I’ve been trying to tidy up my hard drive in a vain attempt to get my laptop to run a bit more smoothly and I’m astonished by just how many stories I’ve got on it. One is finished – contemp romance, co-written with a friend that we decided needed beefing up a bit and never finished the beefing – but there are masses of others that are languishing there doing nothing in particular but take up space.
I’m wondering if I should try to finish one as a blog project. Maybe 300 words a week because that’s doable but 300 words a week more than I’ve been averaging over the past few months. But which project to pick? And which day of the week to post it? I’m undecided because most of them are awful – as stories tend to be if nobody but the writer is supposed to read them – and I need to pick a day so I can guilt myself into actually doing it! Jeez, it comes to something when you’ve reached such a low ebb you have to bully yourself into writing. But it has to be done because it’s a lot of fun and I’m missing it like fury.
For the moment, here’s a snippet of a medieval fantasy story concerning the adventures of one Carlito Enrique Esposito d’Urbino, lutenist, mountebank, actor [and spy for the Pazzi banking house] that I started in – oh my gawd – 2006. Here Carlito catches up with Yacoub, aka Jack, an ex partner and currently controller of a small travelling circus, at a tournament. See, I said it doesn’t have to make much sense if you’re writing for yourself.
Carlito entered Yacoub’s tent and smiled to see his old friend seated on the cushions with a coffee pot steaming beside him.
He shed his shoes and went across, Jack standing to greet him then the tall man spread his arms and drew him into a tight hug.
“We DID look for you,” Jack said, “when we heard that Jacopo had let you go. But by the time we got to Venice you were long gone.”
Carlito hugged him back then stepped back with a sigh. “They put me on a boat to Ravenna. At one point I thought they’d drop me overboard but no they just robbed me blind. I’ve been all right, Jack. What about you? Where’d you get all this from?” His gesture took in the tent, the hangings and the coffee pot that was at least partly silver.
“Found the circus down on its luck near Salerno,” Jack said. “The manager didn’t speak good Italian and he was being robbed blind too. So after I married his daughter,” he grinned at Carlito, flashing a gold tooth, “he retired and I took over. We’re doing really well. People like a bit of exotic.”
They were seated by then and Jack reached for the coffee to pour it. He passed Carlito the tiny cup with a formal nod of the head and Carlito leaned forward to add the sugar and spice he preferred.
“You’re certainly that,” he said. “Are all four of those girls yours?”
“Officially no,” Jack laughed, “because more than one wife is frowned upon, unofficially they are under my protection. Speaking of which,” he added, “where did you find the swordsman? I was watching that last bout. He’s good.”
“Bruges,” Carlito said. “He was heading south and so were we. We needed an extra man, he needed to earn and wasn’t in a hurry. It’s worked out well.”
“So he’s just a guard then,” Jack said and sipped his coffee. “Bearing in mind that he’s fighting here.”
Carlito snorted indignantly. “No,” he said. “He’s a genuine man at arms. He’d be a knight if – well – if it was allowed. That means the big tourneys, where the real money is, are closed to him, but I doubt there’s a man alive who could stand against him with either sword, no matter his pedigree.”
“Oh hush,” Jack said. “I meant no slur.” He laughed and turned a little, leaning closer as he put his cup back on the table to allow the grounds to settle. When he turned back he propped on one arm and set his other hand on Carlito’s thigh, fingers squeezing a little.
Carlito flushed and shifted but Jack’s hand tightened and he caught his gaze. “Has he tried you yet?” he asked. Then shook his head as Carlito flushed and scowled.
“Don’t try to lie to me,” he warned. “I saw his face when I touched you. For a moment I thought he’d have my hand off – so – maybe not yet. And that puzzles me, Carlito because what could be easier? A walk in the evening – a secluded spot – maybe the excuse of needing to bathe – a convenient stream.”
His fingers flexed and Carlito looked down at them, remembering just such another occasion and remembering their strength and gentleness.
“So,” Jack said quietly, “how long have you been in love?”
Carlito gave a desolate sob. “Since the moment I first saw him,” he groaned.
“Shit,” Jack said and put his hand on his own leg. “Well then mate, looks like we’ll have to get drunk together instead.”