The Stalks

I’m working ahead on this story, and I’m approaching the middle where it threatens to sag, as middles are wont to do. I’ve broken out the posterboard and sticky notes like breadcrumbs or pebbles to help me find the correct path. I’ll share a post on this process soon, but I also want to try and do it in Scrivener, now that I know how to do tables. I also learned how to highlight with different colors, which is very fun.



The Stalks

The room stank of soil and moisture. Jackie swallowed a sneeze as she’d been trained to do. Row upon row of multi-colored shrooms and stalks stretched out under dim light.

Diddle led her to a small desk where he had hide-bound books and a locked squealer. It would sing if anyone other than its master spun its tumblers. Jackie hated them. Most thieves did. Everyone she knew had a story about the one prize that got away because they’d triggered the squeal.

“So, what have you got for me?” He sat and gestured for her to do the same. She eased herself onto the edge of the seat. Her body still ached from the fall. She dug into her pockets for the seeds, and then laid them in the clean, shallow dish he offered.

Five of them were the size of her pinkie nail and white and cubed like salt. Twelve were tiny and ruby red, and she left them in their waxed paper packet for fear of losing them by breathing too hard. The last three were the prize, though. They glimmered like crow feathers and were the size of strawberries in summer. She watched Diddle’s face as she opened her hand to reveal them.

He sighed and leaned back heavily in his chair. “You can’t expect me to buy those, can you?” He looked up at her from under his bushy eyebrows.

“Why not? They’re valuable, and you sell.”

He blew out air and closed his eyes. “Do you know what they are?”

She hated to admit her lack of knowledge, but where else would she find out? “No, I just know where I got them.”

“Oh, so do I.” He barked a laugh. “I could maybe sell them back to the Doe Mothers, but then I’d disappear in a few weeks and no one would mention me in this world again.”

Jackie bit the inside of her lip. “So, they’re too bright?”

“Love, they are shining like moon moths.”

“What do they grow? Do you know?”

“Well, I know what the rumors are, but I can’t believe they’re true. I’ll give you twelve marks for the rest of the lot. I can grow blades and rubies, but I won’t find a Mage willing to touch The Stalks.”

“The Stalks?” she asked. “Aren’t all Mage plants stalks?”

“Oh, sure, but these are their namesakes.”

“I don’t understand.” She took the twelve marks from him with some relief. She’d be able to pay back Ty for Punch’s services at least, and maybe find a hole to hide in downtown until she could find new work.

He pointed at the seeds lying untouched. “You grow these whoppers right to the Cloud Realm. It’s where all the other stalks originated, not to mention the Doe Mothers.” He shrugged. “I don’t know if that’s true, but you can find some old-timers who say they remember. I just sell stalks and keep my head down.”

It was Jackie’s turn to laugh then. “Sure, your head’s down alright.”

“Hey, I’m filling a need in the market. You should be glad.”

“Oh, I am. Don’t worry.” She smiled and offered her undamaged hand. They shook on the deal and climbed back up to the sun.

(See you next week!)

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