled again, and they both turned to see. The guy she’d just been fantasizing about was about to greet the newcomer. He did so with the nonchalance of a rapper, facial expressions included. They both watched and listened to every step to the handshake, every distortion of vocabulary in the completely topical conversation that ensued.

They looked at each other and shook their heads slowly, but that sly smile crept up on one side of her face. “So, I’ll take the one with better hair,” she said.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Clay Motion

She slipped out of her boots, quickly with a tug on each heel, and stepped into the clay. It was cool on the bottom of her feet. Pressing down firmly, her weight caused the firm red earth to ooze through her toes making a mould of the space in-between. She pulled her shirt, wet with the sweat of a warm day and a long hike, over her head and brought her bra along with it. Carefully, she guided her shorts over her clay covered feet and tossed all of her clothes on top of her boots.
As her hands scooped up helpings of the slick clay, she could sense the connection to it building. It spread evenly over the skin of her belly, her hips, her breasts. The legs coated nearly last, except her back. To cover the area that her arm could not reach, she lay down in it, ignoring that her hair too would become a part of the process. Her body shifted in a serpentine glide curving her spine until the small of her back touched to cover all of it.

A deep inhale, exhaled through pursed lips. Another. Eyes closed, the sound of the breeze in the tree leaves, shaking with the joy of summer enveloping her ears, she felt the weight of sleep on her eye lids, the only bit of skin remaining uncovered by the thick substance. Flashes of so many memories and imagined happenings skipped across the red interior of her vision that she could not focus on just one it seemed for quite some time, until her mind settled on a blanket. It was the one her grandmother had made for her when she got engaged. “You can put it in your hope chest,” said the shrinking, closeted smoker. She hadn’t the courage, or lack of tact to tell the old-fashioned parts of her family that she did not have that sort of hope.

The blanket began to expand from the arm of the couch where it had been spread. The pattern, crocheted with such care over so many predawn mornings tucked away in the one room others weren’t allowed in her grandparents’ house. The scalloped sides began to elongate into tentacles, the holes suction cups. As she lay there, unable to move, the tentacles wrapped around her tightly, puckering her skin. Her pulse rose in her ears. She could feel it on her forehead, the veins running up her temples. Shallow, quickened breath. A muffled scream, and a shudder.

The light of the day burst into her awareness, as did the realization that it was a dream; however, she felt very stiff. She puffed her cheeks and felt the clay cracking across them, making a mapped hemisphere of a globe with each. She knitted her brow and felt a few pieces tumble away. Analysing. Always analysing what it meant. Everything. In this case she began to think of the pressures. Societal pressures, family pressures, and husband pressures all together. The pressure to live the life that they all wanted. The pressure she placed upon herself to help them all feel fulfilled through her actions. The pressure of judgement. And the pressure to have a child of her own.

Then she felt a pressure from within. This was not the outside pressing on her, yet something within herself straining to make itself known to her and to those outside forces. Her lips spread across her teeth. She pulled her legs up, knees toward her chest, flexing them along the way, popping large patches of dried, restrictive mud from where it clung. Wrapping her arms around her shins, she rolled up to her feet, released and thrust herself into the air above the flowing, clean waters of the creek.

With the splash, the chill of the water enshrouded her, and refreshed her spirit. She rubbed herself vigorously, washing away her treatment. She held her breath to free her hair of the clumps. As she slung the water from her locks, she let forth a loud fit of laughter, and wrapped her arms around herself, breasts behind biceps and fingers holding shoulder blades.

Her clothes did not want to go back to the job of covering her; the pieces clinging to her wet skin. She forced them, balancing on one foot at a time. Boots on, she started back in the direction of the car, radiating from her core with what needed to be freed. She fully recognized it. Yet, something nagged at the string of her thoughts. She recognized it too, and knew that both would always be there.