The Storyteller

Here is my story for the “Another Roll of the Dice” Flash Fiction challenge

The Storyteller

     Rock pumped her arms and legs and ran as fast as a rock could run.  She was panting for breath and the footing was treacherous.  It was full dark now, and had been raining. She took a detour around a crater of water and slipped at the edge, almost tumbling in.  She caught herself, arms wheeling for balance.  She calmed herself and caught her breathe.  She had lost sight of her Storyteller, but she knew where he was going.

She thought how nice it would be to ride in his pocket, warm and dry.  He would pull her out and set her gently on the table,  and he would say, “Little Rock, do you want to hear a story?”.  She would shyly say, “Yes, please, a story all for me”, and then she would feel airy inside and full of bubbles.   She told herself to stop being so foolish.  She was a rock, not some fluff-head dandelion.

She started to run again, and finally reached the corner.  He had turned here…there he was.  She could see him in a window.  Relieved, she trotted over and settled herself under the open window.  His voice flowed out around her.  She closed her eyes and drifted.

 Jack the Storyteller passed by the first pub.  He had made good money there before, and had become too well known.  He was looking for a place with a few marks to choose from, and hopefully nobody who would recognize him.  He picked a small establishment, and went in.

When he was drunk he liked to comfort himself with some warm, fake memories. Oh, the days he had performed at the great noble houses, entertaining and enchanting all who could hear him, until the women threw flowers at him and the men cried real tears at the honor and heroic deeds of his tales.  He had never actually flown so high, but he had never fallen this low before either. Now he was more con than artist.  It had been a long, dark slide. He wasn’t sure how it had started.  Laziness? Drink? Women?  Probably all of that, and more.  However it had started, he could see the ending from here.

Tonight he was in a pub spinning a tale to a local girl.  The girl admired his golden curls and wide, bright smile, but she was no fool.  The frayed velvet cuffs and grimy lace told their own stories.  However, he believed so strongly in his own charm that it reached out and wrapped around her, like a gently whispering ivy, slyly slipping a leaf under her skirt.  She laughed and slapped him lightly, breaking his spell.  His rueful grin told her he’d been caught, but hadn’t it been sweet?  He leaned forward and tried again, reaching for a tale that had worked before.

“Alice, I know a wizard who has a potion that tastes like the summer rain, and smells of cinnamon and apples.  One taste is all you need.  Think on your heart’s desire, and it will be yours.”

Rock sighed and opened her eyes.  She knew where this was going.  She had been following her Storyteller for a long time.  In the beginning, his voice had flowed through the lanes, weaving among the leaves and the grasses, tickling Rock’s ears and her little granite heart.  She would sit in the sun under a window and let the soft words take her away. The little pebbles would scurry round her feet, roused up by confusing but exciting tales of human loves and losses.

Like Jack, Rock didn’t know what had happened.  She had watched him change over time. The stories grew simpler.  He forgot the words more and more often.  Rock had heard him lose the plot and mumble to himself, drunk and bleary, while the crowds laughed at him.  Rock’s heart had broken when she realized he didn’t know that he was being laughed at.  He had thought he was being entertaining.

 Jack was caught up in his own daydream.  The girl’s soft skin and bright eyes went to his head and mingled with the wine. He slipped a finger into her neckline and leaned closer, confident in his smile, his curls, and his stories.  He’d never believed in this potion, but his heart yearned for it.  One small drink of summer rain, and it could all be different.  He could be the Storyteller he was born to be.  He could fix whatever had gone wrong.  He could change, he really could.  All he needed was one potion, one drink, one small taste of summer rain.  His mind was fogged with wine, hope, and the softness of the girl.  He moved closer, his hand reaching for her hair.

But he leaned too far.  The smooth move became a clumsy loss of balance, a face full of cleavage, spilled wine, and feminine shrieks.  The bartender saw him out the door with a helpful boot to the rear.  Drunken laughter and a spill of yellow light followed him out.  He stumbled into the street, falling on his hands and knees in the mud. The small moment of clarity he’d had was gone.

“Not the worst way to end an evening.  A face full of Alice!”  He stood up, weaving and giggling, then lost his balance and hit the mud again, on his back.  “Ah well it’s soft here, so soft..” He mumbled a bit, then started to snore.

Rock slipped up to him and sat beside his ear. She reached out and stroked one of his soft, muddy curls. Small pebbles rolled closer, and nestled against his head.  She knew how they felt.  They loved Jack and they felt guilty, like she did. They all remembered the wizard who had slipped on these muddy, wet streets, dropping and shattering a small vial.  It had splashed on the street, on rock and pebbles.  They had awoken to the smell of apples and cinnamon, and to the enticing sounds of a story floating on the wind.

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