July 08, 2010

Valley of the Purple Moon

I find I'm writing enough words daily to almost count as a Nano Novel...but this is actually more difficult, since I have to come up with new characters, plots, and settings on a daily basis, rather than simply building on the previous day's work and taking up where I had left off. On the other hand, it's been years since I've written any short stories, and it feels good. Short stories are as challenging as novels in their own way, because you have to get the complete story written in a very small space. Every word counts, and you don't have any inch of paper to spare. I'ts easier to stretch a novel out by adding detail, but it is in short stories that you learn to write--and think--very concisely. I like that. Prompt: In the valley of the purple moon…there was a rotund…disco dancer…who lived in an igloo…and ran a flea circus on the side. Inook woke in complete darkness. Of course, this time of the year, he always woke to complete darkness. With there being only a very few hours of daylight around noon of each day, he’d learned to be self-sufficient in the dark. Inook always put everything away as soon as he was finished using it, so he would know where to find it in the dark, and also so he would never trip over anything in the dark and break a leg. At this time of year, and as far as he lived from the nearest settlement, a broken leg in the dead of winter would very likely mean the end of his life. Inook was just grateful he didn’t live above the arctic circle and have only one complete day in each year. He really didn’t want to get up, because it was nice and toasty warm underneath his seal-skin blanket. Finally, hunger outweighed the need to be warm, and he slithered out of his bed and shivered. The first blast of chilly air was the worst way to start each morning. After that, things were all right, and he was fairly comfortable. He supposed it was simply the contrast between the warmth of the blankets and the chill in the house that made it feel so cold each morning. Inook lit his candle which, in addition to his body, was the only heat source in the igloo, unless he was cooking. It seemed strange, if you thought about it, that a single candle could keep the entire place warm, but the place was small, and the shape of it as well as the ice construction tended to insulate from the outside as well as concentrate what heat was inside. On this particular Friday morning, Inook set his biscuits to rise and went outside to fed his sled dogs. The wind was brisk, and Inook looked up at the beauty of the sky. The stars blazed brightly, almost enough by themselves to light his way around his homestead. This morning, the moon was also up, and its nearly full light reflecting from the snow and ice beneath made things almost as bright as it was during the day. The northern lights were not active, so the moon looked its usual cream and honey color, rather than the purple cast it often took on when the Aurora Borealis was particularly bright. The pale lavender appearance happened often enough that the area was named the Valley of the Purple Moon in honor of the strange happening. Inook was used to having a purple moon, but it still looked very lovely to him, and he enjoyed watching the moon through the shifting, dancing, curtain of light. The animals cared for, Inook returned inside as Inook peeled off his fur parka, he relished the warmth of the snug igloo that was his winter home. He prepared and ate his breakfast, then spent a few minutes cleaning up and setting his igloo to rights. He did his dishes without soap or water, simply scrubbing them out with snow. After all, the point of cleaning dishes is to get all the food off of them so germs don’t have anything to eat. Where there is no food source, there will be no germs, so it doesn’t really matter if you use soap or not, as long as the plates are carefully and thoroughly cleaned of all food particles. When everything was clean, neat, and tidy, Inook packed a little food into a bundle. He carefully folded his favorite disco outfit, the white one with the silver and gold sequins and the little diamond shaped mirrors spangled all over it, and slipped it into a jumbo sized zip-lock bag and squeezed all the air out of it. He made sure his small cooking fire was out, and snuffed out the candle. Picking up the food bundle and the zip-lock bag full of disco outfit a la Elvis, and bent nearly double as he exited the igloo through the small tunnel that served as a front door. Inook secured the food bundle and the flashy, trashy white jump suit in his dogsled, and opened the door to his small wood lean-to that he used as a storage shed. He took several large bundles of cured furs from the shed and secured them in the sled also, covering the entire sled with a large tarp made from the furs of three grey wolves he’d trapped a couple of years ago. Once his sled was ready, he removed the harness from the shed and locked the door. He locked it out of habit, really, since he knew he was the only person within miles, but he also knew the lock would keep the door shut in the event of a large storm. He laughed out loud at the thought that he used a lock against mother nature rather than any human being. Inook took the harness and carefully hitched his sled dogs to the sled, inspecting each foot to be certain it was ready for the long trek ahead of them. When all was in readiness, he called out the command to move, and ran easily alongside the sled as the dogs started up the long trail out of the Valley of the Purple Moon. Within a few minutes he was generating enough body heat that he was able to open his parka a few inches at the neck and pull the hood down while he ran. His insulating layer of body fat, which he referred to as proof that he was truly a native of these parts, bounced up and down with each step, but he was accustomed to its movement, and it didn’t slow his pace in the slightest. He stopped in a sheltering copse of trees for the evening, caring for his dogs, then eating dinner, and digging a small cave into the side of a snow bank, where he slept snugly warm with his dogs snuggled close around him. Inook reached the trading settlement around noon on Saturday. He took a room at the boarding house for the night, cared for his dogs, and took his furs to the trader’s office at the center of the small settlement. While at the fur trader’s, hi checked on the progress of this year’s flea circus. He provided the fur trader with the trained fleas each spring to fuel their mail-order business, but as usual, the cold had finally killed off the last of them. However, they’d made enough money this year to justify the trapping and training of the fleas for next year’s circus. His business concluded, Inook returned to the boarding house where he indulged in a long, hot bath. Then he dressed in his very flashy jumpsuit, put on his parka and boots, and carried his dancing shoes over to the community rec center, where a dance was scheduled for this evening. Many of the outlying fur trappers like himself had come for the occasion, but as usual, his glistening white jumpsuit outshone everyone else’s beautiful traditional beaded clothing. The DJ played a couple of disco songs in honor of Inook’s wild clothing, and he dreamed of the day he would be able to go to Anchorage and see a real disco. After the dance, Inook returned to the boarding house and slept soundly, rising early Sunday morning to make preparations for his journey back home to the Valley of the Purple Moon. He would check his trap lines on the way home, and go about his life until next month’s dance, which was scheduled to take place on the winter solstice.