Once there was a girl who lived in a house full of thieves at the end of a street on a hill. The house was unfinished both inside and out so that it sat like a dejected scarecrow, leaning to one side, bits of tar paper flapping sadly in the breeze. The yard was filled with rusting cars (all of them stolen, of course) and there were broken radiators, hubcaps, and crumpled fenders which had lain there for so many years they now seemed a part of the landscape, tilted and sunken like artifacts emerging from an archeological dig.
The people who lived in the house were nothing short of horrid. Poxbald Fleamush, the patriarch, grew meaner by the day which was no small feat, considering he was a very old man. He was cheap, flinty, and would sooner kick a dog than step out of its way.
Next to his wife, however, Poxbald could be considered something of a saint. Her diminuitive size was misleading, for although Velka Fleamush was practically no taller than a teapot, the cruelty housed within her tiny frame was pure and undistilled, with no redeeming instinct to muddy the waters.
The Fleamush sons, Orzgard and Flagon, were absolute brutes. Lazy and uncouth, they lounged all day in front of the fire: a heap of hairy guts, bruised knuckles, and open, gaping maws. The dogs slept there as well, and in the glowing firelight of the late afternoon one could hardly tell the difference between man and beast.
The girl, however, was another story. She was smart, resourceful, and actually in possession of a working conscience. Judging by the stash of shiny pennies she'd collected from a nearby wishing well, however, it was clear there were gaps in her sense of right and wrong. But one could hardly expect less from a member of the Fleamush clan.
Such was the lot of our little Nuisette.
The origin of her birth was not altogether clear. And it was pointless to importune Velka for the story--whether Nuisette was biologically her own or whether, for example, she'd noticed the baby unattended in a basket at the fish market made little difference to the woman. In fact, the discrepancy was so irrelevant to her way of thinking that two such opposing circumstances may as well have been one and the same.
It happened one day that Nuisette overheard a conversation while hiding in the backseat of an old, skeletal Chevrolet. Indeed, she had an entire warren of such hiding places marked out around the Fleamush property. Half the time they provided a desperately needed escape. Half the time no one cared what became of the little girl.
"I bet we'd get a tidy sum for 'er," said Orzgard.
Flagon took a deep drag on his hemlock pipe and belched.
"There's a circus coming though town. Them's the type wot never asks questions," continued the first.
Flagon squinted at a bird sitting twenty feet away on a broken tailgate. "Velka wouldn' like it," he finally muttered, "But afore long she'd find a new girl to take 'er place." He leaned forward and hurled an empty beer bottle at the bird. The bottle missed, breaking into a hundred pieces, and the bird flew away with a squawk. Flagon grinned, exposing a jaw to rival that of a barracuda. The thrill of intimidation never lost its polish for his demented lump of a brain. Orzgard cleared his throat and spat a viscuous gob of spittle at the rusting automobile. "Smells like rain," he said, "Let's go inside."
Nuisette crouched between the carseats, her heart beating against her chest like a trapped rabbit. So it had come to this, then. She would have to run away. No one could dispute Nuisette's life was one of misery, but still, it was all the girl had ever known. Closing her eyes, Nuisette pressed against the cool surface of the vinyl seat and willed herself to disappear. As she huddled in her hiding place and counted her meager options, however, something wonderful began to happen. A tiny spark of resolution flickered, sprang to life, and steadily grew within the girl's bosom.
This, as you know, is the first step anyone must take to face an overwhelming challenge. Resolve. It does not dispel fear, but it causes fear to lose its footing. It does not denote a solution, but it locks a piece of the puzzle into place. It is not as good as having a friend, but it makes one feel less alone. It may seem like a small thing, this tiny spark of resolution, but really it makes all the difference in the world. Nuisette's hands clenched into fists and a look of steadfast determination settled upon her pale and pinched features.
She would leave. And she planned on taking a few things with her.
Dear reader, one of my great misgivings in writing these Hundred Dresses vignettes is how hastily developed and abruptly ended they tend to be. What can I say for myself? Too often this blog occupies the merest sliver of my pie chart. Too often I am writing it late at night, when the impulse to wrap things up with the standard cop out, then she woke up and realized it had all been a dream!, begins to feel like a brilliant literary device.
Last night, however, I couldn't bear to do it. I just couldn't bear to have Captain Charles Purcell pull up with his trusty skiff and whisk Nuisette off to a dubious life of vitamin deficiency on the high seas.
No offense, Captain Charles Purcell. I'm sure you cut a dashing figure in those fringed epaulettes of yours.
So which is better~the hasty ending, or leaving one's readers in the lurch?
I do hope to revisit this story, to tell you more about little Nuisette and her harrowing adventures, to discover for myself what it is she plans to take from the revolting Fleamush clan.
What do you think it could be? I have a shadow of an idea but would love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Feel free to make me laugh, if you like...oh, how I love the humor on this blog!
Shall we make this another print giveaway, then? Why not? I'm sure our dear Nuisette would be quite thrilled to join your family.
But let's not draw this one out forever, darling~simply leave a comment below and I will (randomly) choose and announce the winner on Friday.
Just an FYI: previous winners and international readers are more than welcome to play along!