Timeless Tales Magazine: Puss in Boots

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PUSS IN BOOTSTimeless Tales 1Editor Tahlia Merrill Kirkwww.timelesstalesmagazine.com timelesstalesmagazine@gmail.comDesign and Layout Geoffrey Bunting004 Bullets,…
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PUSS IN BOOTSTimeless Tales 1Editor Tahlia Merrill Kirkwww.timelesstalesmagazine.com timelesstalesmagazine@gmail.comDesign and Layout Geoffrey Bunting004 Bullets, Boots and Bullion Eda Obey 0 1 2 A Most Marvellous Pair of Boots Charity Tahmaseb 0 2 0 The Mouse Catcher Kate Henderson 0 2 6 Conversations Emily Vater 0 3 4 The Clarion Call John Vicary 0 4 2 Lady Gray Rhonda Eikamp 0 5 0 not a tame lion Maya Chhabra 0 5 4 Nine Ways to Skin a Cat Claire SmithFictionWords byBullets, Boots, and BullionEda ObeyEDA OBEYbULLETS, BOOTS, AND BULLIONPuss wandered up during a firefight in Tikrit. Only Sgt. Miller saw it. It was so out of place. Bits of building splintered the air around them, and the cat was mildly walking through like it was traversing its own living room, instead of a room full of cursing and twitching soldiers. Miller’s attention was yanked back to the immediate when he heard the sound of bullets slamming into Samson’s chest, the soldier beside him. Samson was thrown backward and cursed breathlessly when he hit the dirt. Miller grabbed the man’s shirt and ripped it open. He smiled. “It’s cool. Your vest held up. Breathe, man. Breathe. Kicks like a mule, doesn’t it?” Samson nodded, still unable to speak. Miller squeezed his shoulder. “It’s gonna be okay, kid,” he told him. Miller was wrong. As he turned back to his position by the East window, the boys at the West window shouted. “INCOMING!” Miller had just enough time to stand and turn before he was blown backwards through the window behind him. The black cat with white paws had leapt from the floor to his chest. The room became a fiery whirling ball that screwed itself up and exploded outward. Miller was amazed his arms and legs weren’t ripped off by the windowsill. He sailed through the air, deafened by the explosion. Everything slowed down and the only noise was the beating of his heart. All he could think of was his last day with his father. The old fart had called him to come fishing with him. Miller was there to make sure he wouldn’t fall in and drown. The day nurse wouldn’t allow him in a boat without a family member. She wasn’t getting sued because Dad decided to be a fool. Miller could see her point. So, he had helped his father into a pair of ratty overalls that gaped around his frail body. It hurt to see his father so gaunt, so old. At one time, that man filled the sky and strode the world like a6 Timeless Tales 1colossus, now he was lucky to make it to the bathroom without crapping his pants. It really rattled Miller. Dad got his line in the water and propped his feet on the edge of the boat. He glanced over and said, “I didn’t really call you out here to fish.” Miller nodded. His own line bobbed in the water. His dad went on. “I’ve changed my will.” “Do I have a ‘new’ mom you’re leaving everything to? Is she 20, with a comprehensive wardrobe of pasties?” “Shit, I wish!” Dad’s laugh ended with a spasm of coughing. “Dad?” He waved a hand. “I’m fine. I needed you to come out here, because I wanted to explain myself before I died.” “Explain what, dad?” “Why I didn’t leave you nothing.” *** Back in Tikrit, Miller hit a shimmering swimming pool with a huge splash. More than half of the water fountained up onto the lawn furniture around it. God bless big stupid hotels, he thought, then passed out. He came to, floating on his back. He jerked awake, snorted a huge lungful of water and thrashed in terror. After a few moments, logic set in and he stood up feeling foolish for having almost drowned in three feet of water. He wiped his face and shook his hair out. When he looked up, he found the petite black and white cat sitting on a lawn chair staring at him with a look of mild disgust. He fingered the water out of his ears then asked it, “What?” It stood, stretched, yawned, bugging its eyes out, and finished with a yowling growl then turned to trot off toward the cabanas lining the pool. Miller pulled himself out of the water and glanced down. His clothes were in charred shreds.Timeless Tales 1 7The sounds of continuing gunfire told him being found in camo might not be the best idea right now. He glanced up to the window he was blown from. It was a smoking hole. He knew that he and the cat were the only survivors. He followed the cat without knowing why. Inside one of the cabanas he found a dishdasha, the long white sleeved robe that local men wore. It was a nice one with a hand-embroidered collar and sleeves. He shucked off his burnt useless clothes and donned the robe. The cat watched him from a bench with half closed eyes. It didn’t look impressed. Miller gave the cat thumbs up. “What’s up, pussycat?” It snorted and trotted off. Once again, feeling as if he was carrying his head on a string like a child’s balloon, he followed the waving tail of the cat out into an alley. It wove in and out of the backstreets, as if it had a place to go. All around, gunfire rattled. Walls he had just walked past exploded in a hail of bullets, yet the cat ambled forward and he stumbled behind it. Why was he alive? His thoughts turned to his father. That last day… *** “Wow dad, nothing, huh? I thought you liked me.” “I do, kiddo. That’s why I’m doing what I’m doing.” “Sounds like you’re leaving me high and dry, that’s what it sounds like.” “Only because I respect you” “I guess I was wishing you underestimated me a little then.” “Look here, Junior…” Miller knew when Dad called him Junior, he was making a point. Miller wanted to argue, he wanted to yell, but he knew to wait. Dad continued. “David lives for the company. He’s the eldest, and is the perfect patsy to take on that headache. He’ll love it. Your brother, Malachi is an idiot, keeps knocking up that wife of his. What is it now? Five kids? He barely earns enough to feed them, ain’t smart8 Timeless Tales 1enough to buy a pack of Trojans. He gets the house. Even if he can’t figure out the rhythm method, the kids will have a roof. It’s the least I can do.” Miller nodded. It sounded like more of an insult than anything else. His dad looked at him for a moment then snorted. “You hate me don’t you, boy?” “I don’t hate you. I just wonder what I did to earn this.” “You used your brain.” Miller joined the army the day his father died. He had nothing to hang around for. David and Malachi accepted their inheritance as their due, and looked at their youngest brother as undue burden. Miller would’ve liked to knock their smug heads together, but he knew his father saw them as the weaker brothers, so he didn’t bother. To hell with the knuckleheads, he was off to seek his fortune in the fortunes of war. It was a long ugly lesson that there was no fortune in war, only the illumination of death. He did his time and followed orders. It earned him a short ride into a shallow swimming pool. He stared at the swaying cat’s tail and followed his recent fortune. It led to a dark alley where a woman was pleading for her life. She knelt before two men who held machine guns. They laughed as she sobbed. Miller didn’t know the details and didn’t care. He picked up the nearest trash can and walloped nine kinds of crap out of both of ‘em. The woman clung to the wall and wept. When he was done banging the can on the senseless bodies he turned to the woman. “You okay?” She nodded. Her face was buried in her hands as she wept. He noticed as her sleeves fell back that her hands were white while her arms were tan. Burn scars. He held out a hand. She paused a moment before allowing herself to be dragged to her feet. The cat yowled at the end of the alley. The woman glanced over. “Is it your cat?” She asked.Timeless Tales 1 9Miller shrugged. “I think it’s its own cat,” he answered. They followed the cat as the city around them exploded. Buildings crumpled and the sky filled with ash. After awhile, the woman reached for Miller’s hand and they walked clutching and pulling each other over the battle scarred landscape. The cat would trot ahead, pausing only to let them catch up. At one point the cat darted into an office building. Judging from the sounds of gunfire outside, Miller decided they’d be safer in the building. As they huddled against a wall, he found himself asking, “My name is Arthur. What’s yours?” “Aquila. Aquila Noor. I’m a human rights lawyer.” “Seriously? In this country?” Her eyes narrowed. She turned away from him. He chuckled as she gave him a ‘death’ look. The cat yowled once more. He once again felt the need to follow. Aquila hissed and tried to motion him back to the wall. After a few futile gestures, she sighed and followed him and the cat. They ended up in the basement. Miller stood at a door while the cat scratched at it. Aquila nodded at him. “Open it.” She told him. He cracked the door. A golden light filled the hallway. He peered in and breathed, “oh…” “…my,” she finished for him. The cat smiled at them both. It stood once more and meowed quietly this time. They took a few moments to admire the contents of the closet before them. Miller was again reminded of the last day with his father. He had been pissed he was cut out of the will. He felt betrayed and unloved and he told his father so. The old man rolled his eyes. He finally gave Miller what for. “You’re young. You wouldn’t understand the compliment I’m paying you. Your brothers, they need someone to look after them, someone to tell them what to do. But you, why, you’ll do just fine on your own. I’ve given you something I couldn’t give the other boys. Your freedom. I’m not going10 Timeless Tales 1to tie you down to some old house or company. You are free to travel—to learn. That’s more than what they will get. Their lives are mapped out. You, you have options.” Miller snorted. His father sighed. The fishing line jerked with a fish. He pointed at the net. “Help me out, boy?” Miller grabbed the net, and bent over to capture the fish his father had hooked. While bent over, his father placed a firm boot in his ass and kicked him overboard. He flailed in the water, cursing and paddling. His father motored the boat to shore while Miller screamed behind him. When he reached the shore, his father stood there with a huge smile. He had his arms crossed over his chest. He asked, “What is the only thing I ever wanted to hear from you?” Miller knelt on the shore, dripping water. He sighed and gave the only answer his father accepted: “I got this.” His father gave a sharp nod. “That’s right, son. You do.” Back in Tikrit, Arthur and Aquila limped their way to the American base. The world exploded around them, yet the cat calmly led the way. Soldiers lined the walls with automatic weapons. They shouted for Miller and Noor to stand still, who froze while uniformed men surrounded them, bristling with weapons. The Colonel strode forward to squint at them. Miller squeezed her arm and whispered, “Don’t worry. I got this.” Sgt. Arthur Miller survived the worst day of Al-Qaeda terrorist activity in 2011. He returned to the golden closet and liberated more the 2 million dollars of golden bullion for him and his fiancé, Miss Aquila Noor. He paid his debts and those of his brothers, and lived happily ever after as much as he could manage. And he kept the cat. Moral: S  elf-reliance is the best inheritance Or Fortune favors the brave and cats.Timeless Tales 1 11FictionWords byA Most Marvellous Pair of BootsCharity TahmasebCharity Tahmaseb has slung corn on the cob for Green Giant and jumped out of airplanes (but not at the same time). She’s worn both Girl Scout and Army green. These days, she writes fiction and works as a technical writer. Her novel, The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading (written with co-author Darcy Vance), was a YALSA 2012 Popular Paperback pick. Her short speculative fiction has appeared in the Unidentified Funny Objects anthology, Kazka Press, with forthcoming stories in Mad Scientist Journal and Cast of Wonders. She blogs (occasionally) at: writingwrongs.wordpress.comA Most Marvellous Pair of Boots Charity TahmasebIt was during the wedding feast, the air heavy with roast goose and red wine, that Mirabella realized they’d all been duped by a cat. Her new husband, the Marquis of Carabas, sat to her right, his teeth tearing goose flesh, grease coating his lips. She shuddered and pushed away thoughts of the marriage bed. Her father, the king, was well into his cups, and tore at his food as if to mimic his new son-in-law. He slapped the marquis on the back and praised heaven that--at long last--Mirabella had found herself a husband. At long last, indeed. Near the end of the table, the cat lounged, booted hind legs crossed. With a paw, he wiped goose fat from his whiskers. Mirabella fixed her gaze on him until he raised his yellow eyes and took in her full measure. Then, the creature winked. She sat back, a flush heating her cheeks, traveling her neck, and ending somewhere near her décolletage. She sighed, not in the mood for wine, song, or her new husband. True, the marquis was handsome. A point in his favor, to be sure. A goose leg slipped through his fingers, and he stopped its descent with one meaty hand. Mirabella cringed, and again, shoved thoughts of the marriage bed from her mind. She turned to her new husband and asked, “More wine?” Without waiting for an answer, she filled his goblet to the rim. He’d barely spoken since they’d exchanged I do. Come to think of it, the lad--for he was hardly older than she--seldom spoke more than a word or two at a time. Mirabella leaned forward and, once again, trained her gaze on the cat. This time when he winked, she didn’t flinch. Oh, there was no Marquis of Carabas. She’s stake her somewhat tarnished reputation on it. Certainly if this lad were nobility, he would’ve curried her father’s favor long before now. Not only that, but he was untouched by palace14 Timeless Tales 1gossip, rife with rumors about her improper relationship with her tutor. In her defense, the relationship hadn’t been at all improper. Well, maybe a little bit improper. But thanks to some rumors and a fast-talking cat, her father now praised the heavens, and shoved this lad into her arms and bed. Would he care to know the truth about the marquis? Of course not. A married daughter was one less burden, especially a daughter with a somewhat tarnished reputation. The splash of wine against her chest forced a gasp from her. The red liquid soaked into the bodice of her gown, the spot resembling a sword wound. Her new husband stared at his empty goblet as if the wine had sprung forth on its own accord. Her father pounded the marquis on the back, his hearty laugh filling the banquet hall. And, at the end of the table, that damn cat winked. *** Her new husband’s snores filled the bedchamber. From her vantage point on the balcony, Mirabella could see the outline of his form on the duvet. Make no mistake, it was a fine form, despite the drool. “You admire my master then, Princess?” Ah, that damn cat. “There is more to admire in a man than form or face, Master Cat.” The cat trod along the balcony’s edge, feet whisper soft against the stone, even with the boots. “What is it you wish?” he said. “I fear my wishes matter not to man nor cat.” “I did not ask that.” Mirabella glanced into the bedchamber. Yes, assuredly, her new husband would not wake until noon, if then. “Tonight’s wish has already been granted.”Timeless Tales 1 15Could cats grin? Well, this one could, and did, twirling long whiskers with a paw. “And tomorrow’s wish?” Yes, the crux of the matter. “I cannot simply un-marry, Master Cat, and I doubt my new husband will appreciate his rival.” She gestured toward the telescope at the balcony’s far end. She had yet to peer at the night sky this evening--or rather, morning. Of course, at this moment, the only view was of a cat’s tail, which swished in front of the lens. Still, the urge to lean over the telescope remained. For a few hours, she could pretend that Sebastian was still at her side, imagine his fingers lighting on the back of her neck, hear his ardent whisper. “Do you see it?” The night spent with her tutor fueled court gossip even now. That the two of them had gazed at the stars and not into each other’s eyes was of little matter. She ran a hand along the telescope, the skies clear, but her mind clouded with thoughts of the upcoming tour of the kingdom. The grand celebration of her marriage meant visiting people she didn’t much care for and receiving gifts she certainly didn’t need. But the real question was: pack the telescope or leave it behind? “You’ll be traveling light,” the cat said. “Unlikely, Master Cat. Have you never seen a royal entourage take to the roads?” “I have, Princess. It’s all part of the plan.” “What plan is that?” “Do you not wish to see your Sebastian again?” Her hand stilled on the telescope, her fingers ice. Damn palace gossip, and damn that cat besides. How could he know her heart? “You keep a great many unsent letters beneath your bed.” Oh. That was how. “Would you like to be free? Study with your tutor in peace?” Mouth dry, Mirabella nodded.16 Timeless Tales 1“Then trust me.” “I shall do no such thing, Master Cat.” “But what if you could un-marry, Princess?” the cat asked. “Would you trust me then?” “What God has joined together let no man put asunder,” Mirabella replied. “Even cats know this.” Ah, yes, cats could grin. “Oh, Princess, have you not noticed? I am certainly no man.” *** The carriage bumped over never-ending ruts. A week on the road, and the only sign of the cat had been this morning, when he slipped a wine skin into Mirabella’s hands. “Hold it beneath your cloak,” he said. “Just so.” Only thoughts of her studies, of Sebastian, compelled her to comply. She cradled her burden and settled in for another long day. A cry rose up from the outside of the carriage. “Brigands!” a guard shouted. Swords clanked and then the carriage door flew open. The cat sprang past her, a single claw piercing the wine skin. Red bloomed beneath her hand, the wine soaking her gown. The marquis took one look at the stain spreading across her bodice and crashed into the carriage floor, face first. Never mind that she reeked of her father’s finest vintage (come to think of it, so did the marquis), she was, in everyone’s view, fatally wounded. And with death came freedom. Un-marry, indeed. Before she could leap from the carriage, a paw tugged on her sleeve. “You’ll need this, Princess.” The cat proffered a dusty cloak, ragged along the hem. He dropped a small canvas sack at her feet. “And of course, you’ll need these.” He pulled the boots from his hind legs.Timeless Tales 1 17He crouched, then sprang through the carriage window, and Mirabella swore his final sentence was more caterwaul than words. She pulled on the boots, the leather kissing her legs, the sole cupping her feet. She held one leg extended, turning it to study the boot. How was this possible? No matter. They fit. She jumped from the carriage. The boots carried her through sword clashes and rearing horses. No one called out. No one stopped her. Except a cat that wove between her ankles. “Master Cat?” His tail twitched and he blinked his eyes, slowly, but that was all. She nestled him in her arms, the cloak shielding them both, and took to the road. That night, she tugged the boots from her legs and placed them far enough from her campfire that no spark would reach them. “Master Cat, would you like to take a turn in your boots?” Within moments, the cat stood before her in all his booted glory. He surveyed their surroundings. “Seems safe enough,” he said. “I shall fetch dinner and return shortly.” Mirabella pointed to the pot simmering over the fire. “I have dinner.” “I shall fetch us a decent dinner, then.” She huffed, but couldn’t argue. Her skills with a telescope far surpassed anything she could manage with a cook pot. “I shall almost regret finding Sebastian,” she said to him later, over stew and a loaf of hard crusted bread from a nearby villa
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